By Caroline E. Pereira
A complete short novel which has suspense, murder and romance. The main characters of the story are detective Jordan Tate and doctor Zoe Donovan. I look forward to feedback from you whether a positive or negative one is most welcome. I sincerely hope you have fun reading this as much as I had fun writing it.
THE street below was busy. Looking out the window on the seventh floor, I tried to locate someone in the crowded and busy street. My eyes scanned the crowd and then I saw her, she’d never be able to hide in any kind of crowd. She had on dark glasses that hid the most beautiful blue eyes that you could drown in. But they could slice a person down with one icy stare. She stood out in the crowd, a head above others, with long raven hair and a walk that could hypnotize you.
I stood at the window watching the woman I love turn the corner, walking out of my life, not knowing if I’d ever see her again.
Sighing I return to my desk, my mind going back to that fateful day she came to my office….
She’d come to my office and my first thought was I’d seen an angel. Boy, was I glad she was no angel. The vision before me had the voice that made one think of silk and satin.
“Are you Bryan Tate, Private Investigator?” she asked in a voice that rumbled low and husky, with a hint of sleepiness in it. I nodded my head. I hope I wasn’t drooling or staring. That wouldn’t say much for my professionalism.
She introduced herself as Dr Zoe Donovan, a surgeon with the University Hospital.
“Please have a seat Dr Donovan. How may I help you?” I inquired.
“I think someone is following me,” she said. Twisting her handkerchief between her fingers, I saw that she was nervous.
“What makes you think that, Dr Donovan?” I asked. Looking into her blue eyes, I felt like I wanted to drown in them forever. You could fall in love just by gazing into those baby blue. Oops! I think she asked me something.
“Detective Tate, are you OK?” she sounded annoyed.
“Hmm… Yes! I’m OK. Sorry, I was just thinking of something.” How embarrassing can it get? What is the matter with me?
Dr Donovan continued with her explanation. “Like I was saying, for the past few days I’ve been followed. There’s this metallic grey Proton Wira that keeps popping up wherever I go. At first I was not sure if I was being followed or not. So I did a few different stops in the first hour and each time the same car was parked just a few cars away from me.”
“Did you get the number plate?”
“Yes!” she said. And wrote down the number for me.
“What about the driver, did you get a good look at him?” I shot the question at her.
“No. The windows were tinted but it was a woman.” Zoe stated.
“Yes, I’m sure. It was a woman” she asked hesitantly.
“Do you have any idea why you’re being followed?” I asked.
For a moment Dr Donovan sat there fidgeting in her seat. I could see she was having trouble getting her thoughts in order. And she was blushing. Whatever she was thinking off seem to cause the rise of colour to her cheeks.
“Well… It’s… I met this man three months ago. His name is Danny Gan. We started dating and about a month later we got serious and he moved in with me. Then two months into the relationship I received an e-mail from a Karen Dobbs telling me that Danny was married. I told Danny about it and he became agitated. He kept mumbling, ‘It can’t be happening again’. Then he said he needed to get out, that he needed some breathing space to think. He did not return that night.”
She was silent for a while lost in thought before continuing. “Then, the next morning, before six o’clock I heard Danny returned. He saw me as he entered the room, I’d been waiting up for him the whole night. Before I could say anything, he told me in a flat voice without emotion that he was leaving me. He went into our bedroom, dumped all his clothes into his suitcase and walked out the door.”
Running her fingers through her hair and taking a deep breath Dr Donovan continues, “I’ve not seen him since he left. Then I got an e-mail accusing me of not breaking-off the relationship. I replied to this Dobbs person stating that the relationship had ended but she kept harassing me with more e-mails. About two weeks ago she barged into my office and caused a scene. Since then she has been following me.”
“Do you know where Danny is now?” I asked her.
“No! After he left, I contacted his office. They informed me that Danny had resigned and they didn’t have any forwarding address.”
“How many other relationships were there before Danny?” I asked.
Zoe whips back her head and gives me a stare that sends a chill down my spine. Her eyes became icy blue chips and I felt myself cut to ribbons by her stare.
“What are you implying? ” she answers me frostily.
“I’m sorry Dr Donovan. I didn’t mean it to come out accusingly. I’m sorry, please accept my apology.” I think I whimpered. I hope not.
Sighing, she gave me a stare before speaking. “I went on dates Detective Tate but committing into a relationship is something I take very seriously. There were none before Danny.”
“My apologies again, Dr Donovan. It’s just that I have to check all possibilities. OK! What about the men you dated previously, do you still keep in touch with them? Were there anyone that threaten you because you broke up with them?”
“No, I don’t think that any of my dates had a grudge against me. When my feelings turned out to be platonic and I couldn’t take it to the next level I made it clear that friendship was all I could offer. Most of those dates have become good friends with me.” She pauses before adding, “This has to do with Danny and the e-mails I keep getting.”
I jot down more information and note her address. We shake hands and I think I held on a moment longer than necessary. She rises and smiles at me before she leaves. It takes me a few minutes to realize that I’m still smiling like an idiot and the beautiful Dr Zoe Donovan has already left the building.
BRYAN Tate! Zoe smiled as she whispered his name. He was definitely drooling. Wishing life wasn’t so complicated she’d like to be flirting with him. Just hear yourself. Flirting was what got you in this mess in the first place. Come on Zoe, you don’t need more problems then you can handle. And Bryan Tate is problem with a capital P.
Was flirting the reason she was in this mess? She didn’t want it to be so. The day she bumped into Danny, he was with friends at McDonalds. She was in line waiting for her turn at the counter when she noticed him giving her furtive glances. Being bored and alone she decided to flirt with him and have fun. She gave him a sexy smile and raised her left eye-brow questioning. He turned a shade of pink for being caught staring but smiled back at her. And what a killer smile he had.
By the time she reached the counter to place her order he and his friends were already getting up to leave. She settled her bill and carried the tray to an empty table. She’d thought he’d left with his friends but he didn’t.
Zoe saw him walking towards her and as he reached her table he held out his hand saying, “Hi! I’m Danny Gan. Do you mind if I join you?”
Taking his hand in hers Zoe held it while asking, “What happened to your friends? They dump you?”
“No! I dump them. Saw this beautiful woman. She was flirting with me so I just had to meet her. Didn’t want to share her with that unruly lot.”
He let her hand go and Zoe felt a loss. He smiled again and everything flew out of her mind. She almost didn’t hear him ask, “So what do I call you gorgeous?”
Zoe stammered out her name feeling the heat rise to her face. She was blushing, something which she hadn’t done in a long while. If he kept smiling like that she’d be puddle in his hands.
They talked for what seem like hours. Neither wanted the day to end. He walked her to her car and asked, “Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow?”
Without hesitation Zoe said yes. And for those three months Danny always made her feel special and beautiful. Then he was gone! Gone! And she was left with no answer, just a crazy woman stalking her.
Zoe came back to the present with a fright, hearing the screech of tyres and the angry honk of a car. She hadn’t realized she’d stepped off the curb into traffic. Heart pounding she realized that she could have been killed.
MY watch showed that I had about half-an-hour to get to Zoe’s workplace to start my surveillance. I arrived in ten minutes and waited at the entrance nearest to the highway where she told me she usually exits. I checked my surroundings for the grey Proton Wira but it wasn’t in sight.
