"Fine, she overreacted." Sian said in a deadpan tone and then, sighed.
"Ha! You can't beat my logic." Sam giggled with exaggerated amusement. She truly enjoyed the playful banter between them.
Sian smiled to herself. But it disappeared quickly when the dead-tone scanner picked up a fuzzy signal. She moved into action; backtracking through the fuzz. She pinched it into a range and then used the expander module to stretch it out and record it, and all in the blink of an eye.
"Fuck Sammy, I got something!" Sian shouted.
"What?" Sam perked up even though her fingers were already clacking away at her keyboard. A beep told her that Sian's recording had been transmitted to her system.
She immediately put the rerouted SINKLAIR into action and in an instant got the device coordinates of the main signal generator. With a small back channel hack that would make the Pentagon weep, she extracted the MAC addresses of the transmitters. That they were cellular phones made it all too easy to find exactly where the speakers were.
"Got 'em!" Sam replied.
"Okay, can we get surveillance?"
"On it." Sam continued, now that she had the hot spots, she pinpointed the most local video satellite to the region and had it capture the image feed. "We have live feed."
"It's a bit grainy. Do you think you can clean it up a bit?"
"Hang on." Sam went on and bounced the feed back through the SINKLAIR satellite. The returned signal was more isolated and less distorted, all for a clearer video stream.
The twins watched in silence as the live video showed two individuals offloading a wrapped up bundle onto the yielding side of a mountain road. It was apparent that they weren't leaving the bundle to get help. And because the communication frequency was just shy of military range, the twins knew it had to be the woman they'd been searching for.
"Alert the usual parties and then call her." Sian said slowly. She didn't want to think it was too late.
They couldn't confirm the identity of the wrapped up bundle. They weren't even sure it was a person. But given the circumstances of the intel, they had to assume.
"Why not just call her?" Sam whipped her head towards her sister.
"Because this way, we can have confirmation before we get her hopes up. And not to mention, if she finds out first and goes gung ho for rescue, the locals will wanna know how she knew to look there. And then that's just an unnecessary story to tell. So we're protecting all parties here." Sian explained.
"Oh, well I just hope she sees it that way. I don't wanna spend my next week fixing server bits." Sam replied and moved to hit the local panic buttons.
There was flashing...lights, she could see them. But each burst felt like explosions behind her eyes. And the cacophony of tiny noises too was a headache. She heard the sirens, and then the voices. All were muddled and underwater-sounding. She felt heavy and breathing was becoming more and more difficult. Some fire running up her left arm and infecting her body. And soon she knew no more.
On their feed they could see the emergency workers doing their work. At the same time they had to keep the press at bay. At least until Mavin had been informed.
Once they were sure that she'd been found in savable condition, Sian put a call to Mavin.
"We found her." Was all Sian had to say; the coordinates had already been sent.
Mavin cut off the freeway and headed for the interstate. She called Zeke on the two-way and told him they were headed to Tyrone, Pennsylvania.
**********Back in town************
"What do you mean you lost her?"
"Just that Sir, we had everything rigged, and the minute we activated our systems, everything got fried."
"What the- was there a power surge?"
"No, we checked with other local systems and nada."
"Well, seeing as there's no other explanation for this, I'm holding you personally responsible. Find her."
The drive to Tyrone Hospital was officially the longest trip she ever made. Even more than the 10-hour flight she'd been contemplating recently. If she could remember, Mavin would know that she felt some sense of relief that the redhead had been found. But that feeling was drowning amidst the anxiety and anger. She was anxious, and worried, and trying to remain composed. But the closer she got her destination, the more acutely irritated she became.
And before she could even catch herself, the hospital was looming ahead and beckoning. They quickly found parking and moments later, the tall butch found herself beyond the hospital doors. Zeke would wait and keep an eye out just in case.
She was barely two yards in when she suddenly realized that getting in to see the redhead would pose a small challenge. Especially if the stubborn senator did as she knew he would. Did he even know? What about the press?
She decided to test the waters first. The receptionist made eye contact and then did a double take. Mavin smirked and made her way over.
"Hi, I was wondering if you could help my cause."
"Sure, what's your cause?"
