Playing Doctor Ch. 03byWine_Maker©
Chapter Three: Emotional roller coaster
All I could see was the bore of the pistol pointed at my midsection. The barrel looked wide enough to drive a bus through, and it was pointed right at me. Then, with an odd moment of clinical detachment, I noticed the blood on his hand, red and fresh.
He jarred me out of my thoughts by jabbing me hard in the side with the pistol. "I said, 'Drive,' dammit!"
With my hands shaking in fear, I started the car and put it into reverse. Somehow I managed to avoid hitting any other cars, though I wasn't sure how. As I started forward into the street, I caught a glimpse of another man running into the parking lot with his hand in his jacket. His eyes seemed to fill my rear view mirror, cold and without emotion. Like a snake's eyes. He peered into my soul, but not in the positive way Keven did. I promptly, and without any rational reasoning, decided he was even more dangerous than the gun-wielding manic beside me.
"Turn right," the man with the gun said, "and make it snappy if you want to live."
I was afraid I was already dead and I had no real choice. I pulled into the street and turned right.
"Please don't kill me," I whimpered, giving voice to my fears.
He turned to me as he heard the sharp fear in my voice, but otherwise ignored my plea. "Go straight ahead and turn toward the freeway," he said instead. "Get on the freeway, and head toward the city limits."
Shivering to myself in quiet terror, I complied. The man continued to stare at me, holding the gun steadily pointed towards me, even while he pulled his other hand out of his pocket and spent a minute fiddling with the seat controls, pushing the seat back. I knew I needed to find some way to get him out of my car, or at least find a way to get him to stop pointing the gun at me.
"You're bleeding," the doctor, the only calm part of me said. "I should take you to the hospital."
He chuckled mirthlessly. "People die in hospitals, lady. Just drive the fucking car."
"I'm a doctor. At least tell me what happened to you. Were you shot? I may be able to help."
"Yeah, I was shot, but I'll live. Trust me on this one, 'cause I've been shot worse before."
"Did Snake Eyes shoot you?" I asked as I pulled onto the freeway.
"Snake Eyes?" he asked, a frown on his face.
"The man who ran into the parking lot behind you."
My unwilling passenger began cursing and half turned in the seat to look behind us. "Sonuvabitch! He'll be behind me somewhere. That bastard never gives up." He looked back at me. "Get off the freeway."
"We just got on," I protested.
"Just get off the fucking freeway!" he shouted. "Do what I fucking tell you!" There was a hint of real fear in his voice. He must have been nervous, because he moved his seat even further back and grabbed my purse.
"Just take the money," I said. "Please. There should be enough in there for you to..."
"Shut up." He opened my wallet and took the cash. Then he stared at my license. "How the hell is it you can get a decent DMV picture, and mine looks like I just got outta bed?"
I didn't answer, completely bemused by the question, the kind a friend might ask, the kind that made the madman seem human. He closed my wallet after a moment and dropped my purse at his feet. Pulling off at the next exit, I stopped at the red light and looked over at him as I braked. He stared back challengingly. Looking past him, up the street to the right, I sucked in my breath and pointed past him. "Is that Snake Eyes?"
My captor twisted in the seat and his head darted as he searched for his pursuer. I slipped the car into park and quietly popped my door open. In a flash, I had the car turned off, the keys in my hand, and I was hauling ass around the panel van beside us. A shouted curse behind me made me tense up and expect excruciating pain between my shoulder blades, but there were no shots.
Directly on the other side of the van was my dream come true, a motorcycle cop staring at me like I'd lost my mind.
"A man with a gun is right behind me!" I shouted, running around the motorcycle. "Help me!"
The cop never hesitated. He stood the bike on it's stand and hopped off, pulling his gun just in time to confront my kidnapper as he belatedly came around the van. "Police! Drop the weapon!" he shouted.
A look of despair came over the bleeding man, but he brought his gun up anyway.
I screamed and turned my head, expecting to die. The crash of the gunshot almost made me wet myself. Though my ears rang, I felt no pain, so I opened my eyes in time to see the cop kicking the gun away from the fallen man and calling for backup. He then twisted the twice-shot man's hands behind him and cuffed him.
