Between the Bars Pt. 07bycarsonshepherd©
The chair was so hard. I shifted and pulled my feet up under me, wrapping my arms around myself for warmth. Cold in here too. As soon as I'd gotten to the station in the back of the patrol car, they took me to this interrogation room and walked out. I'd been sitting here, alternately pacing and trying to get comfortable in the hard metal chair, for so long I'd lost track of time. Even if I'd been wearing a watch, they would've taken it from me like they took all of my personal belongings before they brought me in here.
I knew the big mirror across one wall was one-way glass. I'd given up pressing my face to it and shielding the glare with my hands in an attempt to see out. I'd watched enough TV to know that they should have taken me to booking to charge and fingerprint me, or come in the room and questioned me, but nobody came. Nothing happened at all. No phone call, no nothing. I just sat and waited and waited in the blank little room.
I couldn't wait anymore. I closed my eyes and let my mind disconnect, the way I did when I was small, before I moved in with my grandparents, and bad things would happen that I either didn't want to or couldn't think about. I must've sat there for a very long time, keeping my mind blank so I wouldn't go insane with frustration and worry about Daniel, lying in a hospital bed somewhere broken and bleeding and alone. When the buzzer sounded, I looked up wearily. No use hoping. They were never going to let me out, I was going to be here forever.
"Kennedy. You're out."
"But, I don't understand, they never even questioned me."
The cop stared at me like I was total idiot. "You gonna stand around asking questions, or get the fuck out of here?"
I got up immediately and stepped out into the hall. The door thunked shut behind me. "Counsel's here," the cop said over his shoulder.
"A lawyer? But I don't have a lawyer, I never even got to make a phone call."
"Tell her yourself." He pointed at a petite, very pretty lady in her twenties with long dark hair, wearing a gray suit and black high heels. She walked up to me and stuck out her hand for me to shake, which I did, confused. The cop walked away and left us standing there in the hallway
"Rylan, I'm Ariella Frieden. It's good to meet you. The Chicago Sun-Times sent me over to get you out of here."
I blinked, confused by it all. "Uh, am I under arrest?"
"No charges have been filed against you at this time. Pending investigation, you're free to go. Come on, let's go down to processing and get your personal items and get you out of here." She bustled off down the hallway and I had no choice but to follow her.
"Pending investigation? Does that mean I could be arrested later?" I asked.
"I don't have an answer to that. Because this is an... internal matter, the police are not answering my questions regarding the case."
"They never arraigned me or anything; they just held me, are they allowed to do that?"
"As long as it's for less than twenty-four hours, yes. That's why the Times sent me over here, to make sure they didn't hold you illegally. Here."
She opened a gray metal door and pointed me inside. The bored lady at the counter, not a cop but a step up from a crossing guard, processed me out and handed back everything I had on my person at the time I was arrested, except Daniel's handgun. I didn't ask about it, but I was sure it was being held as evidence. When I came out of processing through another door, Kat leaped into my arms, with Alex right behind her. They both looked exhausted, but Kat had managed to change out of her pajamas and into business attire and put on some makeup.
"Rylan, thank god. I've been worried sick."
"How's Daniel?" I asked immediately. "Is he okay?" When I hugged Alex, I felt myself sag against him a bit. He was so solid and reassuring and I hadn't realized how fucking tired I was. I didn't understand any of this. Between the time I was arrested and the time I was released, somebody decided I didn't do anything wrong and they just let me go.
"Yes, he's out of surgery now and doing pretty well," Kat answered. "They've got him down at Cook County Hospital and their trauma center is excellent."
"I need to see him."
"They've got him under security, so you can't see him right now." She took my hand and started escorting me toward the door, with Alex behind me at a close protective distance. Ariella followed along, murmuring into a tiny silver cell phone. "Come on, let's get you back to my apartment so you can get cleaned up and prepare your statement for the press conference we've got set up."
"Whoa. Wait a minute." I dug my heels in and stopped. "I'm not giving a press conference."
"But Rylan, the story broke. It's all over the news, what you and Daniel did. You brought down a whole ring of corrupt cops from all over the country. The public wants to hear from you. You're a hero." She beamed, clearly enjoying all this and the role she had played in it. This bit of investigation journalism was going to make her a very important part of the Sun-Times staff.