"A woman was brought in a while ago, was found by a roadside. Could you tell me where she is?"
"Does she have a name?"
"Yes. Bellinda Ross."
"Are you family or kin?"
"Yes." Mavin said and the receptionist eyed her over her glasses.
"Okay, let me see." The receptionist typed at snail speed, spelling out the letters of the name and checking with Mavin for accuracy. "Hmm...doesn't look like we have her."
"Could you please check the emergency logs?"
"I did, we have 2 Does, and they're male so..."
"Okay, is there a doctor on the floor I could speak to?"
"Not right now." The receptionist secretly eyed Mavin up and down.
"Alright, is there restroom nearby?"
"It's down that hall to and all the way down to your left."
Mavin nodded and moved away from the front desk. She cut through the space in the direction but quickly slipped away towards the elevators and up to the wards. She wasn't sure where to go, but she was determined to search the whole building if she had to.
"That was pretty good back there." Sian's voice was suddenly in her head.
She realized she still had her earpiece on. The twins were still in action. Her sense of relief was replenished, but only slightly.
"Okay, based on our feed data, she was transferred from ICU to a spare room on the east side of the building. You'll need to get to the fifth floor."
Mavin didn't respond. Instead, she just cut back into the stairway and ran up the flights. "Fifth floor, now what?"
"Make a right, pass the two halls and make a left down the third. Head all the way down. It should be the last room to your right."
Mavin stood at the door.
The slow, steady beeping woke her up from her stint in nothingness. She opened her eyes and snapped her lids back together in a hot squint as the bright lights assaulted her. Flashes of a bleached white room spinning in her mind forced her eyes back open. Her vision blurred and slowly came into focus. She looked around with furrowed brows. There was someone dozing in the corner closest to her. She could feel the air being pumped into her through the mask.
She looked down the length of the bed she was lying on. She had a needle tapped to her left arm, dripping into her vein with something. She tried to sit up and the woozy feeling wriggled through her nerves and made her heave. She coughed hard and pulled off the mask. She tried to speak but her throat felt so dry and her lips were definitely bruised. She turned to look for a call button or phone. The beeping had picked up its pace.
She found the cord with a buzzer at the end wrapped around the metal frame of the bed. She reached for it and tapped the device. Moments later a nurse came in to the room with a tray carrying a sweaty pitcher and glass of cold water and a bendy straw.
"I see you're awake," He smiled and checked the machines, then moved to examine her. "Follow the light please." Bellinda complied as he flashed a more focused light in her eyes causing them to tear, "Very good. Here, have some water, you must be thristy." The nurse gestured to the man in the corner as the redhead sipped.
"Don't be alarmed about him. He's here on your father's orders."
Bellinda nodded as swallowed with relief, "H-How long have I been here?"
"About four days." He watched as realization set in for the green eyed woman. "Do you know where you've been?"
Bellinda thought for a moment and shook her head, "No. I don't." Her throat felt incredibly dry and itchy despite the drink.
Not wanting to provoke any stress, the nurse smiled, "Well it's alright, and you'll be just fine. I'll get the doctor on call and she'll explain all you need to know before you're ready to leave."
Bellinda's brows furrowed and she felt dizzy again for a minute or so. The man in the corner had been jarred awake and was whipping out his cell phone to call Senator Ross.
***********About 2 weeks later***********
Bellinda lay in her room resting. She'd been lodged at her father's house since her release from the hospital. She wasn't sure how she'd ended being there. Her memories were shady and she knew she was missing chunks of information spanning days. She knew she couldn't force herself to remember and thus had given in to the doctor's advice that she relax and try to pick up where she left off. It would be better than agonizing what may have happened to her or why. Still, there was always a chance of it all coming back. And that was the root of her fear.
She refocused her mind on the catalogs in front of her. Against her father's wishes, she had asked Joann to bring in the winter art catalogs so that the New Year's show could go on, albeit horrendously behind schedule. She contemplated naming it something else but that could happen later. There was still plenty of work that needed doing. It was the only way she could relax and not wallow in her lack of recollection.