Part of me wanted to do nothing more than fall down and cry, but something bigger in me simply couldn't do that, wouldn't let the terrified part of me do that. So instead I walked shakily back to my car, opened the trunk and got out my first aid kit. I ignored the asshole honking his horn, resisting my sudden desire to throw a rock through his windshield. The panel van had pulled away, leaving me plenty of space as I set it beside the downed man.
"Stay away from him, Miss," the cop commanded me sharply.
"I'm a doctor," I said firmly. "I have to help him." Even as I said that, some small voice inside of me raged that the doctor in me so rigidly controlled who I was that I couldn't even react like a normal person would. For an instant, I was shocked motionless by this insight, but I ruthlessly shoved the thought away and went to work.
The cop muttered something at me that I didn't really hear and grabbed his radio mike to give the dispatcher more information. In the distance I could hear muted sirens getting louder.
I stared down at the man who had only moments before held my life in his hand. Now our roles were reversed. I knelt beside him and ripped his shirt open. He blinked at me, his eyes already losing focus. He was going into shock. "Hey!" I screamed at him, "Focus on me. Stay with me."
He smiled at me, though his teeth showed a hideous red. "I don't think so, Doc," he said, coughing up blood matching the rest pooling under him.
"Don't talk." One of the shots had hit him right in the chest, and it was bad. Unless the ambulance got here quickly, he was going to die. He was probably going to die anyway.
"Keep your head down, Doc, and don't talk to strangers," he said almost too quietly for me to hear. "Watch out for that bastard." As if satisfied that he had given me the wisdom of the earth, he gave me one more smile and closed his eyes.
By the time the paramedics arrived, despite everything I could do, he was dead.
The next little while was a three-ring circus. Cops swarmed the scene, and I found myself sitting in the back of a police car with a blanket around my shoulders, a cup of really bad coffee in my hands. A plainclothes detective stood beside the car asking me for every detail I could remember, starting with the moment the dead guy showed up in my car. I wiped my bloody hands with a handiwipe, futilely trying to remove the blood. Gloves made this type of thing so much less messy.
My voice sounded mechanical to my ears, almost monotone, as I answered the officer. I drank the coffee and tried to feel something, but all the emotion seemed to have bled out of me like the blood-soaked, sheet-draped body lying beside my car. With minimal curiosity, I watched a uniformed cop give the passenger seat a cursory look before moving my car out of the road.
"Don't you need to tow my car to search for evidence?" I asked the detective.
He shook his head. "If the officer had seen anything he'd have bagged it. The only other reason we'd need evidence now is to find the guy that took you hostage and charge him." With a brief glance at the body, he shrugged. "I don't think that'll be necessary now."
That made more sense than I expected, despite the many episodes of CSI I'd watched, and I drank more coffee while the detective ran me through the events again. I wondered how much longer it would take till Danny arrived. I'd called him to come get me as soon as I'd been allowed to. I knew I wasn't going to feel safe driving my car. I briefly wondered if I ever would again. For now, I'd simply get it towed home. I'd think about what to do later.
I didn't have to wonder long, because just then Danny stepped up to the car and pulled me out, crushing me with a bear hug. I felt his love and concern for me in that hug, and I tried to say something, but I suddenly couldn't speak as the dam of emotion tore loose, and it was all I could do to hold him and cry. He brushed his hand through my hair as I wept, telling me everything was okay. I remember saying "Thank you" to him and telling him "I'm sorry" over and over, although I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be sorry about.
When I finally ran down, I felt like a wrung-out dishrag. At a nod from the police detective, Danny led me over to where the police had moved my car. Parked next to it was the biggest Harley Davidson motorcycle I'd ever seen. It was nothing but black and chrome, and sitting on it was Keven Braddock.
When he saw us approaching, he stood up abruptly and walked to meet us. Stopping in front of us, he reached out, cupped my chin in his hand and looked into my eyes, reading my soul. Unlike Snake Eyes, his gaze didn't frighten me. I saw the worry and fear buried inside him, hidden from those around him that couldn't peer into him the way I could. In an instant, I felt a bond form between us that strummed like a plucked harp string. Then he pulled me from Danny's grasp and held me.