I shook my head. "I'm not a hero and I'm not your trained monkey, Kat. No statements and no press. I want to go to the hospital and be with Daniel, and if they won't let me see him I'll wait there until they do."
Kat huffed a breath, but she considered me for a moment or two and then finally nodded reluctantly. She knew me well enough to know she wasn't getting anywhere. "Okay. You're right. Now isn't the time. We'll go down and try to get you in to see Daniel. Before that, though, we really should take you back to my place so you can clean up. You don't want Daniel to see you like this."
She took my wrists and showed me the blood that had seeped onto the my coat and soaked into my sleeves. I hadn't even realized I was covered in Daniel's blood. It was a far cry from him eating dinner with my family in a shirt splattered with my cum. I nodded and let her lead me down the hallway marked Exit.
"The paper wants me to do a front-page exclusive for tomorrow's edition, so I need a written statement," Kat went on relentlessly. "I need to know the sequence of events the best you can remember. Who shot Daniel?"
The image of him bleeding onto the snow was branded into the back of my eyelids. It would never go away.
"And you shot him?" She gave me a piercing look like she wasn't completely convinced I was capable of such a thing. I shrugged. I didn't consider it an act of heroism. I did it because I had to, because I'd do anything for Daniel.
The hall ended. Alex, who was slightly ahead of us, pushed open the police station's front door. He stepped back inside with a shocked look on his face and pulled it closed, blocking the door with his big frame.
"What is it?" Kat asked.
"The press is out there," Alex answered, eyes darting to my face. "All the local stations and even the networks."
I didn't miss Kat's guilty little start. Damn her. Business suit and makeup, all right. Ariella stepped outside the door and announced to all the microphones that I had no comment. Alex and I stayed just inside the door while Kat went outside and brought her SUV around, although at first she wanted Alex to do it, until I pointed out that Alex could shield me a lot better than she could. It's not that I blamed her for wanting national exposure on her story, and for her face to be on the news as the intrepid reporter who broke the story, but even if she was my friend, using this for a media opportunity really pissed me off when Daniel was lying in the hospital alone. I didn't have time for this shit, I had to get to him.
Pushing through a throng of reporters shielded by Alex's big body, having microphones shoved in my face and questions shouted at me isn't an experience I want to repeat. I hated being the center of attention anyway, but especially because I knew I was no hero. All I did was help. Daniel was the real hero. He stayed dedicated even when nobody believed him, when the whole world was against him. This case was big; it involved a lot of important people and it was going to be on all the national news stations. The glory, if he wanted it, belonged to Daniel; and if he didn't want it, I'd do anything I could to keep the attention away from him.
Back at Kat's place, Alex handed me a neatly folded stack of clothes from the couch. Cargo pants, a t-shirt and a heavy navy-blue button-down. I assumed they were his but he grinned at my obvious doubt.
"They're my brother's. They might be a little big, but not like mine. It's all we could get."
"I'm sure they'll be fine. Thanks for thinking of it." I paused in my own drama long enough to glance up at Alex's shy eyes, his little-boyish face hidden in the scraggly beard. I smiled at him and he blushed. I owed him so much. I knew he had feelings for Daniel that he fully realized could never turn into anything, but instead of resenting me for getting in the way he unselfishly did everything to help us for no other reason than he could. He was in a position to help us and he did, and that was a rare thing. His loyalty awed me, humbled me. His blush told me any kind of praise or thanks would embarrass him more than he could stand; I could relate to that, so I just reached up and gave his thick shoulder a little squeeze.
"Hey." Kat shoved in briskly and broke up our moment by handing me a plastic grocery bag. "Here, put the bloody clothes in this and I'll have them incinerated. You're going to get an HIV test, right?"
Blankly, I looked down at the rusty stains of Daniel's blood under my fingernails. We'd been so careful in the farmhouse. He'd assured me there was no reason to worry, and I believed him, but even so, he never took the chance. Now protecting each other from what might be in us was totally beside the point. Direct contact with his blood, sure there were risks, but I didn't freak. I felt only peace because whatever happened, I knew it would be okay.