She thumbed through the thick binding and mumbled things to herself, made notes on a pad and tried to not think of what she couldn't remember. She was missing over two weeks of information. The doctors hadn't given her any guarantees and did their best to not aggravate her even though they hinted that whatever happened might have been so traumatizing that her brain just dumped the experience in the back waters of her mind somewhere, never to be processed.
She didn't really buy into that. Though that would explain her minor injuries; bruises and a sprained wrist, - but she was healing up well. Her father took a week away from his precious D.C. schedule to dote on her. But she had convinced him that she was alright and needed to get back to her life. He had vowed to get to the bottom of it all and most importantly forbade her to see Mavin.
That had perked her right up in all the wrong ways. She hadn't just thought of Mavin. She'd dreamt and worried and felt all manner of things. The primordial emotion was guilt and a dash of shame. She wasn't ready to get back into Mavin. She craved the dark butch but in her condition, she wasn't up for it. She wanted to make heads or tails of things and at least have possible answers to Mavin's probable questions. Still...
It was nerve wracking. She had last seen the dark woman at the club. Her brain had no trouble rehashing that data. She remembered the woman coming out half naked with a barely dressed Mavin swaggering behind. She recalled storming off. Then there had been her uncle's burial. Mavin had shown up, paid her respects and then left without a word. There were other minor things after that but they were fuzzy and disjointed.
"Fuck!" Bellinda gritted her teeth in frustration. She didn't want to think about any of this. She dragged her focus back to the page staring at her. It was a sculpture by Neo Savyen. She had seen it only a few times in private but now it was available to show in public. She made her notes quickly.
She still had her own paintings to blaze through; about eight unfinished pieces and one more of her uncle that was still in the beginning phase. She sighed tiredly and slammed the catalog shut. She knew she had to be careful and not overwhelm herself. Especially now, given her condition.
What she needed was a distraction. She couldn't get distracted by herself and in concluding so, she began thinking of what kind of distraction she could do with. Joann had been around almost everyday giving her the gossip on their social circle and updates on the gallery. Work was progressing well and Adam was busy overseeing the rest of construction. He'd visited many times as well but was always quick to let Bella know she had nothing to worry about concerning the show. According to him it was one less thing to worry about.
That left her father who was busy with his politics and while he checked in on her regularly by phone and had security monitoring her surroundings, Bellinda didn't want to deal with eggshells. That left Mavin. She hadn't called Mavin and had asked her friends not to. She wanted to get her head together first.
She was physically feeling better but her head was still jumbled about a few things. She hadn't seen Mavin. She wanted Mavin. She was angry with the butch because she hadn't even called to find out where she was. It wasn't until she heard her father's accusations that she understood why. Still, she could have called anyway.
Bellinda stared at her ceiling and sighed. She would surely go insane if this roundabout mental meandering kept up. She picked up her phone and looked at it. Thinking for a second in a million directions, she tossed it to the side. Thinking for a moment; what had she to lose? Was she ready to dismiss everything between them over a shady incident at a crowded club? Maybe the lights had been playing tricks on her. Did Mavin mean what she'd said?
"Only one way to find out..." Bellinda sucked in her breath, picked up her phone and began to dial before she had another chance to think.
"Mavin?" The voice sent searing waves of heat through her soul. She became tongue tied and replayed it in her head a few times even as the voice made it's shaky utterance again, "Mavin are you there?"
"I-I'm here." Mavin responded after a short while. She could hear the breathing, the tremors, "Where are you-"
"I'm at my father's. I need to see you." Butterfly wings flapped madly beneath her heart.
"B, I don't think it's best for me to be in the vicinity right now." Mavin breathed deeply to keep from passing out.
"We can meet up somewhere, I'll have Jo come with me so that my dad doesn't freak. I know he thinks you have something to do with all this but I told him it was impossible."
"It is." Mavin agreed and sighed, "Okay, have Joann escort you to the family house. It's a lot safer and even if your father decides to detail you, they won't have much cause for alarm."
"Don't worry about the detail; I know how to get around that. I'll be there."
"I'll be waiting." Mavin licked her lips as her mouth got drier.
"It's so good to hear your voice baby." Bellinda whispered.
"I can't wait to see you." Mavin replied heatedly.
"Well, I guess I should get off the phone and head out."
