Dark Impulse Ch. 18byAurora Black©
Dawn broke over London, the sunlight dancing along the surface of the Thames. Liam didn't care about the sight as he paced restlessly in David's abandoned suite, numb with fear over the well-being of his cherished friend.
He shivered slightly as he walked around the sitting room, his thoughts elsewhere. The balcony doors were wide open despite the chill of the early morning. Upon entering the suite the night before, Liam had thrown them open in the hopes that David would return that way. He had waited all night, but nothing happened.
Releasing a shaky breath, Liam forced himself to pause before the phone.
I should call Grace, let her know how things are.
After checking the time and mentally calculating the time difference, he picked up the phone and was rewarded by Grace's sleepy voice a moment later. "Hello?"
Liam could hear a note of deep weariness in her tone that indicated more than just a lack of sleep, and he lowered his voice out of consideration for her.
"It's Liam, love. Sorry if I woke you."
Grace glanced at the electronic clock on her bedside table, and the red digits winked at her in the dim light. She grimaced slightly when she saw that it was 1am.
"No, you didn't wake me. I was just reviewing some notes for my lecture tomorrow morning." She scoffed at herself. "This morning, I should say. What's going on?"
Liam ran a hand through his blond locks as he watched the sunrise from where he sat on David's bed. The lovely view didn't help calm the persistent ache inside him.
"More of the same, I'm afraid. No one knows anything about what happened, and it makes me want to throw things against the wall. It's all so frustrating, Grace."
Sighing heavily, she held on to the receiver as she flipped onto her stomach.
"I should be there with you. I feel so helpless and guilty about staying behind, I can't stand it."
He gently clicked his tongue in disapproval.
"Don't be like that, darling. You're doing what you believe is best for Raphael, and perhaps you are right to carry on as normal for his sake."
Silence, and then Grace replied in a low whisper. "I need something positive right now to keep me going. If you tell me that everything will be all right, I'll believe you."
Liam closed his eyes, hoping that the situation would truly improve.
"Grace, I promise you that everything will work out for the best. We will find David soon, bring him home and then we will all get on with our lives."
She licked her dry lips. Yes we will, but not together. Not anymore.
"Thank you for that, Liam. Please let me know when David is found."
He leaned forward on the bed, sensing that Grace intended to hang up. "Wait!"
Confused, she returned the phone to her ear. "Yes?"
"Is there anything else that's bothering you, love?"
You mean other than the fact that my husband - who is a murder suspect, by the way - is missing because of me, and that my son is having these dreams in which he's making contact with someone that he's never seen before in his life, and that this all-too real person is suddenly re-entering my life and turning it upside down? And may I add that I'm going to be seeing this long-lost individual in the morning, and also that with each passing day I feel as if I'm a year older? My whole world is falling apart.
Grace forced herself to speak in a neutral tone. "No, nothing. Why do you ask?"
Liam hesitated. "I just thought... never mind. I'll call you later. Get some sleep."
He slowly returned the phone to its cradle, his mind so preoccupied that it took him several moments to realize that someone was pounding frantically on the door. He quickly rose and strode to the door, finding one of the men from Scotland Yard on the other side. The young man looked breathless with excitement.
"Good morning, Mr. Kilpatrick. Have you slept at all after your flight?"
Liam wasn't in the mood for formalities. "Do you know something? Out with it!"
The constable swallowed audibly. "I have news. Mr. Anami has been found up at Oxford, and has been brought to John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington."
In the split second that it took Liam to realize what the policeman was saying, he could have sworn that he felt his heart stop briefly before resuming its natural rhythm. He blinked hard, trying to overcome the shock by firing questions at his visitor.
"Where was he found? How long ago? What is his condition? Is he seriously injured? Has he said anything about what happened to him? Is he all in one piece?"
The young man held up his hands. "Please calm down, sir. He was found in the churchyard at Headington Quarry not half an hour ago. The groundsman found him lying there naked amongst the tombstones, freezing cold to the touch and with a nasty gash on his head. Sir, I've come to fetch you. There is a helicopter waiting outside."
