Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
“There’s something I have to tell all of you. I tried to figure out what’s happened, but things are getting more complicated,” Eric said. “The other night, before I dressed your knees, Hayley, “I got an urgent call on my walkie talkie and had to assist in answering the call located in your neighborhood. When I arrived, the fire department, and my team of EMTs, had ascertained that the call had been a hoax.”
“Wow,” said Krista. “Another phony call. Oh, a phony call before ours.”
“That’s going to come out of the tax money we paid,” said Jeanne. “Where exactly was this?”
“Well, you are all not going to like this, and by the way, I didn’t either,” said Eric.
“Well, hurry! I haven’t got all day. I need to get home,” complained Jeanne.
“The fire call came in for 723 Bush Street. Someone reported that a kitchen was on fire and that an old woman was trapped, Inside apartment number 24,” Eric emphasized.
“That’s the building right next door to us,” I said.
“What did you find?” asked Krista.
“There was no apartment number 24. We checked the whole building, twice. No one was hurt and there was no fire. I sent my team home.”
“That’s awful. Do you all see how a string of bad things are happening, either to us, or in our neighborhood?” I said.
“Do any of you know anyone that lives in the next building?” Eric said.
“There’s a cute guy that I run into down at the corner Laundromat. He never looks at me, so I’ve never spoken with him. I followed him home one day. That’s how I know he lives next door. Hey! He finished with his laundry first, you guys! Stop looking at me like that. I am NOT a stalker!”
Eric was about to say something when a group of young police cadets came into the lobby. In full uniform, they headed for the elevators like a swarm of bees.
Then, of all things, I spotted the Commander. The creep. “Don’t look my way right now, I said to Jeanne and Krista, but Officer Creep just walked in. Make like you don’t see him.”
“Too late,” said Eric. “He saw me looking at him when he came in the door.” Eric gave the creep a serious and disinterested look as the last of the cadets boarded the elevator. “He’s gone in the elevator with the second group of the cadets. What’s he up to?”
“Yeah,” said Jeanne quietly. What’s he doing here? Shouldn’t he be in our neighborhood protecting us?”
“Hayley, Hayley! Come with me quick. Mrs. Johnson is awake. I can walk you in,” called Denise from the nurses’ station.
I grabbed the two purses and followed Denise. “Is she okay?”
“I think so.” We all got in the elevator. Denise waited for the doors to shut. With her eyes lowered, she spoke with an apologetic tone. “She was doing fine early this morning, and asking for you, Hayley. But per orders, we couldn’t call you.”
“Why? Why couldn’t you call me? I’ve been waiting down there all night. All the nurses knew I wanted to see her.”
“I.. I am very sorry, Hayley. But the Commander said, and oh please, don’t let anyone know I told you this.” She looked at Eric, Krista, and Jeanne. “Commander Stetson said that when Mrs. Johnson was shot, she became a material witness, and was not allowed visitors until the Assistant DA spoke with her first.” Then Denise’s arms flew up in surrender. “He threatened all of us that if we didn’t follow his police orders, we would be in serious trouble.” She bit her lower lip and waited.
My response was nothing but fury. “That manipulating bastard!”
“That guy gets creepier by the moment. Now I really don’t want to go home,” said Jeanne.
“Me either,” added Krista, and they both stared at me.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened. “We’re here. Third floor. Intensive care, right, Denise?” said Eric.
“Yes. No, wait, Hayley! He’s out there with the cadets.” She tugged on me by the sleeve of my blouse.
“Well, I don’t care. I want to see Ginny, and she wants to see me. What is he going to do? Hit me or arrest me?”
“Both, probably,” said Jeanne.
“Let me go ahead of you,” said Eric. “I’ll keep him talking and you three, plow ahead. Good luck.”
The four of us got as far as Mrs. Johnson’s room before a cadet blocked us. “Excuse me. You are not allowed in there.”
Still in hospital slippers, I stood an inch taller than this kid, who must have just graduated from high school. I glared at him and watched him lose his confidence. He eyed his superior, but Commander Creep was too busy arguing with Eric to notice. I took advantage of the moment and moved past the cadet, bumping him aside as I did so. The others followed me.
Once through the door, Denise held it closed. I stepped quietly to Ginny’s bed and whispered, “Mrs. Johnson, it’s me. Hayley. My friends and I are here to see you.”