While waiting for the lovely doctor to finish work, I went over the information I had gathered earlier. The car registration number plate which I ran through the computer database was registered to a Calvin Peters. I’ll have to talk to Mr Peters to see how he fits into the picture.
Just then I notice Zoe driving out. I put my car in gear and followed her but the grey Proton Wira wasn’t anywhere in sight. Arriving at her home, a double-storey bungalow in the exclusive upper-class neighbourhood, there was still no sign of the grey car.
I park behind her car and got out. Walking towards her I said, “I didn’t see anyone following you, Dr Donovan.”
“Hi, Detective Tate. Would you like to come in for a drink?” she asks with a hint of caution in her voice.
“Thanks, Dr Donovan. My throat is parched and a cool drink would be welcomed. Lovely home you have here.” I try to make light conversation.
“It serves its purpose. It’s near the hospital and if I’m paged I can get to the hospital quick.” Zoe replied while making her way to the front door.
Unlocking the front door, I watch her put her briefcase and handbag on the table near the door and throw her car keys into a bowl on the same table. As she walks into the room, she removes her shoes and jacket before heading for the kitchen.
The living room is spacious yet cosy. The wall is an off white with an eye-catching oil painting of a deserted beach scene. The painting depicted of a secluded yet peaceful place. Studying the painting, I’d say she values her privacy and is not afraid of being alone.
“Do you like art, Detective Tate?” Zoe asked.
I felt her breath near my ear, my heart rate had increased. I hadn’t heard her approach and I mumble something, but I’m not sure if it was an intelligent answer or not. She smelled of spring and spices. I was finding it difficult to breath.
“I bought it because I liked the scenery. Are you an art critic, Detective Tate? Or are you trying to impress me?” She said with a hint of laughter in her voice.
“No, it’s just that I … I was trying to match you with the painting.” I think I turned a different shade of red and I felt my ears burning.
Taking the drink she offered, I sipped it. But it went down the wrong way and I ended up choking and coughing. How much more embarrassing can it get?
I felt hands softly rubbing my back and a voice telling me to breathe slowly. After a while I started to focus again, my eyes stopped tearing and I could breathe without coughing. Thank God my face was still red from all that coughing because I think I turned a deeper shade of red just by feeling her hands rubbing my back.
“I shouldn’t tease you like that but you’re easy prey. So, I’m a pretty painting, Detective Tate?” says Zoe, still with a hint of laughter in her voice, looking at me with those baby blue eyes that keep hypnotizing me.
“Not at all, Dr Donovan. It’s just that I appreciate and admire beauty. What can I say… I’m weak,” I banter back at her.
“Ah… such flattery, Detective. But then the beauty you speak of is only skin-deep. And one day that beauty will be gone. If you look deeper into a person, you’ll find a different beauty, one that remains constant forever.”
“Ah..ha! Well, if you go out on a date with me, then I’ll be able to get to know your inner beauty. What do you think, care to go on a date with me, Doc?” I know my voice was playful but my nerves were knotted-up hoping she’d say yes.
She looked at me for a moment before answering, “Maybe in the near future, if you ask me again.”
We smiled at each other. And I breathe easy knowing she didn’t say an outright no. I felt a warm feeling spreading over me, seeing the twinkle in her blue eyes where just recently held a guarded and reserved look.
After a while Zoe looked at me and ask hopefully, “As there was no Wira following me, do you think she has lost interest?”
“I would like to think so but from past experiences a stalker doesn’t just walk away. I think she wants to lull you into a false sense of security. If she thinks she can get your guard down then you become easy prey. So, what you should be doing is to be wary of anybody from the woman in the street to you colleagues at the hospital.” I stress to her.
We continued discussing the case in depth. I told her about the information I traced on the grey Proton Wira. We opened a file compiling information and questions on Calvin Peters, Karen Dobbs and Danny Gan. But there was still no clear picture how all three were link to my client.
I looked at my watch and realized it was getting quite late. Before I took my leave, I told Zoe to make sure she locked-up once I’d left. Also to call me if see hears or sees anything out of the ordinary. She bade me good night and I got lost in her smile and those eyes…
YOU think you’re so smart. Well, think again, pretty Zoe. I’m watching you. You are like a pretty butterfly. But that’s not going to distract me, on the contrary it makes me more determined to watch you scream in pain. Maybe I’ll put you out of your misery or maybe not.
You took what was not yours in the first place. So, now you have to pay for not heeding what I told you was not available. I gave you more then enough warning but you still went on seeing him. He’s mine, all mine and I’ll not let you turn your little finger around him. I’ll not allow you to ruin my life, not now when I just found him again.
He never loved his wife. It’s me whom he loves. He came to me and I showered him with more love than his wife was ever able to give. You are a distraction, a little mistake but I’m here to correct it. I’m not going to allow you to take him from me. So I have to teach you and I promise, you’ll learn pretty quick to beg for mercy.
That detective was at your place earlier. Now why would you hire a detective? If you’d only do what you’re told to do, but you don’t. I will have to terminate his services. I’ll not have him interfering with my plans. Tomorrow I’ll send him a message. He’d be wise to follow the instruction of the message.
Until tomorrow, sleep well Zoe for I have plans that don’t involve sleep at all. You will wish for sleep before I’m done with you. I cannot wait for tomorrow to come. I’ll be seeing you soon Zoe, sweet dreams for now. Tomorrow your nightmare begins.
The starting of a car engine was heard in the quiet of the neighbourhood. The driver put the car into gear and with a smile drove off. The smile never reached eyes that were dull and soulless. The madness in them was reaching a point of no return.
HOW could I have missed such an important clue? I should ask someone to kick me on the butt. For the past hour I was trying to get Zoe on the phone but the lines were still down. Furthermore this thunderstorm and being stuck in traffic really sucked. Hope Zoe doesn’t leave the hospital early.
The day started gloomy, dark clouds threatening with rain and a flat tyre. Took me an hour to change the spare tyre with Murphy’s Law in full force. While using the car jack, it slipped and the car bounced down nearly squashing my toes. Cursing and swearing I tried again and all went smoothly until I got out the spare tyre. Yes, you guessed right, it was flat. So I got out my mountain bike, balanced the tyre and myself and off we went to the petrol station to get it pumped with air. After that things got back on track with no more hazards. But not for long!
I reached the office a little after ten, craving for my coffee and breakfast. But that wasn’t to be. My office door was open and there was chaos everywhere. Files were strewn all over the floor, the computer was smashed and so was the filing cabinet. I did a quick check and found that all of the printed information on Zoe’s case was gone. Then I noticed a message stuck on the monitor of the computer. Without touching the paper I read the message. “Stop your investigation! Tell Dr Donovan you’re dropping her case. If you don’t then the pretty doctor will not see tomorrow.”
Hearing the dial tone of the telephone I was thankful the lines were up. I dialed Zoe’s office and tried paging her but no one seem to know where she was. I was already in a fouled mood and getting more pissed off by the minute. Trying to stay focus, I searched for my fingerprint tool-set. Then I got down to seeing if I could lift any prints off the message. Bingo! I got a clear thumbprint. The task ahead had a few more obstacles before I could match the thumbprint.
I made a call to a friend at the police lab. “Hello! Could I speak with Leftenent Trevor Tan.”