"Yes." Mavin eyed a nearby clock. It was late in the evening.
"Okay, see you soon." Bellinda said and hung up, not wanting to start with goodbyes. That would just feel so wrong.
Mavin slouched back into her La-Z-Boy. She was sweating cold. The call pulled her out of the nightmare she'd been drowning in. Even after getting up and pacing, she couldn't shake the heavy jitters in her gut. It just couldn't be over.
Her memory jogged itself back to that day at the hospital. She had practically barged in and lunged at the bed where the redhead lay. Just as immediately, the sight before her froze her.
Once caramel-kissed, freckle dusted skin was now various shades of blue and purple. The redhead's lips were cracked; her neck bruised up along her jaw, and from what the butch could bear to see, the bruises didn't stop there. There was a light cast on one wrist and upon that discovery; Mavin felt her rage rise within her like festering bile. She aimed for the nearest deep bin she could find and hurled her innards.
When the retching stopped, she began re-inspecting the redhead, searching for missing toes, fingers and tallying the damages she did find. She bounced the idea of a full examination around in her head for a few seconds before deciding that she couldn't live with further violating the redhead. But since the redhead wasn't in a position to vouch for her wishes, Mavin thought it over and decided it was better to know. Lifting the sheets, she made it past the bruises on Bella's thighs, and just as quickly decided that she had seen all she needed to.
She moved to redhead's side and allowed herself the relief of the moment, filling and bitter as it was. She realized the voice in her head was Sian's attempt to soothe her and keep her from doing the next thing that came to mind.
"You know you have to wait it out. At least now she's in safe hands. Besides I don't operate a sick bay here." Sian was saying.
Mavin didn't bother to respond. Instead she placed a kiss on Bella's temple, and couldn't help but notice that even her hair was lacking its fiery luster. A few more kisses later and a fight to resist scooping the unconscious woman in her arms, Mavin made her way out.
She hurried to where Zeke was waiting. He just started the engine and sped off. The drive back to New York City was long and tense. Zeke knew not to ask questions yet, so he drove her to the family mansion and let her have some space. It wasn't lost on him that his sister was visibly trembling.
"It's not over." She had told him at dinner later that night. "I want his head, deep fried on a platter." She had said and Zeke just nodded.
Of course it came as no surprise that Mavin then locked herself in her wing of the mansion. When she emerged two days later, she simply informed Zeke that she would be ordering some new furniture and gym equipment.
She sighed and shook her head clear. She felt nervous and anxious and totally disgusted by the flapping in her gut. In attempt to steady her head she slid to the floor of the den and lay on the spread duvet.
While her mind ran a million races, her body succumbed uneasily to sleep.
*************A while later*************
Bellinda and Jo pulled up to the Bright's home in Westbury New York.
"Wow, check this out." Joann whistled, "Nice digs!"
"Well it is a family home." Bellinda replied as Jo turned off the car. They remained silent for a while, feeling the winter chill seep in now that the engine was off and cooling. They hadn't talked about what happened, mostly because Bellinda wasn't fully sure of things, if at all.
Not wanting to stress her friend out and just being very glad that the redhead was back in good safety, was enough to keep Jo from prying. Still, she couldn't help being worried about her best friend.
"You know Bee; I'm here for you whenever you need me. For anything; if you need to talk, cry, decompress...I'm always here."
"Joann..." Bellinda leaned back into her seat.
"God Bee, I was so worried! The thoughts in my head, of not knowing if you were alive, and the helplessness compounded by how I imagined you were feeling..." The normally playful blond felt her skin flush as the little saline drops of moisture pooled at her eyelids and cascaded down her face.
"Oh Jo..." Bella pulled Jo into a tight hug. "It's okay, I'm okay. We're gonna be okay."
"I know. I'm sorry. I should be consoling you. God I was so scared!"
"Ssshh...It'll be alright." Bellinda smoothed Joann's sunny hair, "Hey, hey listen...whatever happened is over now, we can get on with our lives. I'm truly lucky to have a good, caring friend like you and in your shoes; I'd have been just the same. I appreciate you so much Jo and don't you ever forget it. I love you like my own blood, and in ways beyond words you already are my own blood."