This morning, I would've been afraid to be in his arms, but now I somehow felt I was where I belonged, and I was only grateful. His beard rubbed against my cheek as he held me and he whispered in my ear, "You're safe now. It's over." He sounded so confident, so certain, that I believed him deep inside and sagged with relief. The scent of him comforted me in a way that I could never have described. He was manly - strong and protective all at once. The part of me that normally objected to being protected, or even feeling the need for protection, was pretty weak after the day's events, so I just luxuriated in the warmth and courage Keven provided.
He finally let me go enough to clap Danny on the shoulder. "Why don't you take Sandy's car home with you? I'll get her home and settled in."
Danny's eyes silently questioned me and I just nodded. I didn't have the strength to consider alternatives or to resist. "Okay, I'll do that, then," he agreed. "Holly and I will bring the car over tomorrow. Sandy, just stay home for now. We'll cover everything at work for a few days."
The flame-thrower inside me wanted to object, to tell Danny that wasn't necessary, but she couldn't get the energy to actually speak. I must really be wiped out I thought to myself. Nodding again, I let Keven lead me to his motorcycle.
As Keven put a helmet on me, I marveled at the relative lack of fear I had about riding the big bike. He put on his own helmet and climbed aboard. "Sit behind me and hold on around my waist," he instructed me. "Hold onto me as tight as you like."
I climbed on behind him and found the places to put my feet. Then, with a shiver, I slid my arms around his waist and pulled myself against him. The heat of this morning was dampened but not gone completely. His stomach was a hot slab of muscle under my hands. I closed my eyes and rested my chin on his shoulder as he started the bike.
The trip to my house was a blur. Although I pointed out turns as we came up on them, I felt as if I was in a trance. I was startled when the bike cruised into my driveway where I normally parked my Porsche. With unsteady legs, I climbed off and tried to figure out the helmet strap until he gently moved my hands and loosened it himself.
After Keven set the helmets on the seat of the bike, I started toward the front door. It seemed like it was a hundred miles away, and I was so tired that I stumbled over my own feet. I squealed like a child when he effortlessly picked me up in his arms and strode to the front door.
"You don't...' I started.
"Shhh. You've had a rough day, so let me take care of you," he said in a voice more gentle than I'd expected.
With hardly a dip, he pulled my house key out of his pocket. I hadn't even thought about that when we started to my house. I was glad he'd gotten it somehow because I was really a wreck. He opened the door and held me so I could turn off the alarm. He closed the door and then took me right into the living room to set me on my feet.
"Can you make it to the bathroom on your own?" he asked in a concerned tone. "A hot shower would probably do you some good. Come back down when you're clean."
"Yes," I grouched, "I can take a shower by myself."
Keven quirked an eyebrow and smiled. "I asked if you could make it there, not if you needed someone to scrub your back. That would be getting a little ahead of ourselves, don't you think?"
I rolled my eyes and went up the stairs. I made it all the way up without falling back down the stairs, thank God. That would have been embarrassing. Stripping off the bloody clothes in the bathroom, I dumped them in a corner. I'd put them in the washer to soak and give them to Danny to take back to the office tomorrow. The cleaners we had were good at getting blood out.
The room quickly filled with steam as I let the hot water run all over my tired body. Keven had only been joking, but a part of me thought it would be nice to have him behind me, scrubbing my back. I'd lost patients before, back when I'd been a resident in the emergency room, so I knew the feelings. It was part of the human condition to want to reaffirm life after death, but instinctively I knew that was the wrong thing to do now. It might make things... Hell, I didn't know what it might make things.
I found myself shaking and my knees buckle as the weight of the whole ordeal began to overtake me. I was very glad my shower had a built-in seat or I would've ended up on the floor. Suddenly, I was a jumble of nerves and emotions. Even though I had seen my share of death and dying, I had never really had my own mortality shoved so clearly into my face like this, and it frightened me deeply.
Sitting on the seat, I held my knees and sobbed softly. Part of me, the doctor, knew these moments were normal reactions to trauma and would come and go, but it was more intense than I'd expected. I knew that I would be a better doctor when I saw it in patients I would have in the future. Danny contracted with a counselor, a psychiatrist, and I could already see a coming confrontation about me going to see her. Danny and Holly insisting and me resisting. Three guesses how that would come out. That brought the first real smile to my face that night, knowing I had their love and friendship to support me. I could still feel Danny's hug from earlier. Then there was Keven... Ohmigod, Keven... He was still downstairs!