“Speaking. Is that you Bryan?” came the baritone voice of Trevor Tan.
“Yup! Hey, can I drop by to run a check on a thumbprint that I lifted up.” I hurriedly continued before Trevor could interrupt. “My office was broken into and most of my equipment were smashed so I really need your help.”
“You think the print you lifted is from the person who broke into your office?” Trevor inquired.
“Well, I got it off the message that was left for me. So it has to belong to the creep.” I was foaming at the mouth thinking of ways I’d like to take this creep down.
I pulled myself back when I heard Trevor saying that it was alright to drop by the lab. He had some free time as today was a slow day with no major cases to clear. I told him I’d be there in under ten minutes. Was I wrong.
Driving the short distance to the police lab seem to take forever. My mood didn’t improve much as the rain hadn’t let-up a bit and traffic was at a crawl. Chilled to the bone, wet and hungry without my morning cup of coffee, the day just kept getting peachy.
Trevor met me while I was dashing through the door. Feeling like a dripping bedraggled pitiful cat, I followed him to the lab. Trevor poured me some hot coffee and I began to feel human again. We got down to scanning the print into the computer then ran a check in the database system to match it. It took about fifteen minutes but we got a match. And what do you know, it belongs to Miss Stalker a.k.a. as Karen Dobbs.
Trevor printed out the information on Karen Dobbs and gave it to me. Half way through the page my blood froze and I immediately speed dialed Zoe’s number but I couldn’t get through. I hastily thanked Trevor for his help and dashed out into the pouring rain again. Traffic was still at a crawl and the rain was turning into a thunderstorm with flooding very likely in many places. I hope I get to the hospital before any of the roads get flooded.
So, here I was, still stuck in traffic and not able to get in touch with Zoe. I went over again in my mind on the clue that I missed on Karen Dobbs. Bile rose and I almost gagged. How could I have missed that Karen Dobbs used to work at the same hospital as Zoe? Well, if you could keep your mind solely on the case and not act like a lovesick dope, then maybe you’d think more clearly. I felt like a first class jerk. I prayed I’d reach Zoe before Karen Dobbs does anything.
PAGING Dr Donovan! Paging Dr Donovan! You are needed in Paediatrics immediately.
The day hadn’t started yet and Zoe was feeling frazzled. Mumbling under her breath, “There goes breakfast. Thank goodness I had my coffee or somebody’s head will start rolling.”
Wondering why Paediatrics was paging her she prayed that little Timmy didn’t have a relapse. Timmy was the favourite among the staff. Only just turned five, he had the face of an imp. When he was admitted last week, her heart nearly broke seeing him so forlorn and trying not to cry. He had all the symptoms of dengue fever.
Little Timmy’s mother was almost hysterical and had to be taken out of the emergency room as it wasn’t helping her little boy. Later, it was discovered that the husband had died of dengue fever a year ago. No wonder she went berserk, thinking she was going to lose her son too. For the next few days it was touch and go for the little fellow. His fever is almost gone and with lots of fluids he is getting better. But he was still not out of the woods yet.
Reaching the Paediatrics ward, Zoe didn’t see anyone at the nurses’ station. She glanced at the row of beds, one of the bed at the end had its screen drawn. Walking towards the screened bed, she called out a greeting.
“Good morning, anybody there. I’m Dr Donovan. Someone from Paediatrics paged me.”
A voice from behind the screen answered, “Good morning doctor. Yes, Dr Pinto is starting surgery in half-an-hour and he wanted you to assist him.”
“I don’t see him around.” Zoe said.
Poking her head out, the nurse who had her mask on looked confused but replied, “He was here just a few minutes ago. “He must have left for the surgical theatre. It’s Theatre Three.”
“Thank you nurse. Well, I’ll go meet him there.”
Taking the stairs to the next floor, which was faster than the lifts, Zoe was deep in thoughts and didn’t notice someone following her. “It’s not like Dr Pinto to just disappear like that. Maybe his mind is on the surgery and these last minute changes must have thrown him off. Well, I’d better read the patient’s chart while waiting for him.”
Reaching Theatre Three, she entered the outer room and pulled out the patients’ chart to read the case history. The chart showed the patient was a boy, nine years of age with a foreign object in his stomach. He had swallowed a few safety pins so Dr Pinto tried flushing his stomach. It worked but for one safety pin which had somehow opened and got embedded to the wall of his stomach. So the next step was surgery. It looked like standard surgery and the patients BP was strong. Feeling her adrenaline flow as it usually does before performing any surgery she changed into my scrubs and entered the Operating Theatre.
But to her surprise no one was there, the monitors were not hooked-up, and the lights were off. Glancing at the clock it showed twenty minutes to surgery time. “This can’t be right, the nurse must have got her time or theatre number wrong.” She reached for the phone and dialed Paediatrics but they couldn’t help her as there was no surgery schedule for Dr Pinto this morning. A chill ran down her spine as she tried to comprehend the information. Moving fast towards the doors, Zoe knew she had to get out of there as everything screamed danger.
She didn’t get to open the door as someone on the other side had slammed it into her. She landed on her butt with the air knocked out of her. While trying to catch her breath, she saw this blur of motion heading towards her. Before she could defend herself something hit her on the head. And darkness swallowed her.
WAKEY-wakey! “I didn’t hit you that hard, come on Doc let me see those baby blue eyes.” The voice was hard and mocking, coming from somewhere.
Dr Zoe Donovan was slowing waking up and she felt like someone was playing pin-balls in her head. Trying to focus where the voice was coming from, she tried to turn her head but that nearly caused her to black out with the pain. She tried moving her hands but something was preventing her. Even her legs couldn’t move. Then she heard the cold voice again and shivered with fear.
“I always thought doctors had iron-cast skulls. Hey, Doc you sure don’t live up to your name. You’re a wuss.” The voice was getting angrier. “Wake up! You bloody b***h. What did he see in you, Huh.”
There was a bright light shining from above and she was lying on a cold table. Oh God! I’m strapped down on the operating table. For the first time in her life Zoe knew what real fear felt like. It was choking her, she couldn’t breathe and when she did she could smell her own fear. So, she did the only think possible, she screamed and cried at the same time.
The slaps came fast and hard but Zoe was beyond feeling, the fear was the only thing she could feel and she kept screaming. The voice was shouting, “Shut up! Dammed it. Stop screaming you b***h or I’ll knock you out again.”
Somewhere in her mind, Zoe heard the voice but before anything could register, she felt a wet cloth cover her nose, a sickly sweet smell and then the blackness claimed her again.
SHE was nowhere to be found. She wasn’t answering her pager. Her staff had informed that when they had last seen her, she was heading for Paediatrics. The police were already questioning the staff and doctors in Paediatrics. Since arriving at the hospital, half-an-hour had passed and she was nowhere to be found.
Feeling the need to do something, I approached the nurses’ station. Putting on my most charming smile, I went into my questioning mode.
“I’m Detective Tate”. I introduced myself while looking at her nametag and continued. “I wonder if you could help me, Nurse Susan. Before you say anything, I know it is hospital policy not to give out information unless it is clarified from someone of authority. But Dr Donovan’s life depends on us getting facts as fast as possible.”
