Gus was chased out of the room, then doctors and nurses paraded in one after another, all eager to have a crack at me, pinching, poking, prodding, squeezing, testing, and annoying me to death.
“Five days?” Gus’ words repeated in my head over and over again. Dr. Efram had subsequently explained that I’d been brought in by ambulance on Monday evening and it was now late Saturday afternoon. Five days. Dear God. No wonder Gus is such a basket case. Can’t imagine what he must be going through. I can’t believe I haven’t seen my baby in five days. Jesus. A tear popped out of my eye. I shook my head while medical staff tested me like a lab rat. I had been unconscious five full days. Still, the question remained, what had happened?
More than an hour passed before the hospital staff was finished with their initial examination and Gus was allowed back into the room. He looked better when I saw him again—relieved was a better word. Folded blankets and a pillow rested on the recliner near the window. It didn’t take a detective to figure out that Gus had slept by my side all week long. “How’s your back?”
He seemed surprised by my question. “My back? You’ve been unconscious for days and you’re worried about myback?”
“Well, I mean, sure. You slept in a chair all week, didn’t you?”
“That spine of yours is probably twisted up like a pretzel.”
Gus shrugged, but his expression was buoyant all the while. He didn’t answer my question but instead sat down alongside me on the bed, leaned over, and hugged me with his cheek pressed firmly against mine. “Thank God,” he whispered.
“You’re smothering me, you big lug.” I pushed him away good-humoredly. “Enough with the melodrama already. What does a girl have to do to get a straight answer?” I winked a sultry wink. “And by the way, sailor, I’ll do just about anything to get what I want.”
“We don’t have any answers.” He looked into my eyes lovingly. “I don’t have any.”
“Well, what do you have for me? Tell me something, will you? Tell me something before I go completely bonkers.”
“You don’t remember anything?”
“I already went through this with the doctors. My mind is blank. They think it’s probably confusion as a result of the weeklong snooze.”
“What does that mean?” I asked unhappily.
Gus wore a rare sheepish expression on his face. “You may have amnesia, babe. Doctor Efram said it’s not uncommon in cases of severe head trauma.”
I touched the thick bandage on the back of my head. “This, huh?”
“It appears that you were slugged with a blunt object and that you have a severe concussion. Your brain really swelled up and we were afraid …” His hand went to his mouth, but then after a moment he sighed and took it away. “The point is you’re all right. I called Ma to let her know you’re awake. She’ll come down to the hospital as soon as I get back to watch Max.”
“But what about Yana? He doesn’t know what happened?”
Gus cringed. I could see by his dire expression that something was terribly wrong. As mentioned, Tadashi Yanagisawa had been my partner for about a year, ever since our CO had deemed that it was a violation of department policy for Gus and I to operate as a team.
“Gus, what happened?”
He shook his head with despair. “I’m sorry, babe. Yana …” He looked away and drew a deep breath. “Yana didn’t make it.”
“Oh my God.” I strained to remember what had happened, but there was a wide and jagged rift in my memory to which I had no access. Yana didn’t make it? I gasped, filling my lungs with air, and tears began to drizzle down my cheeks. “Gus, what are you talking about? Is Yana dead?”
Gus nodded. “I’m so sorry, babe.”
I grabbed a tissue as the horror of my partner’s death washed over me. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to force my memory to return, but it just wasn’t there. The damn thing just wasn’t there. “What the hell happened? The last thing I remember is …” I had a vague recollection of that Monday, the day I was told I was admitted into the hospital. I remembered rushing around the apartment that morning, getting Max ready for the day and Ma hitting me with one of her requisite zingers as soon as she walked through the door to babysit. It was something about me never having Max ready for her on time. I remember that she had laid into me pretty good, going on and on about how I never go to bed at a reasonable hour and how I was going to run myself into the ground. She was always full of motherly advice and complaints about me not listening to any of her sage wisdom.
“What do you and Gus do all night?” she’d asked.
“All night? Is he Superman or something? My God, the two of you must be insatiable.”
“Well, not all night, but we can hardly play hide the salami before the little one goes lights out for the night, now can we?”