"Of course. I'll be right with you."
Liam raced to pick up his jacket from the bed and slipped it on. He looked at the phone, wondering whether he should inform Grace.
No, I'll let her sleep. I can always call later.
With that thought in mind, he followed the policeman out of the room.
A half hour later, they arrived at John Radcliffe Hospital. He asked the receptionist for David's location, and his worry increased with each step towards the Intensive Care Unit. He shuddered as he saw and heard the multitude of seriously injured patients screaming in agony, begging for drugs to take the pain away.
He entered the private hospital room and saw David, unconscious and covered in tubes. Behind the bed, Liam saw dozens of electronic panels that displayed his friend's vital signs. He covered his mouth at the sight. Breathing raggedly, he turned to the doctor who was standing nearby, reviewing David's medical chart. "How is he, Doctor?"
The doctor looked at Liam, his face grim. "He is extremely lucky that he was found and brought here so quickly, or else he would not have survived."
Liam made a mental note to give a handsome reward to that groundskeeper.
"What is your diagnosis?"
The elderly doctor removed his wire-framed glasses, meeting the Irishman's gaze.
"Mr. Anami has recently gone through a great deal of physical stress. His head wound and the numerous scrapes that we found on his body are thankfully minor; what concerns me is the severe hypothermia that he has experienced."
The doctor walked to the bed, regarding his sleeping patient.
"The gentleman who found him said that Mr. Anami's skin was 'colder than ice,' and indeed, when he was brought here his temperature was a very serious 27 degrees Celcius, which is a full ten degrees lower than normal and unquestionably fatal if left untreated. Usually at such a low body temperature, the victim is in danger of cardiac arrest. Even if the person doesn't die from a spontaneous heart attack brought on by the cold, the tissues of the heart are at risk of being permanently damaged."
He adjusted the dial of David's heating blanket before returning to Liam's side.
"But this isn't the case for your friend, Mr. Kilpatrick. In all my years of practicing medicine, I have never seen anything like this. My prognosis is very good; not only will Mr. Anami recover fully from this ordeal, but he will not suffer any lingering after-effects. He is clearly as strong as any man half his age."
Liam visibly relaxed at the doctor's words, but he was wary of the Scotland Yard men who were waiting in the lobby to interview David upon waking.
"Doctor, would you please keep the police away from Mr. Anami until he is completely ready to deal with them? I fear that they may disturb his recovery by bombarding him with questions concerning what happened to him."
The doctor stroked his mustache as he considered Liam's words.
"Yes, quite right. I will prevent them from seeing him for as long as I can manage, but I admit that it will not be long before they must do their job. However, I cannot blame them for wanting to investigate. I'm sure that when Mr. Anami wakes, he'll have quite a story to tell. I would also like to know how all this came about."
Liam looked at David, who appeared small and helpless against the sterile white sheets of the hospital bed, surrounded by medical equipment.
His voice was chilly as he replied. "Yes. Of course you would."
* * *
It was 8:30 when Gabriel finally made it through the urban jungle of Manhattan to arrive at Columbia's Morningside campus. His appointment with Grace wasn't due for another half hour, but he decided to sit in on her early morning lecture so he could see her in action.
He had gone without sleep the night before, his thoughts on their upcoming meeting. He was sure that he had covered every square inch of the loft with his pacing during the night, nervous beyond words. The time was almost at hand, but the butterflies in his stomach only fluttered harder with each passing second.
Another ten minutes passed before he found the right room, and he debated endlessly with himself over whether or not he should enter so close to the end of the session. He didn't want to embarrass himself by coming in late, with an entire roomful of strangers that would undoubtedly stare and whisper to each other about him. He also didn't want to upset Grace by disrupting her class.
Licking his lips nervously, he made the decision. He didn't want to leave after coming this far. He wanted to open the door and see her, to sit close and watch her work. He wanted to devour her with his eyes. He wanted her to see him in the crowd, hanging on her every word.
Grace's melodic voice reached him through the door, and his heart raced.