I waited for a split second to see if she’d voice her opinion then I continued. “I need the file on a nurse that used to work in this hospital. Her name is Karen Dobbs, also a picture of her would be of great help.”
The nurse hesitated for a second before replying, “Hold on for a minute detective. I’ll call Personnel and ask them.”
While waiting I went through my mind the facts that we had. Zoe’s car was still parked in the basement. And security said no cars had left the premises this morning. The police have also secured all entrances and was checking persons leaving and entering the hospital.
Where are you Zoe? If you went to Paediatrics early this morning who did you meet? From Paediatrics where were you taken? Where could you hide someone in a hospital without detection? The mortuary should be a good place to start the search. I looked around and spotted an old friend, Captain Gary Jeremiah, at the end of the corridor talking to a doctor.
Gary and I go way back to college. We both wanted to join the police force. We thought it would be fun playing cops and robbers. Our career paths went parallel until I made Captain but Gary didn’t. It took him another five years to make Captain but by then I’d already left the force and opened my own P.I. agency.
I remembered Gary asking me why I wanted to open a P.I. agency. My answer, then and now remain the same. I was burnt out and deep inside I just wanted to leave the force. To be free of the burden of making decision of pulling the plug on cases when the trail of evidence had run dry.
Gary has always been a good friend, one I could always count on. Knowing I had him on this case was a relief. I strolled over and when I’d caught his attention I spoke.
“Hey, Gary! Are you in charge of this case?
“Bryan! You’re putting on a little weight around the middle. Got yourself a wife?” Gary grinned at me.
“I should be so lucky. No! Haven’t tied the knot yet. Well, I got a glimpse of who I’d want to spend the rest of my life with. But she’s missing Gary.”
“Dr Zoe Donovan? But she’s your client, Bryan. Sh … she’s… you can’t be serious.”
“So? What has that got to do with me falling in love with her.” Gary mouth was open but no words came out. “Close your mouth Gary, you don’t want to catch mosquitoes.”
I let him off the hook, for the moment that is. There were more pressing and serious matters at hand then my heart. So, I push aside my feelings, and asked, “Gary! Where do you think she’s being held? Could she be held in the mortuary?”
“Already checked. That was the first place my people searched, nothing out of the ordinary there. She’s not there Bryan. But we will do our best to find her.”
“She’s got to be somewhere in this hospital. What about the basement?” I pleaded.
“Bryan, we’re doing everything possible. If she’s here we’ll find her, I promise.”
I sighed and walked back to the nurses’ station. Maybe I’ll get better news there. Needing caffeine, I stopped by the vending machine and got a cup of coffee. The nurse looked up from the desk as I approached and reaching for a file she said, “Here’s the info on Karen Dobbs you requested, Detective Tate. She was an employee of this hospital until last month. Seem she got too close to a patient and had to resign.”
“Thanks Nurse Susan. Could I also check something else with you.” She smiled and nodded for me to continue. “When an employee resigns, does Personnel or Security delete their hospital security tag?”
“That would be Security.” She was already dialing security before I could ask her to check with security. After talking for a few minutes, she hung up and turned to me. She looked a bit pale as she spoke, “Security says they never received instruction from Personnel to terminate Karen Dobbs security tag.”
I thanked the nurse again before dashing down the corridor in search of Gary. I couldn’t find him so spotting the first police officer I inquired his whereabouts. Finding out that he’d gone to the emergency entrance, I turned around and headed the other direction knowing that time was running out for Zoe.
THAT was close. Had to change my plans when they started paging the b***h. You’re a lucky lady, I grant you that. But I’m not in a hurry to finish you off, I like games and you’re going to be a worthy adversary, I don’t doubt it. But first thing first, I have to get you out of the hospital without arousing suspicion.
“You know something Doc, remember that time when you were overworked and I asked you to sign some papers. You didn’t check, that was your first mistake. Now, I have papers that guarantee me to transport you by ambulance to another hospital.” The voice rises a bit followed with hysterical laughter.
But the laughter doesn’t last long. Back in control, Karen Dobbs stares at the unconscious form of Zoe. She traces her finger on Zoe’s face, caressing lightly over soft lips. Then silently she wheels the trolley towards the Emergency entrance while blackness still surrounds Zoe.
Showing the documents to the ambulance staff, she waits as they process the release papers from the hospital. An orderly wheels the trolley towards the ambulance nearest to the entrance. The ambulance driver does a quick check then signs the papers as they load the trolley into the ambulance. She gets into the passenger side of the vehicle and only relaxes when the ambulance exits the hospitals unto the highway.
An evil smile lights up her face as she reaches into her bag and pulls out a gun. Pointing it at the driver, she directs him, “Take the first exit to get off the highway. And don’t try anything, I won’t hesitate to plug you with a bullet.”
She waits until the vehicle is off the highway, then instructs the driver to head towards Sungei Buloh. She starts humming the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’, all the while planning and savouring the fun she was going to have with her victim. In her twisted and insane mind there was a part of her that was still able to function lucidly. But the intervals between periods of sanity and insanity was narrowing, she was almost at the point of no return.
GARY glanced up when I called out his name. For a split second I read something in his expression that held despair. Bile rose to my mouth but I push it down, trying to think positive thoughts for Zoe. Before I could get a word out, Gary tells me, “Bryan, she’s not on the premises anymore.”
“How the hell did that happen?” I shouted, feeling a sickness in the pit of my stomach. I took a few calming breaths then said, “You had your officers stationed at all the exit points.”
“Yes! My officer doubled checked the transfer papers it was all in order. Dr Donovan signed it yesterday with instruction that the patient was being moved to another hospital today. Everything was in order.” Gary looked like he was about to spit bullets at me.
That didn’t sit well with me so I shouted back, “Didn’t they check the patient’s face? Just to make sure. God! Gary. A person is missing, kidnapped and nobody thought of checking thoroughly.”
“Bryan! Calm down. It was nobody’s fault. There was some mix-up at Emergency. Two new ambulance staff was on duty when this happened. The senior staff went for her coffee break so these two juniors had to process the release papers. They didn’t recognize that the unconscious patient was Dr Donovan. They said that the nurse in charge of transporting the patient had all the necessary documents and the transport papers were signed. When I showed the picture of Dr Donovan to them they confirmed my suspicion, the patient was non other then the doctor.”
Trying to calm my racing heartbeat, I remembered the picture. “Gary, I got a picture here of Karen Dobbs.” Before I could finish, he was already taking the picture and walking over to two guys sitting in the corner. From where I stood, I could see both the men were nodding their head in agreement.
I was thinking about something that was bugging me about the case, when Gary approached me. As he was about to say something, I interrupted him, “Let’s go to check something out at Personnel. It’s just a hunch but I think we may find where she is taking Zoe. And, Bryan, get someone to check the address in Karen Dobbs file.” Not waiting for an answer I headed towards Personnel, knowing that Gary would follow.
“Hey! Bryan. Slow up. What’s your hunch?” panted Gary, trying to catch up with me.
Without slowing down, I started recapping the case. “Well, firstly, who is Calvin Peters? Secondly, why was his car used in following Zoe? What’s the connection between Peters and Dobbs? My bet is Peters is linked to this hospital, so that’s what we’re going to find out in Personnel.”
