“It’s all right, nurse,” Detective Canavan says, flipping open his wallet and showing her his badge. “He’s with me.”
“I don’t care if he’s with the Royal Academy of Medicine,” the nurse snaps. “He can’t be barging back here.”
“Have a cannoli,” Cooper says, producing one from a bag. The nurse stares at him like he’s insane.
“No, really,” Cooper says. “Have one. On me.”
Disgusted, the nurse takes the cannoli, chomps off a large bite, then leaves, still chewing. Cooper shrugs, then eyes the detective with undisguised hostility.
“Well, if it isn’t the NYPD’s biggest dick,” he says.
“Cooper!” I’m surprised. “Detective Canavan was just telling me—”
“What, that it’s all in your head?” Cooper laughs bitterly, then stabs an index finger at the wide-eyed detective. “Well, let me tell you something, Canavan. There is no way all six cables to an elevator cab could snap at the same time unless someone deliberately—”
“Cooper!” I cry, but Detective Canavan is chuckling.
“Simmer down, Romeo,” he says, waving his cigar at us. “We already established that a second attempt was made on the life of your girlfriend here. Nobody’s sayin’ what happened with the elevator was an accident. Keep your shirt on. I’m on your side.”
Cooper blinks a few times, then looks at me. I expect him to say something like, “She’s not my girlfriend.” Only he doesn’t. Instead he says, “The tuna salad didn’t look fresh. I got you salami instead.”
“Wow,” I say. Cooper hands me a sandwich that has to be a foot long, at least. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Detective Canavan peers at the many bags Cooper has scattered about. “Got any chips in there?” he wants to know.
“Sorry.” Cooper unwraps my sandwich and begins breaking it up into bite-sized pieces, since I can’t hold anything real well. “Olive?”
Detective Canavan looks disappointed.
“No, thanks. So,” he says, as if there’d been no interruption. “Who told you to get on that elevator?”
I say, speaking with my mouth full because I’m too hungry to wait, “All I know is, I got a call from the reception desk that Gavin—he’s this kid that lives in the hall—was elevator surfing again, and so I went with Julio to try and chase the kid down.”
“Yeah? And when you got up there, what?”
I describe the explosion, which had occurred almost simultaneously with my realization that Gavin wasn’t up there after all.
“So,” Detective Canavan says. “Who told the kid at the desk to call you?”
“We all know who did this,” Cooper says. The barely suppressed fury is back in his voice. “Why are you just sitting there, Canavan, instead of arresting him?”
“Arresting who?” Canavan wants to know.
“Allington. He’s the killer. It’s obvious Heather’s got him running scared.”
“I’ll say,” Canavan shakes his head. “The kid left town last night. He’s parked himself out at his folks’ place in the Hamptons. No way he could have planted that bomb, not without some help. Kid’s three hours away by LIE. Somebody wants your girlfriend dead, all right. But it ain’t Chris Allington.”
Tonight is the night
Tonight we’ll get it right
Baby, I feel like I’ve been waiting
All my life for this night
So glad I waited
Tonight’s the night
For loving you
Performed by Heather Wells
Composed by Dietz/Ryder
From the album Magic
Getting X-rayed is way painful, since the technician has to twist my body into several unnatural positions in order to get the angle he wants to photograph. But aside from some Motrin, I’m not offered a single thing for the pain.
Hello. You can buy Motrin over the counter. Where’s the Vicodin? Where’s the morphine? What kind of hospitals do they run these days, anyway?
After they X-ray me, they wheel me into this waiting room with a lot of other patients who are lying on gurneys. Most of them look to be in way worse shape than me. All of them seem to have much better painkillers.
Thankfully they let me keep my sandwich. It’s my only source of comfort. Well, that and some Fritos I get out of the candy machine at the end of the ward. It’s no joke getting those quarters in the slot with my bandaged fingers, believe me.
Still, even Fritos don’t make me feel better. I mean, by rights, I should be dead. I really should have been killed by that bomb. But I hadn’t died.
Not like Elizabeth Kellogg and Roberta Pace. What had gone through their minds when they’d been suspended above the hard ground sixteen, fourteen floors below? Had they struggled before they were pushed? There were no signs that they’d done so, just some burn marks, apparently.
But what kind of burn marks?
And why had I lived, while they had died? Is there some reason I’d been spared? Is there something I’m supposed to do? Find their murderer, maybe?
Or had I been allowed to live for some other, even higher purpose? Like to pursue my own medical career, and ensure that future pipe bomb victims would get better drugs when brought to local area hospitals?
A doctor who couldn’t have been any older than me finally shows up just as I’m finishing off the last of the Fritos, holding my X-rays and smiling. At least until he gets a good look at me.
“Aren’t you—” He breaks off, looking panicky.
I’m too tired to play games.
“Yes,” I say. “I’m Heather Wells. Yes, I sang ‘Sugar Rush.’”
“Oh,” he says, looking disappointed. “I thought you were Jessica Simpson.”
Jessica Simpson! I’m so appalled that I can’t utter another word, even when he blithely informs me that there isn’t anything seriously wrong with my shoulder, other than some deep tissue bruising. I need bed rest, and no, he can’t prescribe anything for the pain.
I swear I hear him humming the chorus from “With You” as he leaves.
Jessica Simpson? I don’t look anything like Jessica Simpson! Okay, we both have long blond hair. But there the resemblance ends.