"Yeah," I said because Kat was waiting for an answer.
"Good." She kept staring at me. "And a follow-up in six weeks. Daniel will insist on it himself. It's police procedure with any direct fluid contact."
Fluid contact. The dripping blood and the spurt of cum and cold panic sweat were all condensed into two clinical words. It was ironic really, all the frustration we'd had stranded at the farmhouse trying to avoid fluid contact only to end up with this happening. In the shower, I washed it all off under the hot water. I didn't want Daniel to see it because I knew he'd be concerned, just like Kat said. He'd stop focusing on his own recovery to worry about me and I didn't want that. I didn't want Daniel to think about anything but getting better. I hoped they were giving him great drugs so he wasn't hurting. I made myself not picture him lying in a hospital bed suffering.
I'd researched ballistics and gunshot wounds extensively for a couple of my novels, so although my knowledge was specialized in antique weapons, I knew enough to know that a shattered shoulder hurt like hell, but it wasn't life-threatening. Medical treatment was swift enough that shock was not a danger, but if the aim had been better or the ambulances just a little slower... My knees went weak and I had to grab the counter as it hit me full-force. He could have died. Just like Scott, like Ray, like the officer in the video. Just a few inches to the left and he'd be gone. He could have died and then what would I have done? My life wouldn't have changed on the outside, I would've gone back to Atlanta and fallen right back into my rut like none of this ever happened, like Daniel never even existed. He was so important to me after such a short time, I'd never felt this way and the intensity of my need to be with him scared the hell out of me but I didn't care. I jerked my clothes on and charged out of the bathroom demanding we had to go.
"Shit." As Kat pulled into one of the parking areas, I stared in dismay at the Cook County Hospital complex that sprawled out over six or seven city blocks "How are we ever going to find him in there?"
"He's in Tower C of the main building, room 515," Alex answered, watching the signs out the window. "It's that way, Kat. Make a left."
"Wait, how do you know that?"
"While you were in the shower, I got into their system and took a peek at their patient list." Alex shrugged.
I lifted an eyebrow. Well, if he could download encrypted files off the Chicago Police Department's internal network, confidential patient files should be no big deal. "Oh. Well... good job then."
"If he's under guard, it's not going to be easy to get to him even when we do find him," Kat said in the parking garage elevator. "He's not a prisoner now, but he's under protective custody at the hospital and that means there's a list of people who can see him... and I doubt you're on it. An FBI agent named Jensen has taken over the case. He's the one who came into the surgery waiting room and told Alex and me that Daniel made it through surgery okay and we had to leave. If he's there, we'll never be able to get you in."
"I'll get in." I shrugged. I wasn't leaving until I did, it was that simple. Kat and Alex looked at each other and I pretended not to notice. The creaky old elevator bumped and lurched up to the fifth floor. Alex gripped the rail until his knuckles turned white, glancing up nervously until the thing lurched to a stop. When the door slid open, he almost fell out and I grabbed his arm and held him until he got steady, just the way he held Daniel and me up.
"Okay. Daniel's room is down the hall. It'll be easy to find because it'll have an armed guard." She grinned. She loved shit like this. I, on the other hand, eyed the nurses' station with trepidation. She was going to get us kicked out and I'd never get to see Daniel. I tilted my head in the direction of the nurses at the counter in their scrubs, talking and laughing with each other in front of their computer screens.
"But how are we going to get past them? Do you have a plan or anything?"
"Let's just try the forceful approach first." Kat lifted her eyebrow at me and grinned. "Let's go, boys. All you have to do is follow along."
"Sorry, you're not on the list."
You didn't even look at the list, bitch. I wanted to scream in frustration but I knew that would only get us kicked out. I took a deep breath, while Kat put on her most winning smile. The cop was a tiny, sour-faced woman who barely even looked big enough to handle a weapon, let alone apprehend a suspect. Probably a desk jockey. She didn't even give Kat a glance. Kat was one charming dyke, so the cop was clearly straight and from the way she looked at me, she was not inclined to be sympathetic to gays either. There was no way she didn't know who I was, and why I wanted to see Daniel so badly.