Arriving at Personnel, Gary took charged and within a few minutes we were looking at the information on Calvin Peters, a former patient dying of cancer. The record showed that he was released from the hospital about a month ago, as he wanted to be in his own home when the end came.
“Take a look at this Gary. Our patient was caught in an intimate moment with non other than his nurse Karen Dobbs.”
“Plainly speaking, he was caught with his pants down so that’s why Dobbs had to resign.” Gary said dryly.
Just then Gary’s phone rang.
“Yes. Ok! Thanks.”
Ending the call, Gary said, “Karen Dobbs moved out from her apartment last month with no forwarding address. My hunch tells me Dr Donovan is being taken to Calvin Peters residence.”
Gary downloaded the information and noted Calvin Peters address was located in Sungei Buloh on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He put out an APB to all patrol cars in the vicinity, instructing them to proceed without sirens to the designated area immediately.
“DON’T try anything stupid.” Hiding the gun under her white coat, Karen gets out of the ambulance and walks over to the driver’s side. She motions for him to alight from the vehicle, all the while keeping him in sight.
“Move it! I want you to get the patient out and into the house. Do as you’re told and maybe I won’t shoot you.”
The driver, in his mid-forties was a medium height, thin guy with a receding hairline. His white uniform was plastered to his body not because of the rain but sweat. He desperately wanted to wipe the sweat dripping into his eyes and blurring his vision. And he was s**t scared that he might soil his pants. But he was still thinking of a way to strangle the b***h if he got a chance.
“What’s your name, s**t head?”
He thought of not answering, but feeling the cold steel of the nozzle pressing against his back, he stammers, “Ma…Mano.”
“OK, Mano. Think you can get the good doctor out of the ambulance and into the house without problems. I don’t want her damage before I’ve even had my fun.”
Mano look terrified but swallowing his saliva, he said, “We both need to pull the trolley out first.”
Karen gave him a long stare then without a word she helped to pull the trolley out. Mano then pushed the trolley with the still unconscious Zoe towards the house. With the gun under her coat and pointing in his direction, Karen managed to open the locked grills and door.
The house was quiet. After getting the trolley inside the door, Mano surveyed the room. It was spacious yet had a homey feeling and was tastefully furnished. The house spoke of wealth, of its owner settled comfortable in luxury. But when Mano looked at his captor he couldn’t see her in the role of the lady of the manor.
Something warned him not to voice out his thoughts if he wanted to stay in one piece. Tugging the unconscious doctor from the trolley unto his shoulder, he struggled to keep a grip on his burden. He waited, not daring to move towards the staircase and he definitely didn’t want to ask her anything.
After what seem like ages, finally she said, “Upstairs! Now! Put the lovely doctor in the room at the end of the corridor.”
Panting as he carried his burden upstairs, Mano’s eyes kept darting everywhere trying to find something to help him to overcome his captor. He was beginning to panic as he knew she woild kill him once she had no more use of him. Reaching the top of the stairs, he saw a vase on a side-table within his reach. Snatching the vase while dropping his burden, he swung around to hit his captor.
It sounded like a firecracker exploding. Something hit him in his chest sending him crashing into the wall. He felt a sharp burning sensation in his chest. The vase he was holding slid out of his hand and broke into pieces as it hit the floor. He never felt the pieces cut into him as fell on the broken vase. There was shock in his eyes as his last breath left his body.
PANTING loudly, she tugged and pulled Zoe along the corridor and into the room. Getting her unto the bed was tougher, but after a few attempts she had Zoe sprawled on the bed. Taking a minute to catch her breath, she slumped next to Zoe while planning her next move.
She had to work fast; they will be coming soon. She went downstairs and checked that all the doors and windows were locked. Then she did the same and secured the upstairs. There was food ration and water for about a week stocked in the bedroom where Zoe was kept hostage. She had prepared a little surprise for her uninvited guests. She laughed out loud just thinking of it; a booby-trap just for the nosy police. She was ready; let them come.
It was time to wake up the princess; she’d slept long enough.
“Come on sleepy head, time to get up. You’ve been asleep long enough, now it’s time to play.” There was a moan and blue eyes tried to focus on the commanding voice.
Karen handcuffed the groggy Zoe to the headboard securely with no means of escape. She got out the medical equipment she’d stolen from the operating theatre, a scalpel. She had some morphine but then that would defeat the purpose – hearing the good doctor scream for mercy.
“Shut up! If she’s in too much pain she’d just blackout and then you’d have to wait till she gets up.”
“You’re a wimp. Morphine will only dull the pain, I want my fun and don’t you dare deny me that.”
Karen’s mind was slowly slipping in and out of insanity. She heard this voice in her head telling her what to do. She tried blocking it out but that only seem to make it angrier. And the angrier the voice got the stronger it dominated her personality. She had to stay focused; she had to make sure Dr Zoe Donovan understood that Danny Gan was not hers. So much to remember, so much to do, she was tired, she needed sleep. But the voice wouldn’t keep quiet, the thin thread snapped and Karen Dobbs fell of the cliff and into the depths of insanity.
SLOWLY the fog was clearing and she could hear some voices. Trying to open her eyes was a mistake, the pain nearly send her back into the blackness. Through the haze she made out a figure holding up a scalpel and panic nearly sent her into hysteria. She tried to get up but found that she was handcuffed. At that moment she wished she was not awake, that this nightmare she was in would end and she’d find herself back home, safe.
But no such thing; it was not a dream. She remembered the operating theatre, herself screaming and the sickly sweet smell of chloroform, then nothing. She knew she wasn’t in the hospital anymore but where she had no idea. Suddenly the figure turned and looked at her.
“You’ve been asleep for ages. I hope you had a good rest because no more resting for you.”
“Wh…Who are you? What do…do you want with me?” Zoe stammered, trying to swallow down the fear of bile that was rising and choking her. Her captor was holding a scalpel and grinning evilly.
“Name’s Karen Dobbs. I warned you so many times but you didn’t listen. You didn’t listen! How stupid can you get? You had only to end it, to stop seeing Danny but you didn’t.”
“I haven’t seen him since he broke off with me last month. Our relationship has ended. You got to believe me, please.”
“Whimpering won’t help you now. You liar, you’re still seeing him. Why else does he keep ignoring my calls? I went to his house; he won’t let me in. I banged on his door, his neighbour could hear but he refused to open the door and let me in. You poisoned his mind; you stole him. And now you will pay.” Karen screamed, eyes glazed with madness, unreachable.
Zoe looked into eyes void of a soul, eyes where only madness existed. Those eyes were staring at her and she was being pulled into their darkness. She was slowly drowning in a cold and black place, she couldn’t look away, those eyes kept dragging her in. With every ounce of will power she broke off the connection, gasping for air and surfacing out of the darkness.
Karen felt the exhilarating power of control when her eyes locked with Zoe’s. She’d felt Zoe’s soul being pulled into hers, felt her fear and wanted all of it. She screamed and lashed out when the connection was severed. The scalpel missed Zoe’s face but not her shoulder.
Zoe had to bite her teeth to keep from screaming out in pain. The pain was excruciating and she nearly passed out. Taking deep breaths and trying to calm her nerves, she softly tried to reach Karen’s mind.
“Karen, I know you’re hurting. You love him. I….”
“Shut up! Just shut your mouth, b***h. It’s too late, you have to pay. You have to pay!”
