When I started out writing for (Not) NaNoWriMo, I intended on finally writing the sequel to Body Rentals. Since I’m a pantser, the story is unfolding in a way that just might not be Body Rentals-esque. Today’s 2,000 words gets me over the 10k mark, and a nifty badge over at nanowrimo.org.
Teresa stared, not comprehending. Swallowing didn’t get her throat working. Her tongue was thick and didn’t cooperate. She blinked several times while she tried to process what she just heard. “What?” she croaked.
“You heard me, Collins.” The face disappeared, but the rest of him wasn’t any more comforting. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Frank Donaldson.” The man had a barrel chest, and too much aftershave. He was a man with an air of superiority – he probably was used to getting his way.
Teresa shook her head, making the room spin. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tongue was stubborn, and her speech reflected it. “Didn’t he…?” She squeezed her eyes closed, trying to focus. “Who?” she asked.
“Frank Donaldson, Miss Collins.” The other government-type had finally spoken. She didn’t see him right away with flat face looming over her like dark clouds on a stormy day. It looked as if flat face was going to die of a coronary. Stormy was a pretty decent word to describe him. Rage flowed off him; it dripped off of him like precipitation. Now that she could see the second government-type, she thought he looked more like an intern on one of those crime scene investigation shows. He had a youngish face, but his graying temples betrayed his age. His eyes seemed oversized on his face, making him look perpetually in shock. She briefly wondered if she would see his eyes pop out like a cartoon.
Once again, Teresa woke with no recollection of where she was, of how she got there. The injustice of it happening twice to her was her first thought. The second was that she was in a hospital bed, cuffed to the bedrail. Three, well there was no three… Didn’t bad news always come in threes?
Her lip twitched at the thought of these local yokels throwing their weight around. A few choice things rattled around in her brain. The comic narration she internalized added a level of… well, she didn’t know what to think. She’d only been handcuffed once, but that wasn’t her…
Apparently, flat face didn’t care to introduce himself, his partner, trade barbs, or to explain why she was in a hospital. The handcuffs were definitely a mystery. Whatever it was, I didn’t do it! Flat face ignored the range of facial expressions Teresa was trying her best to bury, instead he proceeded to read her Miranda rights. Teresa idly wondered if reciting it back to him in reverse would help her situation.
“What’s going on here?”
Tiffany breezed into the room, her dark hair piled on top of her head. Her eyes, hair and glasses all seemed to be the same color. She wore designer jeans, a form-fitting sweater, somewhere in the red spectrum. Her eyes blazed with competence, one hand wrapped around a coffee cup, the other forming an accusatory dagger she had no problem pointing at flat face. Teresa allowed her smile through when Tiffany finally came to a halt at the foot of Teresa’s bed.
“Who are you,” she demanded. “What are you doing in this private room?”
“Agent Tom Dunbar,” greying temples introduced himself. His pitched voice suited him. He produced his credentials, and Tiffany briefly examined them. Dunbar pointed toward flat face, who stood a head taller than he. “This is Agent Steve Rawlins.”
“We’re reading the prisoner her rights,” Rawlins retorted, not looking at Tiffany.
Whoa, thought Teresa, flat face just made his first mistake. She had no doubt that Agent Rawlins would make more before this interaction was over. Rawlins’ face was almost white with rage he didn’t even try to contain. His eyes bored into Teresa. Rawlins resumed his recitation. “You shouldn’t be in this room, Ma’am.”
Ma’am? Teresa smirked at flat face’s second mistake.
Tiffany glanced at Teresa; her hard gaze could chill the marrow of the most hardened criminal, but it eased slightly when she met Teresa’s eyes and realized she was awake. Her eyes narrowed when she saw the handcuff enclosed on Teresa’s wrist.
“First of all, she’s not a prisoner,” Tiffany said slowly, in a quiet even tone that caused the two men to pause.
If you give up that right… trailed off into a cough hidden behind a closed fist.
“Secondly,” Tiffany drew herself up to her full height. The scowl on her beautiful red mouth barely came to Rawlin’s chest, but she commanded everyone’s attention in the room. She continued, “since Teresa’s no a prisoner, there is no need for handcuffs.”
Somehow, Rawlins’s already sour expression deepened. “Teresa?”
Dunbar held out pale hands defensively, trying to mitigate Tiffany’s fury. “She’s a person of interest. She was alone, and unescorted. We had to secure her.”
“Securing her how,” Tiffany said tersely, “handcuffing her to a bed?”
Teresa wearily lifted her heavy foot.
“And her ankle?” Tiffany added, her voice rising an octave. “You must’ve been afraid that this petite woman who had been unconscious for more than thirty hours was going to…” she crossed her arms, and waved a hand at the door. “Cartwheel out of the bed.”
Wait, what? Teresa thought, Thirty hours?
Rawlins took a deep breath, Teresa could see his rapid pulse causing his ears to wiggle slightly. “Look, Miss,” he started.
“That’s Missus,” she retorted, “Missus Bishop.”
Dunbar and Rawlins exchanged furtive glances. Rawlins seethed, and Dunbar cleared his throat delicately. “Bishop,” he asked, “as in Colonel Lance Bishop? So you’re…”
“My wife, and a civil rights attorney.”
Teresa blinked, and her gaze shifted toward the door. Lance stood at the threshold, his arms folded across his chest. He looked like he was moments from throttling someone.