I turned off the water and dried off with one of my big, fluffy towels, then went into my bedroom. Panties, shorts and an oversized tee shirt made me as presentable as I felt like being. Now, I needed to go downstairs and see what he had been doing in my absence. It had been years since I'd had a man wandering around my house, and I felt the burning desire to see what he was up to.
Padding quietly down the stairs, I let my senses stretch out, searching for him. The scent of something cooking led me into the kitchen and I stopped in the doorway, slack-jawed. His back to me, Keven was flipping what looked like shrimp in a sizzling skillet, just like you see on the cooking shows. He could paint and cook?
I must have made some kind of noise, because he half-turned and smiled at me. Not the hot smiles that made my insides melt, but just a friendly smile. "I decided that you didn't need to go out, and you certainly didn't need to cook, so I'm taking a hand and making us dinner. I hope you don't mind."
"Knock yourself out," I said, sitting at the table. "You'll probably do a better job with the shrimp than I would have. I'm a mediocre cook, at best."
He set the skillet down and poured me a glass of wine from the open bottle on the counter. I took it from him gratefully and watched him closely as he went back to cooking. I'd never really known any man to be naturally domestic before, and it was interesting to watch him in the kitchen.
"This should be ready in just a minute," he said, wiping his hands on a towel and sipping his own glass of wine. "You have good taste in wine, by the way. Stansbury Vineyards makes some stellar vintages."
"If you say so," I shrugged. "It was on the front row at eye level, so I bought it. I keep buying it now because it tastes good. I don't really have a taste for fine wines."
"If you like this you do," he insisted, sipping his and setting it down to tend to the food.
While he prepared the plates, putting the shrimp on a bed of noodles and covering the whole in a creamy Alfredo sauce, I tried to figure out how to broach the situation. I wanted him here, but I didn't want him in my bed tonight. Okay, I did want him in it, in me, but it wasn't going to happen. Not until I knew it was right. I refused to sleep with someone because I was weak. I hoped.
The first bite confirmed that he was a much better cook than I would ever be. It was delicious. "This is good! I mean really good!"
Keven bowed his head marginally in acknowledgment. "It comes from years living as a starving artist. If I wanted to eat anything other than frozen dinners I had to learn to cook for myself. In a surprisingly short time, you learn to cook all kinds of things that way. Living single, I'm sure you cook better than you let on."
I smiled and shook my head. "No, I'm afraid simple dishes are my limit. Those shrimp were going to be steamed because I could never fry them up like you just did. Cooking is one of my failures as a woman."
His eyes gleamed at me. "I'm sure, with proper coaching, you could pick up the finer points very quickly."
"Uh huh." I lowered my eyes and took a bite of the scrumptious shrimp and chewed it thoughtfully before raising my eyes back to his. "Look, I appreciate you coming over but we need to discuss some ground rules."
The chair he was in creaked a bit as he leaned back and nodded. "It's your house so we go by your rules. I'm here because you've had a terrible experience, and I refuse to see you left alone when I can be here for support."
"Why?" I demanded. "You met me less than a day ago. Danny and Holly, sure, I can see them coming and being here with me, but you don't know me at all."
"But I do know Doctor H. Even if we've not seen each other often over the last few years, he and Holly are dear friends of mine, and Danny's told me how much you mean to them. That, in and of itself, is reason enough; but, I feel the need to protect you, too, even if I don't know every last little detail about you."
I wanted to more closely examine his idea that I was something more to Danny and Holly than just a talented partner, but Keven's first words distracted me. I stared at him. "You know Danny?" At his nod, I took a deep breath. "Then why did he send me to meet you at the gallery last night in his place? He must have already known you and your work would be..."
Keven sat calmly, without saying anything, and watched the blood start to redden my face.
I really was an idiot. Danny hadn't set me up today, he'd set me up last night. And Keven was in on it. I ground my teeth together and glared at him. "You knew all about this, didn't you? The two of you cooked this up so I'd come meet you?"
Unperturbed, he shook his head. "No, Sandy. All I knew last night was that he called and canceled. I didn't even know they had a partner, and I didn't know he was sending you. Besides, this sounds more like Holly."