With horror Zoe watched as the scalpel was raised to strike again. Karen slashed her on her upper left arm. This time she couldn’t stop the scream or tears that ran down her cheeks. The scalpel came down again on a different part of her body. The scream came again and she wondered if it was her that was screaming.
“I’m going to die! Oh God! I don’t want to die. Please help me. Send someone to help me. Please!” Zoe silently prayed, trying to push away the fear that kept choking her. She felt the scalpel slash her again but before she could scream again, the blackness overtook her.
KEEP calm! It wouldn’t help Zoe if I didn’t keep my wits together. Gary was already moving towards the exit, so I got into my car and followed behind the convoy of police cars. The traffic on the highway was smooth flowing even with the rain and I was thinking we’d be able to reach our target in half-an-hour. What do you think? Murphy’s Law happened.
After reaching the tollbooth we hit a massive traffic jam. The trunk road leading to Sungei Buloh was bumper to bumper and we were stuck with time running out.
My hand phone rang and I answered, “What’s up Gary?”
“I just got a message that the road ahead is flooded and some cars have stalled. We won’t be able to get through till the tow trucks arrive and remove those cars.”
My chest got tight and I felt myself almost panicking. But making myself talk calmly I asked, “Any ideas how to get out of this?”
“My officer is coming over to your car. Give him the keys. You and I are going to borrow someone’s motorcycle. It’ll help us if we can weave our way through this traffic jam.”
“OK, Gary! And I see our first victim who’s going to give up his bike now.”
“Bryan! Don’t you intimidate anyone. Ask politely.”
“Like I’m that bad. I’ll ask nicely, don’t worry.”
I got out of the car and blocking the motorcyclist path, I flashed my detective licence saying, “Police business! Urgent! We need your motorcycle.”
The guy looked like he was about to accelerate and take off. Then thought better of it and just got off the bike, handing me his helmet. I glanced to my left and saw that Gary had also got another motorcycle.
Pointing to my car, I said, “That officer over there will give you a ride home. Give him your contact number and we’ll get in touch with you. Thanks for your help.”
Gary and I took off on our borrowed bikes, weaving in and out of traffic but it was still slow going. It felt like hours to get to our target but at last we arrived at the house that held Zoe prisoner. Spotting the ambulance outside, we drove passed the house not wanting to alert our kidnapper cum stalker.
It was a quiet street; the houses were double-storey bungalows on individual lots. We parked the bikes at the end of the street then walked back to the house. It was already late afternoon but it looked like dusk as it was still raining. Most of the residents were either inside or at work, even the dogs were inside so our presence in the neighbourhood went unseen. With just the two of us, barging into the house was out of the question. We had no idea when backup will arrive, time was running out for Zoe if we didn’t make our move soon.
Gary signaled for me to stop, then in a whisper asked me. “What do you think if we try to find a ladder and enter by one of the upstairs windows? There must be a tool shed at the side or back of the house.”
“Sounds good! OK! You check this side of the house and I’ll do the other side. We’ll meet at the back.”
Moving quietly, we each went in search of the tool shed. We both found it at the same time; it was at the back of the house. Opening the door of the shed, we looked in and spotted a ladder in the far corner.
Still in whisper mode, we discussed which window was a good point to enter. The small windows must lead into the bathrooms while the large ones lead into the bedrooms. We decided on the ones at the side of the house.
“Lets lean the ladder against this wall. That small window must lead into the bathroom. Gary, you go up the ladder and check the upstairs.” Then pointing towards the side of the house where I was earlier, I said, “I’ll enter by one of the downstairs windows on that side of the house.”
“OK! Be careful. Dobbs is most likely mentally unstable.” Gary was already moving towards the ladder while taking out his gun and corking it.
“You too!” I said as I silently moved along the wall towards the side of the house in search of an open window.
AS expected the windows were locked. I took out my penknife, chose a window and pried it opened. Making no noise I climbed inside the house. I stood still for a minute letting my eyes get used to the lack of light in the room.
It was the study room. I took a quick glance around the room. The walls were lined with bookshelves that reached the ceiling. There was a ladder attached to the bookshelves, like the ones you see in libraries. The desk was near the window and across it was a door. I went around the desk and walked across the room to the door. Reaching it I turned the knob, opening it slightly, I carefully scanned the area. Nothing moved or stirred; it was eerily quiet like the house knew death awaited for its victims.
I shivered slightly, whether from the cold or the unseen I’m not sure. Taking a deep breath I opened the door wider and stepped out into the living room. I smelled it. You don’t forget the smell of death, of decomposing bodies. I took in the layout of the room. From where I stood I could see two doors on the opposite side of the room and a corridor that must lead to the kitchen and dining room. Next to the Study there was another door. I quickly but quietly opened and searched all the rooms downstairs before moving down the corridor towards the kitchen and the dining room. The kitchen was empty and when I opened the dining room, the smell of flesh decomposing was overpowering.
Seeing two corpses lying in state on the dining table; sent chills down my spine and froze my blood. Even though the bodies were embalmed, one had already started to decompose. I frantically searched for my handkerchief and covered my nose, trying not to gag. But I could still smell it. Taking a closer look, I identified the bodies of the victims, that of Danny Gan and Peter Calvin.
Leaving the dining room, I paused in the living room to steady myself. Peter Calvin looked peaceful in death but Danny Gan look like he was tortured before he died. I could still smell death, clinging to my nose and clothes. Pushing those images out of my mind, I silently made my way towards the staircase.
I listened for any sound coming from upstairs, but only silence greeted me. My footsteps made no sound as the stairs were carpeted. Halfway up I heard a gunshot in the direction where Gary was supposed to be. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I found the body of the ambulance driver. He’d been shot in the chest once. Dobbs was not only crazy but ruthless as well. Are we too late? Where was Gary?
The upstairs landing was not carpeted, harder for me to be silent. Reaching into the holster under my jacket I drew out my gun and cautiously made my way down the corridor. My footfall echoed softly along the corridor, I’m sure Dobbs could hear me. Halfway down the corridor I spotted a trail of blood leading from the room at the end towards the second room. I chose the second room praying that whomever I found behind the door would still be alive. With my hands on the doorknob I listen for any sound coming from the other side. Hearing none, I turned it and held my breath.
WIMP! I hadn’t even really started and she faints. No point in cutting her if she cannot feel. Just have to wait for her to come round again. Don’t you worry sweetie. I’ll clean your cuts and stitch them up too. Then when you awake, you’ll feel ready for your next session.
She dipped the cotton into antiseptic then dabbed the cuts on Zoe’s body. She did it gently as she’d always done with all her patients. Only two had needed stitches; which she did gently.
Karen Dobbs heard a noise, a footstep to be exact. Smiling slightly she continued dressing the cuts on Zoe’s body. Her gun was within reach, she saw the doorknob turning and waited for it to open.
Excitement ran through her veins, her heartbeat increased a little but that only made it more exhilarating. Putting down the cotton, she reached for her gun, aimed at the door willing for it to open.
Gary had no problem getting through the bathroom window that wasn’t locked. The room was empty so he opened the door and entered a corridor with rooms on either side. He checked all the rooms on both sides of the corridor and only one room remained, the one at the end of the hallway. Reaching it, he quietly turned the knob and pushes open the door.