‘“Hide the salami?’ That’s disgusting. Wash your mouth out with soap. I’m still your mother.”
I snickered. “I’m well aware,” I’d said and gave her a respectful peck on the cheek.
I remembered feeling that familiar pang I always got when I kissed Max goodbye before leaving for work.
Fast-forward a bit and I remembered that Yana and I had spent the day questioning relevant parties on the Serafina Ramirez homicide case, but when it came to the specific interviews, and the sequence of the day’s events … I looked out the window and could sense that I wore a vacant expression on my face. “Christ,” I barked. “What’s wrong with me? I can’t remember anything.”
“You will,” Gus assured me. “You’ve been in a coma all week. Give it a little time to let the cobwebs clear.”
“I know, but … shit.” I felt a frown pulling at the muscles in my face. “Jesus. I can’t believe that Yana’s dead.”
Gus leaned forward and put his arms around me. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to tell you so soon, but I knew you’d ask.”
“I want to remember so badly, but it’s just not there. It’s as if my head is empty.”
“Far from it. It’s just short-term memory loss. It’s like getting a cold—you just have to let it run its course.”
“Short term? How long is short term?”
“The doctors can’t be sure—a few days or weeks.” He shrugged. “It’s the brain, Stephanie. You know how complicated the mind is. There just aren’t any absolute answers.”
“I need something to jog my memory. I need …” My eyes flashed with revelation. “My notebook. You know how I …”
“I know, you’re a meticulous note taker. It’s with the rest of your stuff in the evidence room.”
“Shearson’s orders. She said that your notebook would help to establish a timeline leading up to the altercation. I couldn’t argue. Not that she would’ve listened to me anyway.”
Pamela PMS Shearson was a deputy commissioner. I didn’t love her or her overly ambitious agenda, but she had good instincts and was rarely wrong. “I need it.”
“I’ll request it and see if I can get my hands on it before the next time I come to visit.”
‘“How?’ What do you mean?”
“How, Gus? How was Yana murdered?”
“He was shot in the chest. No witnesses to the actual shooting, no video, and you … well, I’m sure your head will be clearer tomorrow.”
I couldn’t remember what had happened, but my skill set was still intact and I began calling on it immediately. “But we have forensics, don’t we? There’s a bullet slug with markings we can run down, and possible DNA, and—”
Gus held up his hand, cutting me off before I could finish my thought. “Easy now. It’s a cop killing. A dedicated task force has been established, rewards offered … No one is taking this lightly, and five days is a long time. The slug has been analyzed. It came from a thirty-caliber rifle.”
“What kind of gun?”
“We’re not sure yet. Ballistics is still trying to match the rifling marks on the slug to a specific rifle manufacturer.”
“From what distance?”
“A nearby rooftop.”
“But then how … ” I felt my face muscles tightening and my head throb painfully, so painfully that I had to squeeze my eyes shut to deal with it.
“You all right?” Gus asked with urgency. He waited a moment and then pushed the call button.
A nurse rushed into the room and glanced at the heart monitor. “You have to calm down,” she said firmly. “Your blood pressure is way too high.” She called to a second nurse who had just entered the room. “Page Dr. Efram and bring me five milligrams of Valium.” I had an oxygen tube in my nose. She turned up the flow. “Deep breaths, honey. You have a head injury. The last thing you need is more bleeding in your brain. Come on, slowly in and out. Fill your lungs. Hold it … Let it out slowly. Again.” The second nurse returned and handed her a syringe. “I’m going to give you a small amount of sedative, just enough to calm you down.” She injected it into my IV line.
I felt the sedative take hold. My eyelids felt heavy and I could feel the tension float away.
“We have to clear the room,” the second nurse said to Gus.
He looked terrible as he backed toward the door. “You’ll be fine,” he offered in a soothing tone, but the worry I saw on his face made me think otherwise. How could someone have shot Yana from a rooftop and knocked me unconscious too?Something just didn’t add up, but the medication was having its way with me, eradicating worry, removing doubt, and lulling me gently to sleep.
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