Probably his dry cleaner, Teresa thought. Lance’s charcoal suit looked rumpled, like he’d slept in it or something. Hadn’t he worn that suit yesterday? Teresa blinked as snippets of conversation during the last few minutes echoed. No, she though, sullenly, Tiffany said thirty hours. He’s been wearing that suit for two whole days.
A light jostle of the elbow redirected Lance, who was stalking purposefully toward Rawlins. Dunbar took a tentative step forward, but he backed down when Tiffany led her husband off to the side.
Teresa tried to focus on that voice. She wanted the high cheekbones, and light dusting of rouge to turn up slightly, happiness blazing on her face, but Tiffany’s bright eyes stared down at her, a frown forming a narrow line. She felt the ache in her heart, but smiled slightly at Tiffany’s open concern for her well-being.
“….my case in Organized Crime has been ongoing for three years, Bishop…” If Rawlins was on the verge of a cardiac episode earlier, the was practically foaming at the mouth now. That man was going to have a heart attack if he didn’t calm down.
Teresa looked at them, morbid curiosity overriding parlance. Ghost hands adjusting a lock of hair returned her attention to Tiffany.
“Do you need anything,” Tiffany asked, smiling. “Water?” There was a soft look from her that Teresa hadn’t seen in Tiffany since… Teresa nodded, not trusting her voice.
“There is no reason to believe she had anything to do with it!”
What didn’t I have anything to do with?
“Bull shit!” Rawlins sputtered. “You logged the loss of signal! She was off-grid for over an hour! I want to know what Collins was doing with my key witness!” His ears and neck were a bright crimson. “I’ve heard the rumors about your organization. Did you authorize her to make some sort of deal? Was she trying to recruit Donaldson out from under us?”
Teresa’s eyes drifted out of focus. The rantings of a mad man failed to hold her interest.
“Here ya go, sweetie.”
Teresa grimaced as she tried to lift her head to get at the spoonful of ice chips. Her neck was stiff, but the muscles in her neck didn’t want to lift her aching head.
“There is no evidence Collins had any contact with Donaldson…”
Rawlins fumed. “So she accidentally woke up next to his dead body?”
Body? What body?
The sound of a voice pleading in her ear started to fade. Her nostrils flared and she choked back a gag reflex. The smell of blood was suffocating, but she seemed to be the only one who could smell it. Something in the room, off to the right, beeped loudly.
Tiffany turned to the three men verbally jousting at the foot of the bed. “Lance,” Tiffany tried, but Lance held up a finger. She sighed. Tiffany was not having a good day.
“There isn’t enough evidence to justify…”
Rawlins stood toe to toe with Lance, gesticulating wildly with his arms. Dunbar looked as if he wanted to be anywhere else but here.
“The science nerds verified it was Collins’s fingerprints all over the murder weapon.”
“Ever hear of self defense? How about some actual evidence!”
Hide! I need to hide!
Phantom hands squeezed her throat again. Again? A machine next to her beeped incessantly.
Where the hell is it?
The room shrank, and it was suddenly hard to breathe. Hands held down her hips as she struggled to free herself.
Hold her down, God damn it!
A flash of silver in her periphery, reflected light briefly blinding her. Shadows above, shadows around her, hands forced her deeper into the bed. Teresa could hear screaming; begging.
Get her mouth open!
She clamped down and bit the finger rummaging around in her mouth. It still pried her jaw open, and something acrid replaced air. She gagged on it, choking as if her life was ending. Thrashing against the hands holding her down, she was powerless to stop them.
Someone screamed in her ear.
The weight lifted momentarily. She could breathe again. A machine to the left started beeping. The one on the right, decided it would not be outdone, and its chime increased in intensity and duration.
The room spun, but Teresa could feel Tiffany’s hand wrapped around her fingers. The fingers felt cold, and she was somehow aware of her wide eyes staring down at Teresa, but for some reason she couldn’t get her fingers to respond and return the squeeze.
“Honey,” Tiffany said, concerned eyes staring at Teresa’s, but she wasn’t talking to her.
Lance swore under his breath, and he grabbed the two agents by their arms, pulling them toward the door. Rawlins growled like a junkyard dog, and Dunbar jumped back, hands forming a barrier between Lance and Rawlins. Teresa felt the weight return to her throat.
“Get the doctor!” Teresa heard, as her chest clenched. It felt as if she were drowning.
Was Tiffany hurt? she thought, her hand spasming around hers. Tiffany squeezed her fingers as if she were in pain. Whoever is hurting Tiffany will answer to me! Her vision wavered, darkness on the edges. Lance’s voice was shouting, but he was so far away…
Footsteps thundered; echoed, multiplied. She pictured black leather shoes, but from a weird angle. A beam of light shined on poorly shined shoes. It was as if those shoes were the only thing she knew were real. She felt too exposed on the bed. She needed to hide.
Hide! I need to hide!
Tiffany’s hand was torn away from her grip. She tried to lunge, but something cold, unyielding, and metallic bit into her wrist and ankle as she fought against the crushing darkness.
Where the hell is it?
Medical machines wailed their cacophony of sound. Would someone turn the damn things off? The room was nothing but darkness. Hands she didn’t know grabbed her.
Hold her down, God damn it!
Teresa felt something cold and wet over her mouth. The smell of chemicals almost overpowered the stench of blood. A prick on her arm was a shock, momentarily clearing the weight on her chest, but the room spiraled.
Get her mouth open!
As she lost her fight against the darkness, Teresa heard one last scream.
“No, no, please! Don’t kill me! I’ll do anything!”