He froze! He was staring right into the barrel of the gun pointed directly at him. The woman holding the gun was smiling with the vacant look of nobody home. He moved fast but it wasn’t fast enough. He heard the sound of the trigger being released and felt the bullet hitting him.
The impact slammed him into the hallway. He managed to scramble into the next room and shut the door. Sliding to the floor he hissed from the pain, trying not to pass out. His shoulder hurt like hell but he managed to hold the gun in front of him with unsteady hands as he weighed his options. The room that Dobbs was holding Zoe had only one exit. There was no connecting door to the room, not like all the others that had connecting doors to the bathroom. Unless maybe through the ceiling.
“Where was Bryan?” Muttering under his breath, Gary pulled himself up and stumbles to the chest of drawers. He climbed up onto the chest and tried to push at the ceiling. But the loss of blood and pain made him light-headed. He felt the world tilting and went down in a dead faint, falling off the chest.
SWEAT was dripping down my face. I could feel it running down my back too as I listened at the door. My hands were damp as I turned the knob and push open the door slowly. Using a mirror I scanned the bedroom and spotted Gary slumped at the foot of the bed. He was not moving at all.
I moved towards him cautiously stopping at the cupboard. Opening the cupboard I checked behind the clothes but no one was hiding there. Dropping to my knee I felt for Gary’s pulse at his neck. He was alive, but he was still bleeding from his shoulder wound.
Taking a towel from the cupboard, I applied pressure to the wound to try and stop the bleeding. There was a groan from Gary as he regained consciousness. In his weakened condition it took much effort to brief me on what happened just before he lost consciousness again.
What was I to do now? Using the door would be suicide as Dobbs had a gun trained at anyone who barges through the door. The only option was to crawl through the ceiling. I hate dark and confined spaces. I hope I don’t freak out up there; I’ll make great target practice for Dobbs.
Zoe was still alive but for how long. I had to move now. Removing my shoes first, I climbed up the chest of drawers. Using slight force I managed to dislodge a piece of the ceiling. Pushing myself up into the black hole of the ceiling I was wishing I had a torchlight. I could already feel the darkness closing in and panic just within reach. Closing my eyes for a minute and focusing on my breathing I pushed away the panic.
Checking that my gun was strapped in my shoulder holster securely, I got down on all fours and started crawling towards my target. I had to feel my way slowly and move quietly so as not to alert Dobbs of my whereabouts. It seems to take forever for me to reach the other end. I had to stop ever so often to calm myself, to keep from going berserk.
My phobia for dark and confined spaces started when I was seven. One day at my cousin’s home, I got trapped in the attic. We were playing hide-and-seek and I got bored of the game so I wandered off on my own. I ended up on the top floor of the house where I saw the open trap door. The trap door leading to the attic was always open for a reason; it had a faulty catch that couldn’t be opened from the inside.
I climbed up the steps and when I was inside the attic I closed the trap door behind me. It was dark and musty inside, I switched on the light but nothing happened. So I decided to open the trap door to let in some light. When the trap door didn’t budge, I began to feel frighten. I banged on the door and shouted for someone to let me out but nobody came. I felt the walls and darkness closing in on me. The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital. I only know what my parents told me, that by the time they found me I was screaming hysterically before I blacked out.
Now, here I was in a dark and confined space, my worst living nightmare. My hands touch a wall in front of me, I need to go right until the next wall. Feeling far from calm, I continue until I reach the other wall.
What’s that? My hairs stand on ends. It keeps getting louder, a high pitch keel. It sounded like something or someone in terrible pain. Being tortured. Zoe! Oh God! I have to hurry, cannot make any noise now; am getting close.
I touch the wall, and then moving three paces to the left I sit down. Then with my knees drawn to my chin, I position myself to kick in the ceiling. Reaching for my gun and pulling it out of the holster, I get ready. I softly count to three before I kick in the ceiling.
He got pass my booby trap Doc! The cavalry has arrived. But I was expecting sirens and megaphones blasting. They didn’t send the SWAT team. They don’t want me to have my moment of glory. But I think this might be more fun. If he tries again I think I’ll shoot his leg. Which one do you think Doc? The left; or right leg?
She smiles again. There is another intruder. This one’s not so quiet as the first. Must be frantic searching for his partner. Should I wake precious and slash her so that when she screams the other one will come dashing in here. If it’s her detective boy, I’ll shoot him between the eyes. Heh! heh! This is so much fun. A pity Danny couldn’t be here but I had to keep him away from the b***h. Be patience my love, soon I’ll join you. Soon…
Wake up the doctor. No! She’s lost a lot of blood. Let her rest. Why does she need rest? Soon she will have all the rest she needs. Ha! Ha! Ha! Shut up! Don’t tell me to shut up. Quiet! I need to hear if that detective is coming, I don’t want any surprises.
The voices kept talking inside Karen’s head. They were giving her a headache. She couldn’t seem to get them to keep quiet. She was ready to start cutting up Zoe again. The voices can go to hell; they were confusing her.
“Come on doctor, time for round two.” Karen started shaking Zoe roughly. Getting no response, she took the jug of water on the dresser and splashed it in Zoe’s face.
Zoe came out of the darkness slowly, waking up to her nightmare of terror again. Silently she beseeched, “No! Not again. Please God I’d rather die. Take me home. I want to go home.”
“Well, look who’s awake. Welcome back Doc. You were naughty to have left right in the middle. I hadn’t finished and I just don’t like leaving things halfway. So this time round you must focus. OK! Good. Let me get the scalpel first.”
Zoe screams fills the room with the first slash, just below her breast.
Karen eyes glaze brightly. The madness seems to gain strength, feeding on the scream and blood. She slashes Zoe again, this time on the stomach. She makes sure the cuts are not deep. Even through her madness, she knows that if the cuts are too deep her victim will die fast. And she wanted her pleasure to last longer. She needed it. Just like she needed Danny.
Zoe screamed again, a high-pitched keel filled with anguish. She couldn’t think beyond the pain. She was trashing on the bed, tugging her hands and legs but to no avail. The handcuffs held her prisoner, biting into flesh raw and bloodied. But the pain she felt was nothing compared to the scalpel that was creating designs on her body.
“Just another slash. I have to hear her scream again.” Muttering under her breath, Karen got ready to slash again.
Zoe’s mind was shutting down, trying to protect herself from the assault of pain. Her body was almost going into shock; it couldn’t take the next slash. The slash came, this time on the side of her breast. She heard herself scream and felt the darkness pulling her, she didn’t struggle; she welcomed it. For the moment she was safe again, cocooned away from the pain.
THE ceiling crushed into the room as I jump through the hole, rolling when I hit the floor. I feel a bullet graze my ears; I turned in that direction and shoot. My aim is perfect; the bullet hits Dobbs in the chest. She screams with rage and I see the madness in her eyes. Evil contorts her face, leaving only the shell of what was once human. She pulled the trigger twice; I felt a burning in my side. I dropped to my knees and shoot. My bullet finds its target between the eyes. Her life has ended; vacant eyes stare at me, the madness gone.
Getting up I make my way towards Dobbs. I check for her pulse, there is none. I feel anger so deep, I want to empty all my bullets into her. But if I succumb to this anger, I become that madness which I saw in her eyes. Losing sight of everything and falling over the edge of madness.
