What was wrong? He was begging to die.
October 20, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“I’m not looking forward to this, Skeeter,” Angus confessed in the lobby of a different hospital, far, far away.
“Me either,” Skeeter answered as she pushed the button for the elevator. “We are going to have to steel ourselves and look cheerful.”
“Yeah, really steel ourselves. We are pretty good at that, anyway.”
Angus and Skeeter felt the elevator rising to the fourth floor. They were on their way to see Branford Cooper, who was now conscious and semi-alert. They had on their street clothes, which they usually wore as homicide detectives—conservative business attire from their own closets. “You look nice, Skeeter, but you always do, except when you are devouring potato chips like a buzz saw.” Angus was trying to keep it light.
“Thanks, Angus. You don’t look bad, yourself, for an old geezer.”
Angus smiled. He only had four and a half years on Skeeter. “Does Brad know what all is wrong with him?”
“I don’t know what all they have told him. We’re getting ready to find out.”
As they exited the elevator, and went down the hall looking at room numbers on the doors, they were made uncomfortable by the smells of disinfecting solutions and medicines.
“This is it!” Angus said. They looked at each other, took two deep breaths each and started in. Angus held the huge, extra-wide door open for Skeeter. Tall and thin, with razor-cut brown hair, Brad took up the whole bed from headboard to footboard, but he looked small and vulnerable, anyway. His eyes were closed at first, but when he noticed movement in the room, he opened them. The lower half of his face was partially covered by noisy breathing equipment and a suction tube going into his mouth, but it seemed to Angus like he was smiling somewhere under there. “It’s just us, Brad. We had to come see you.”
Skeeter made a bee-line for one of Brad’s hands—the one that had fewer wires coming out of it—and grasped it tightly.
Angus continued. “Don’t try to talk. You need to keep your strength up. I wish we had some good news about the strange cases, but we don’t. Skeeter and I are working overtime with photographs of the crime scenes—looking for common denominators on all of the cases so far. We are going to see the girl in quarantine soon, but she is very shook-up and we don’t expect to get anything out of her.”
Skeeter squeezed Brad’s hand. She didn’t know what else to do. She thought she detected another smile. He was trying to tell them something. He couldn’t really talk. He only had a quarter of a lung left, and a plastic mouthpiece was on his mouth, plus a suction tube going in.
“Blucabes!” He said. Angus came in closer. They both looked at his mouth to try to see what he was mouthing. “Blubcabes.” He tried again.
“Oh, bookcases?’ Angus asked. “You want us to check what was in the bookcases of the houses. Is that right? Something is the same in all of the bookcases?” He looked at Brad’s face and he was nodding. “Okay we will pay special attention to that. Thanks!”
Brad looked at Skeeter. She was still holding his hand. He forced his hand free, with difficulty, and motioned for her to leave. It tired him out somewhat. She was puzzled. Again, he waved her away.
“You want me to go, Brad? Is that it?” Skeeter was still perplexed, but she walked toward the door.
With the same hand that just let go of Skeeter’s hand, Brad motioned Angus closer. His eyebrows furrowed. “Ki…me!” Angus could not make it out. “Ki…meee!” Angus drew back in horror. Branford Cooper was begging Angus to kill him. That meant he knew he had no future. He knew the whole story and was begging to die.
“No! That’s not going to happen!” Angus was emphatic.
“Killlll….meeee!” Brad was getting more and more agitated. Angus looked at the monitor. His heart rate was spiking.
“Okay! Okay! I promise. But not right now. I am working an angle. I have consulted many doctors. I think we have figured out a way that you can be almost as good as new, again. If it doesn’t work out, I promise I will kill you. Your job here is to build up your strength so you can tolerate surgery. It will take a little time. You are a tough FBI man. It’ll be a piece of cake. Got it?”
Brad eased back on the pillow a little. He seemed somewhat appeased. His heart rate headed back to normal ranges.
* * *
On the way back down in the elevator, Skeeter bored her eyes into Angus until he started talking.
“He was begging to die, Skeeter. He was begging to die.”
Skeeter cast her eyes toward the floor and didn’t look up until the door opened.
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.