"Susan!" I called out. She was lying on her side, her back to me curled up in the fetal position. "Susan. Answer me."
"My arm, Ben. It hurts," she sobbed.
I crawled by her side and whispered, "Let me see." She held her arm aloft and I pulled her bloodied shirt sleeve away from the inflicted spot. I sighed with relief and tried to assure she was going to be okay, "It just grazed your arm, enough to break the skin, that's all."
I cursed under my breath. Not only had I been an idiot for coming there in the first place, I'd been even more foolish to have allowed Susan to accompany me. Why hadn't I seen the warning signs that this might have been a baited trap?
I tensed at the sound of footsteps. Tending to Susan I had let my guard down again. The cold metal of a gun barrel pressed against my neck. I could make out a polished shoe and black slacks between my arm and side. I felt Susan's hand tap against my knee. She turned her hand over to reveal what looked like some kind of dart. My body between my captor and Susan I took the dart and being careful to avoid contact with its pointed tip, I repositioned in my hand. I held my breath and thrust my arm back in the direction of the man's leg.
The man cried out and backed away. I turned in time to see him fall forward onto his knees. His eyes made contact with mine and then a string of angry words spewed from his lips as he plunged faced first onto the concrete floor. I picked up the gun he'd been brandishing and studied it for a moment. "A tranquilizer gun?" I said slowly.
"Ben!" Susan shrieked.
There was a another shot fired. I felt something strike the handle of the gun, knocking if from my grasp. A second man was advancing even as he placed another dart in the chamber of his gun. I raised my hands and tried to position myself between him and Susan who had managed to get to her feet. "Don't shoot. We surrender," I uttered in defeat.
"More than you'll ever know," the man snarled. At point blank range he raised and leveled the gun at my chest. I tensed and turned my head. I heard the shot ... But there was no pain. His eyes widened in stunned confusion the man yelped and grabbed his neck.
Susan grabbed my arm and looked at me, "Who shot him?"
A familiar voice boomed from the shadows, "They gotta get us some of these for the police force." Sergeant Brock O'Day emerged from behind the ambulance waving a gun like the ones the two fallen men had been using. Seeing the confused look on our faces he said, "Oh this? I took it from a third one back there. I put him to sleep with the butt of my pistol. I'm afraid he'll have a nasty headache when he wakes up."
"You tailing us, Brock?" I asked. "How did you know we'd be here? Did you know it was a trap?"
"I had a sneaking feeling with that reporter's instinct of yours that you would notice that this place wasn't on that list." He tapped a finger against his forehead and gloated, "I memorized that list, Ben, just in case."
I shook my head, "I don't supposed it occurred to you to warn me?"
He looked down at the two fallen men and back at me, "As for following you? No. When I got here the place was deserted." He pointed to the general's limousine and continued, "I made myself a drink, got real comfortable, and even watched a little TV LAND on his television. The three Government goons showed up right in the middle of The Beverly Hillbillies."
"The nerve of them interrupting your diligent stakeout, officer." Susan interjected.
I glanced at her and shook my head. Her eyes appeared to be heavy, her face showing fatigue. She was rubbing her arm. Even though it had only grazed her, the tranquilizer in that dart must have been taking some effect on her.
"Girly," O'Day laughed heartily taking no offense to her remark, "I can watch a television and three Feds walk in here at the same time and not spill any of my drink. I overheard their plans," he said and pointed to me, "If there was any doubt that they were keeping an eye on you, I heard one tell the others that you and the girl were on your way here."
I raised a thumb and said, "Well, I for one can appreciate your diligence. Thanks, Brock."
"Look, Ben," he declared, "I don't know what's going down or what this is all about, and I'm sure you have a good reason for keeping me in the dark, but I have to wonder what the Feds want with a reporter and a college girl." He studied us both for a moment and continued, "What part do your boss and that kid they killed have to do with it? Did Jimmy just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
It was apparent that O'Day didn't know about the story I'd written, the story that these people had squelched. I didn't think it would be beneficial for me to exchange any information with him at that time. In a word, he had nothing for me. "I don't have much, Brock. Most of it is conjecture and hearsay. I have nothing concrete or incriminating."
He made an indication with his eyes to my leg, "I won't ask for it, but I suppose that piece of paper from the general's limo would not be of any interest to me?"
I shook my head. I felt Susan's body begin to lean heavily against me. Placing my arms around her waist I asked, "Susan? Are you all right?"
"Tired ... I'm so tired," she said her words almost incoherent.
"Better get her into my car. Mass General is just up the street. That stuff from the dart must have gotten into her blood stream," the sergeant suggested.
"If it's all the same to you, I don't presently have much faith in hospitals. I'm taking her back to Black's apartment. It'll wear off soon enough."
"As you wish, Ben. I can't say as I blame you." He bent over and removed the dart from the gun of the last man taken down. He produced a plastic bag from his pocket and placed the object in it. "I'll have the boys in the lab to run some tests on the substance in the dart."
Utilizing his police priviledge of blaring his siren to clear traffic from his path, we arrived at the garage entrance to the apartment building in five minutes. He waited until he saw us enter the elevator and the garage door began closing.
Michelle greeted us that door and helped me get her into the guest bedroom. "What on earth happened? Is she going to be all right? Who did this?" she asked while we were helping Susan onto the edge of the bed.
"Michelle," I said, "She's okay. She just needs some rest. I'll explain as soon as she's settled."
"Ben, help me into the shower, please. That will help," she begged. "I don't want to sleep right now. Please?"
Clothes and all she stood under the cold water for ten minutes while I stood nearby to make sure she didn't fall. By the time she stepped out from under the water she smiled and seemed to have been reinvigorated. In the process my clothes had also gotten wet, so I removed them and dropped them on the bathroom floor. She giggled and followed suit.
After she had dried herself she pulled back the sheets on the bed swhe lie down and with a finger beckoned me to join her there. "I don't know about you, but I think this time and this place is as good as any. Wouldn't you agree,Ben?"
I grinned and slipped under the sheets next to her. In only a matter of seconds we were in each other's arms.
Before pressing her lips to mine she cooed, "Finally!"
(To be continued with part 23, on Friday 2/13, with Seeing Is Not Believing.)