I turn towards Zoe, I see her bloodied body, the handcuffs on her limbs covered with blood and I struggle not to despair. I feel for her pulse, it is so weak that I almost thought there was none. She was barely alive. I search for the key, finding it; I uncuff her from her prison. I find a sheet and cover her.
Hearing a sound I turn around and see Gary in the doorway. He sways towards the chair near the bed and drops into it. “You look terrible Bryan.”
“Like you look so hot yourself.” I said dryly. Then looking at Zoe I voiced out, “I hope help comes soon.”
Just when I thought the day was looking brighter, I heard the explosion. Stumbling out of the room I made my way downstairs. I stopped abruptly at the bottom of the staircase. There was a hole where once was the front door, Dobbs had booby-trapped it.
It was a mess, two officers injured and three dead. I shuddered to think it could have been Gary and me. Dobbs had fixed the oxygen tank to the front door. She was a genius in this do-it-yourself bomb. Using two flints, she glued one to the doorframe and the other to the door itself. Anyone trying to open the door causes the two flints to strike a spark and ignite the oxygen.
IT felt like forever but help did come. Zoe, Gary and myself were bundled into one ambulance. Zoe woke up while the paramedics were transferring her into the ambulance. I will never forget the fear in her eyes. When she saw me she grabbed my hands and with tears in her voice, “You found me. You didn’t give up. Thank you Bryan.”
I couldn’t speak for a moment, I just stood there savouring the way she said my name for the first time. “You fought back Zoe. You didn’t give up either. I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster.” Her name on my lips felt so right, like I’d said it a thousand times before.
The three of us rode in the ambulance in silence. Zoe kept slipping in and out of consciousness. She’d lost a lot of blood but her vital signs were stable. The paramedics gave her something to dull the pain but off and on we could hear her groaning. Gary’s wound was still bleeding slightly. His face was ashen but he smiled when he saw me looking worriedly at him. And I had a bullet lodged in my left side. But we were going to make it.
When we reached the hospital we were each wheeled into surgery. How long we were there I don’t know. I remembered waking up in the ward, my mouth parched like the dessert. Trying to swallow my spittle, I nearly choked on my tongue.
I beeped for the nurse, croaking out, “Water!”
Gary was already up and I heard the laughter in his voice, “That you Bryan. I thought some frog was talking.”
I stared at him and grumbled aloud, “You don’t have to be so cheerful. I haven’t had my cup of coffee yet.”
“Coffee? No coffee for you Mr. Tate. Your chart states no caffeine as long as you’re on medication.” With hands on her hips and lecturing me the nurse handed me my water.
I heard Gary chuckle. Still feeling deprived of my coffee I asked sarcastically, “Why don’t you just laugh out loud?”
“Can’t do that. My stitches might pop. I don’t want the doctor to have to patch me up again.”
Taking a sip of water, I asked, “Gary? Any news on Zoe yet?”
Smiling, Gary tells me, “She’s fine Bryan. Nurse Maria here tells me they wheeled Zoe out of surgery about an hour ago. She’s still in recovery; they haven’t wheeled her to the ward yet. But she’s doing OK.”
I let out a sigh. Zoe was going to be OK. The day was looking better than it did when I woke up this morning.
I stood looking out of my window, waiting to spot her in the crowded street down below. I catch a glimpse of her, sunglasses shading those pretty blue eyes. I keep her in focus until she disappears into the building. Only then, I turn around and walk back to my desk, to wait for her.
It’s been two months since Zoe was kidnapped and tortured. She had scars all over her body except her face. Why Dobbs didn’t carve Zoe’s face remains a mystery. Most of the scars were fading except for the ones on her stomach and thighs. Today, the last of the stitches were being removed. And tomorrow… I need to find out if we can have our tomorrows together. I hear her footsteps and my heart beat speeds up.
When she enters, her beauty stuns me again and I drown in those blue eyes. She smiles at me and I am mush again. My mouth feels dry and I’m a teenager again, all tied in knots.
“Hi, Zoe.” I tried to think of what else to say. “How are things?” How lame can I get?
“Just came from the hospital. They removed the last of the stitches from my stomach.” She pauses then continues, “The scars are still red and ugly but as time passes it will fade a little but not entirely. But I can live with that.”
“You don’t want to have plastic surgery?” I softly ask her.
“I don’t know. I still freak out a little when I see a scalpel. I’m a surgeon with a fear of the scalpel. I don’t trust myself to perform surgery. And the thought of going under the surgeons knife isn’t what I can face at the moment.” Zoe kept fidgeting in her seat, nervously playing with her sunglasses.
I could already read her. Something other then the surgery was bothering her. After two months of getting to know the lady it wasn’t hard to read her. She was warm, caring and fun to be with. The first month was really tough for her, recovering from her ordeal of that day plus the followings days that brought its fresh set of problems. The nightmares she woke up from in cold sweat, always screaming. Her fear of falling asleep. Her fear of being trapped in her nightmare and not being able to wake up from it. But she overcame all of it with sheer determination and a certainty that the sun will shine again.
“Is something bothering you, Zoe?” I gently took her hands in mine. Hands that were so soft and fingers long a surgeon’s hand. Beautiful hands.
“Bryan, I’m going home, back to Montana. I need to go home.” She looks sad, like she didn’t want to hurt me but knowing she will anyway. She continues, “Even though the nightmares are fading, there are places that bring those bad memories crashing down. Like the operating theatre… and…and…things. You know.”
I understand what she’s trying to say but finding it hard to voice out. So I help her out even though my heart is breaking. “Like me! I’m one of those bad memories.”
“I’m sorry. You’ve become important to me. And if I stay I may push you away. This past two months you’ve helped me take steps to recover from my ordeal.” She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes, trying to regain her composer. Feeling slightly calm she continues, “But sometimes seeing you, I get this terrifying jolt of panic and I’m back in that room with all the pain, blood everywhere and I taste my own fear again.”
I didn’t want to lose her. Not now! Not after what we’ve both been through. It’s not fair. We haven’t even had our first date. I haven’t had a chance to kiss her. All these thoughts were crowding my mind. I couldn’t get the words out. I just said, “The doctor said it’ll take time.”
“That’s what I need, Bryan. Time! Time to heal. Time away from you. I need to be around the happy memories of my childhood.” Zoe told me softly, taking my hands and holding it tightly in hers.
Life sucks! She’s holding my hands, I feel her warmth but soon she’ll be leaving. And the warmth I’m feeling will be gone too. Forcing myself to say something, anything, I whisper, “Will you come back after you heal? Come back and give us a chance. A chance to have good memories.”
“I’ll be back Bryan. I promise. But I cannot promise you when. I cannot ask you to wait for me, it wouldn’t be fair.” She leans into me and kisses me for the first time. Everything fades out except her lips on mine. So soft, but before I get to deepen the kiss, she draws away.
We are silent for some time, both of us lost in our thoughts. Putting off the inevitable moment of saying goodbye.
I look into her eyes; I see more then regret and sadness in those blue eyes. There is a flicker of hope and I think I can live with that. If there is hope, we have a chance at love. Some things are worth waiting a lifetime for. My heart softly whispers, “I promise I’ll wait.”
The End … maybe
Copyright © 2007 C. E. Pereira