"I'm going to set up the projector now. Would someone please lower the shades?"
Gabriel visibly perked up at the idea of slipping into the darkened room unnoticed. He listened through the door and heard the sounds of mechanical whirring. Seconds later, he looked down at where the bottom of the door met the floor and saw the bright rays of sunlight give way to darkness. It was time.
Slowly, he turned the doorknob and opened the door a crack to peek inside. He saw what had to be two hundred students or more in the arena-style auditorium, and the room was almost completely packed with bodies. Gabriel's eyes quickly scanned the crowd to see if there were any available seats, but it was extremely hard to tell because of the low level of visibility he had at his present position.
He glanced at the front of the room and saw Grace. She had her back turned to the audience while she was still setting up the projector and arranging her carefully prepared lecture notes. If he timed it right, he could slip in without her seeing him.
Gabriel took a deep breath. All right. If you're going to do this, it's got to be now.
He swiftly opened the door and stepped inside, looking again for an empty seat. His previous fears over the students' reaction to him were proven wrong; other than the few whispers of 'Who's that?' and 'Never seen him before' or 'He's cute," he was ignored by the masses. All their attention was riveted on their petite Asian professor, who also happened to be very pretty.
His eyes narrowed as he saw some macho jock types eyeballing Grace.
Come to think of it, for an Art class, there are an awful lot of guys in here!
Gabriel found a seat in the very front row and sat back to watch Grace as she switched on the projector and selected a slide. He admired the way she moved on the podium, with serenity as well as strength. She was indeed aptly named.
As he finished the thought, he watched as she turned to face the audience with a mischievous smile. "Okay guys, I know that we don't have much time left so I'll be brief with this painting description. You should know, however, that this is one of my favorite works and it may be on the final exam next month so pay attention! Now, with that out of the way..."
He saw her perfectly manicured finger press a button on the side of the machine, and a second later an old Renaissance painting was visible on the large projector screen. Impressed with the detail involved, he looked to Grace for more information. She had stepped away from the screen so the crowd could take a good look; after a few minutes, she returned to her position at the podium.
"This is Botticelli's 'Venus and Mars,' which was painted in Florence in 1483 and currently resides in the National Gallery in London. For those who need a shot in the arm concerning Greco-Roman mythology, the two lovers are also known as Aphrodite and Ares and theirs is one of the most widely known love affairs in all art and literature."
Gabriel leaned forward in his seat, intrigued by Grace's words. She continued.
"Venus was indeed the Goddess of Love, and she fell hard for the God of War. She loved Mars madly despite the constant threat of discovery by her deeply flawed husband Vulcan, otherwise known as Hephaestus, whose jealousy burned hotter than the volcano he called home. This divine love provided the seeds from which children sprang, and..."
Grace trailed off when she saw Gabriel sitting in the front row, watching her intently. His eyes sparkled as they met hers, and a corner of his mouth turned upward in a disarming smile. It was the exact same smile that she saw every day on her son's face, and she felt herself tremble where she stood.
She forced herself to recover before her students noticed her loss of control.
"You know what? Let's skip the mythology and move on to the actual painting before our time runs out."
She was relieved when she turned her back to the audience and Gabriel. She welcomed the feeling of security that came from discussing art, an area where she didn't have to deal with her naked emotions.
"As you can see, the scene depicted here is one of sated joy following lovemaking. Mars is sleeping peacefully after experiencing the 'little death,' while Venus remains awake and watches him in slumber. I'm sure the ladies can relate."
Female laughter erupted in the room briefly before it quickly died down.
"The overall themes of this painting are love and victory, but victory over what, exactly? There have been many debates over this, and the theories are these: Woman conquers Man, Love conquers War, and Love conquers All."
Grace was facing the audience again when she saw a hand being raised. "Yes?"
A perky blonde in the front row lowered her hand before speaking.
"Which of these theories do you believe, Dr. Nakimura?"
The student was sitting a few chairs away from Gabriel, and unwillingly Grace's eyes were drawn to his. He regarded her, and for a moment she thought she saw love in his eyes.