Her eyelids flickered and then she squinted at me. “Oh, Hayley…You are here. I thought I was dreaming again. They have me on so many medications. I’ve been sleeping a lot. Much more than usual.”
“I’m sure you needed the rest,” I said.
“It’s good to see you all. I’ve missed you,” said Ginny in a weak voice.
“We’ve missed you, too, Mrs. Johnson.” Jeanne’s voice was unbelievably sweet. She often amazed me.
Tube lines surrounded Ginny’s bed, but the heart monitors were in the silent mode. I picked up her free hand. “How are you feeling now?”
“They told me someone shot me in the head and that I had to have surgery!” Ginny touched her bandages. “Do I still have all my hair? Doesn’t that sound awful? Why would someone want to shoot me?”
No one spoke for a few seconds. Krista stepped forward. “Hello, Mrs. Johnson. We are so happy to see you right now. Has the doctor said when you can go home? I’d be happy to stay with you while you recover.”
“Oh, Krista. You are a sweet one. How soon? I don’t know,” she said and became quiet. “Maybe in a few days. Thinking about home,” she said. “Do you have my purse? I don’t like being without my purse.”
“I put it on the table here.” I went over by the door to get it.
“I don’t like being here. All I do is sleep, and all I want to do is bake …”
Just then, Commander Creep walked. He kept his arm across the door, holding it open. “Ladies, I’ve been informed that you intruded on Mrs. Johnson without permission. Please leave now,” he said.
“No! They’re not intruding. They’re my friends and I’m glad to see them. Don’t go Hayley. Don’t go, girls,” Mrs. Johnson’s voice got weaker with each sentence. I rushed toward her and the creep’s arm swung out and blocked me hard against my chest. It was as if I walked into a log.
Eric came up behind him, grabbed his other arm back, twisted it, and forced him to turn around. Then Eric slugged him hard under his chin. We all heard him slam against the wall, or was that noise the jaw breaking? I hoped the creep’s teeth were shattering, too. Alas, the creep didn’t go down. He regained his balance and came forward, ready to deliver a hard blow on Eric’s head when suddenly the room filled with orderlies and nurses.
Three men pulled the Commander back from attacking Eric. Two others held Eric back, but not successfully. Eric shrugged loose and pounded Stetson in the stomach, then in the face. The creep waivered on his feet, then folded forward and lost his breakfast. A disgusting sight.
The other nurses attended to Mrs. Johnson who was gasping for air. Her arms stretched out to me and I went and put my arms around her. I had never known how much she meant to me until that moment.
“Hayley,” she said slowly. “That man is bad news,” she said. And everyone in the room cracked up.
“Mrs. Johnson,” said Geri, the nurse who did the intake. “You need to stay calm now. And my, you love cracking jokes, don’t you? Where did you learn all that fast lingo? Next, I’ll hear you call that man a ‘Bad Ass’. You watch too much TV.”
While Geri’s humor had everyone in stitches, I stepped outside the room and felt my tender midriff. The orderlies had hauled the Commander out and cleaned up after him right away. I overheard the men talking about the fight. It seems that no one staffing on that floor had ever liked him. “Man, did you see the power punches Eric threw on him? Man, I wish it had been me punching that bad ass. He’s bossed me around long enough!”
I made a mental note that I would share this conversation with everyone later. I had no doubt the creep would be back to claim revenge. Somehow, I had to prevent him from bothering any of us again.
My friends and the nurses were still laughing when I went back in the room.
“Eric, now that you’ve put down a gorilla,” said Geri, “I think you’d better take these young ladies home.” She looked at me, “Hayley, you can’t stay here and live on donuts and sleep in our chairs. You have to go home, too.”
“Go and come back later, Hayley,” said Mrs. Johnson.
“Don’t worry now. I’ll take care of this sweet lady with the mouth, myself. Why, her lip language is more valuable than a bald eagle. Go on now. Scoot!”
“You promise you’ll be here until I get back?” I said.
“I don’t break my promises, Girl.”
I looked around and saw that everyone else was ready to go home as well. We were all tired and looked it.
Eric held the door open for me, and Jeanne and Krista followed. We rode home in Eric’s van and he found a parking space right in front of the building.
“What is that on the ground?” said Jeanne pointing to something pink on the sidewalk. I walked closer to the building. “This is my nightgown!”
Looking up, we saw that my bedroom window was open, and that other pieces of our underwear were hanging from the fire escape.
Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California