The door was cracked slightly and I could see the end of the bed, and the shape of Daniel's feet under white covers, but no matter how I twisted and turned the corner of the wall obscured his the rest of him. I longed to see his face. He was so close, I could almost touch him and it killed me not to be able to get to him.
"Yes, I know, Officer, but I'm Kat Grissom with the Chicago Sun-Times and this is Rylan Kennedy, a close friend of the patient. You may have heard about him on the news. He isn't a danger to Detective Braden, he only wants to see him, he's involved with the case and he was on the scene when the shooting occurred and even protected --"
The lady cop looked at me like I was dirt on her shoes and sneered at Kat. "I don't care who you any of you are. If you're not on the list, you're not going in."
Through the cracked door, I saw Daniel's legs shift. Kat's eyes got that icy-hard gleam and I knew she was about to make hellfire rain down on this woman, so I gently took her arm just as she was opening her mouth. I had to get to Daniel and pissing this bitch off wasn't the way to do it.
"Kat, leave it alone," I said softly. "Come on."
She gave me a rebellious scowl but she went with me down the fluorescent corridor to the little waiting area where Alex was squashed into a hard plastic chair. The nurses' station was directly across and I wanted to avoid their notice at all costs. One call to security was all it would take.
"Yeah, but that cunt's gonna have us thrown out of here and maybe even arrested if you don't settle down." I sat her down in a chair and paced around while she fumed. Think, think. Obviously, the forceful approach wasn't going to work and it was time to move on to plan B. I interrupted Kat's mumbled rant about calling her boss and the police commissioner.
"Listen. I think it might be best if you and Alex leave. Three people multiply the problems. If it's just me I can figure out a way to slip in."
"No, wait," she protested immediately. "If my editor-in-chief can make some calls to the right people and..."
"Kat," Alex interrupted in his quiet mumble. It was so rare for him to speak on his own accord, we both stared at him in surprise. He blushed slightly as he went on. "Rylan's right, he'll do better on his own. We're in the way. Let's go."
"But, but wait," Kat protested and sputtered but Alex bodily pulled her out of the chair so she gave in with bad grace. "You have my number, don't you? You'll call me if anything happens and you need me, right? Or if anything develops I need to know about?" she called as Alex dragged her to the elevator. I nodded and waved as they disappeared behind the sliding doors. I knew why she didn't want to leave. She was concerned about me, yes, but she what she wanted was an exclusive. Shaking my head, I went over and sat down in the waiting area to think over my next move.
My body ached from hours cramped up in the interrogation room so after awhile I got up and started wandering. I tried to stay away from Daniel's door; I didn't want the cop to get suspicious because I kept appearing and have me thrown out, but I couldn't seem to resist the draw of seeing even his feet. As I walked past trying to stay invisible, I noticed one of the nurses coming out of Daniel's room, passing the guard. I'd noticed her at the nurses' station earlier. She was very pretty, tall, with shoulder-length brown hair and a kind, radiant smile. Somehow, I felt immediately drawn to her. This might just be someone who could be convinced to help me.
I went back to the waiting area. The nurses glanced at me from time to time, but none of them questioned me. Quietly, I watched the pretty nurse. She smiled a lot, both at her fellow nurses and the aides and janitorial staff who passed through, and at the visitors to other patients on the floor. I was more and more convinced that my initial feeling about her was right on.
Patiently, I waited until she went on rounds again. When she stepped out of Daniel's door, I was waiting down the hallway just out of sight of the guard. She looked a little startled when I approached her but she smiled and asked if I needed something. I noticed her on ID badge that her name was Jennifer.
"Daniel Braden. You just saw him. How is he? Is he okay?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but because of federal privacy laws I can't give out that information to anyone who isn't a family member," she said kindly. "Are you a relative?"
"No. I'm..." I decided to go for it. "He's my lover. I'm worried about him and I just need to know he's okay."
Jennifer gave me a closer look and realization began to dawn. "Hey, did I read about you on the internet? How you saved his life?"
"Yes, yes that's me." I nodded eagerly. She shook my hand, beaming.
"What you did was so romantic," she told me. "You went rushing after him and you're not even a cop."
"No, I'm a writer actually. My name's Rylan Kennedy."