She tore her eyes from his, faking a smile as she addressed the blonde.
"I support all three, actually. Let me show you all what I mean..."
Gabriel fought an urge to leap forward and take Grace in his arms. He remained seated, watching helplessly as she finished her lecture. The look in her eyes had broken his heart; he sensed so much pain in the midnight depths, heard a cry for help. He didn't think she realized how exposed she had been to him in those brief seconds.
His hands curled into fists at his sides as he tried to calm himself, to prevent himself from shouting in sheer frustration. Come to me, Grace. Please. Trust me.
She didn't hear his silent plea. Instead, she concentrated on her presentation, glancing at everything but him. He watched her in a haze of torment and longing, unable to breathe from the intensity.
Gabriel looked at his watch and saw that it was 9am. The lecture was mercifully over. Around him he heard the sounds of books being thrust into waiting backpacks and briefcases, the jingle of keys and loose change. He heard Grace above the noise.
"Thank you for giving me this hour of your time, and study hard for that final!"
He rose from his seat as the students began to leave the room en masse, his vision temporarily thrown off by the raising of the shades. He raised a hand to shield his eyes from the morning sunlight as he heard the footsteps of the departing people fade away, leaving the two of them behind. They were finally alone together.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he heard her sure steps echoing in the room as she left the podium and approached him. He lowered his hand and found himself looking down at her, staring into her eyes. She met his gaze directly, without fear.
His breath caught as he recognized the look in her eyes, the mirror image of the one she gave him in his very first dream over a week before. Her eyes glistened like black jewels against her creamy skin, and her gaze was sensual yet it carried a warning.
Gabriel tried in vain to decipher what lay hidden beneath the surface.
What are you trying to tell me? Are you afraid of what your husband might do if he knew what we were to each other, or is it something else? Perhaps you're afraid of opening yourself up to me, because you think I'll hurt you again? Talk to me!
Her hand flew to cover his mouth, silencing him. "Not here."
She backed away from him, turning to collect her briefcase and purse. He watched her mutely, his lips tingling where she touched him. She paused by the door, looking at him over her shoulder to indicate that he should follow. He did so, feeling the butterflies in his stomach swirl around until he thought they might escape their prison.
Grace walked briskly down the hall and climbed the stairs, occasionally looking back to see if Gabriel was following her. He was, and she felt her knees turn to jelly each time she saw him walking behind her with his confident, purposeful stride.
She took a deep breath as they approached the ninth floor of the building, where her office was located. Relax. Breathe. All I have to do is hear what he has to say, and if I don't like it I can just send him on his merry way. If he's exactly the same as he was five years ago, well, the door will certainly hit him in his cute little ass on his way out!
She saw her office in the distance and sped up as another thought came to her.
What if he's changed for real? What if he's genuine and as wonderful as the words in his letter? It's painfully obvious that he came to New York for me, but what does he want? He has to know by now that I'm married and have a child. What is his agenda? He says he wants to help me, but... can I trust him? Do I dare trust him?
Grace reached her office door and felt a strange feeling deep in her gut, a sensation of dread that had nothing to do with the man who followed her but had everything to do with the campus police that she saw on the other side of the frosted glass pane.
She breathed heavily against the glass. My God, what happened here?
Gabriel paused when he saw Grace's reaction outside her office, and almost immediately he guessed the cause. Through the glass he saw the figures of several men in dark blue uniforms, and even before she turned and raised a shaking hand to stall him, he knew that she wanted him to wait in the hall while she found out what was going on. He watched as she stepped inside the office, and as soon as she was out of sight he slowly crept to the door, hoping to overhear something important.
Grace entered the tiny waiting area and found Evelyn surrounded by police officers. She looked at her friend's face, which looked severely drawn from worry.
She spoke up. "Excuse me, officers. I'm Dr. Nakimura. What happened?"
The leader of the pack stepped forward, his watchful eyes focused on her.
"Good morning, Doctor. I'm afraid that there's been a break-in and ransacking here in your office. Your secretary called us about 15 minutes ago."