Obsessed

By Mady Bay -

March 19, 2004

For Jane... and, well, me too, of course!

"I'm telling you, Trent, this case is a no-brainer! Mrs. Kosta is doing the nasty with the neighbor, Mr. Singer. And Mrs. Singer doesn't like it, so she hired us to prove it so she can have evidence of his infidelity when she goes to divorce him."

"I understand where you're coming from, Carlos," Trent replied as they exited the Durango and headed for Uppercuts' main entrance.

"But..."

"But, considering that we've already been hired by Mister Singer, don't you think that would constitute just a weee bit of a conflict of interest?"

"What's wrong with a little double dipping every now and then?" Carlos asked in reply, just as they reached the bar's entrance.

He held open the door for Trent. Trent just glared at him in response and entered the bar. The two walked up to the bar, waving hello to several of the patrons as they went.

Butch greeted them as they sat down. "Coupla beers, fellas?" he asked.

"Sounds good, Butch," Carlos replied. "And maybe an order of wings, too?"

Butch nodded his assent as he took their order. When he returned, he asked, "So, Carlos, when are we going to meet this mystery woman of yours from the gym?" He gave the two detectives their beers. "You'd been talkin' about her for two weeks already, how she's built like an Amazon

and can almost out-lift you, yet we've yet to see hide or hair of her."

"Makes ya wonder, huh, Butch?" Trent said with a wink toward the older man. "She probably doesn't exist."

"You've talked to her, Trent," Carlos retorted. "You were the one who answered the phone the other day at my apartment. And Kim's talked to her at the office."

"True," Trent agreed.

"But I wouldn't worry about meeting her, I think I'm gonna break up with her anyway."

"Break up?" Trent asked.

"Yeah, I've been getting these vibes from her lately. I don't know. She just seems kinda clingy, ya know?"

"Two weeks and she's clingy. Sounds to me like you just don't know what anything other than a one night stand feels like anymore, Carlos, my man!"

"Think about it, Trent. How many times has she called me...?"

After a moment's thought, Trent nodded in agreement.

"I just want to meet her," Butch interrupted. "Any gal that can last even two weeks with Carlos has got to be a saint!"

"Ha, ha. Very funny," Carlos said flatly, taking a swig from his beer bottle.

"When are you going to do the deed?"

"I don't know..."

"Don't string her along, Carlos. Especially if she's as clingy as you say."

"Yes, Dad," Carlos replied, rolling his eyes at Trent.

"Hey, back to the case," Trent continued, his tone serious. "This afternoon when you met up with Mrs. Singer at the cafe, did she have any information about her husband's business for us?"

"Seemed like she was pretty oblivious about everything to me," Carlos replied. "I guess we could talk to her more tonight, when she shows up."

"She's showing up here, tonight?" Trent asked, surprise in his voice.

"Yeah, Christy called while we were talking, that was when her car broke down, and I had to arrange a tow truck for her. So I cut the meeting short with Mrs. Singer. I told her to meet us here tonight and we'd finish up."

"I still don't know why you just didn't refuse her then, Carlos," Trent remarked.

"I've got a pretty good idea," Butch put in with a smirk.

Carlos was about to respond to that when a female voice interrupted.

"Carlos!"

Before Carlos could reply, a pretty brunette had approached and kissed him, long and deep. Trent and Butch exchanged raised eyebrow looks. They were impressed. Finally, Carlos gently pushed the woman away.

"Christy? What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to see you, of course!" she replied, surprised by his question.

"Can't a girl come spend some time with her boyfriend?"

"Well, yeah, sure," Carlos stammered, trying to smile at her. When Trent cleared his throat, hinting, Carlos said, "Oh, sorry. Christy Camber, these are my friends, Trent Malloy and Butch McMann." After the trio exchanged greetings, Carlos stood and offered her his barstool. "Drink?" he asked.

"Sure, a white zin, please," she told Butch.

"Nice to meet you, Christy," Trent said. "We've heard a lot about you."

Trent looked at Carlos, sighting him above Christy's head. He wondered if Carlos was really going to break up with her or not, and when. Carlos saw the unasked question.

"Christy, why don't we get a table," Carlos said, grabbing his beer and her wine.

After the two had walked away, Butch leaned over the bar toward Trent.

"You think he'll break it off? She doesn't look like one that'll take it too well."

"Yeah, I think you're right about her, but trust me, Carlos has lots of experience when it comes to breaking up with women."

"I thought his idea of breaking up is just not calling the next day..." Butch joked, getting a laugh from Trent.

Over at the table, things were not going well with Carlos.

"I don't understand. We're great together, Carlos," Christy said. "You said you liked me."

"And I do, Christy," Carlos replied. "Just not in that way."

"What, I'm not pretty enough? I don't put out enough?"

"No! Christy! You're gorgeous. And you're great... in... you know."

Carlos took a deep breath and tried to find a way to express his feelings and keep Christy calm at the same time.

"It's another woman, isn't it?" she accused. "You son of a bitch!" she whispered harshly, pushing away from the table.

"Christy, listen to me!" Carlos said, grabbing her arm to keep her at the

table. "Just listen to me, please," he pled. When he had her attention, he said, "It's not another woman. I just don't think we're right for each other, Christy. You're a very nice and very beautiful woman, but I'm not comfortable with this relationship, so I'm ending it."

Christy pulled her arm from Carlos's hand and stood from the table. There were tears in her eyes as she whispered, "Fine," and walked away.

Carlos dropped his chin to his chest and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. He didn't notice Trent's approach.

"Here, have another," Trent said, putting a bottle of beer on the table in front of Carlos and taking the seat Christy vacated. "Sounded rough."

"Yeah," Carlos replied, looking up. He lifted the bottle in a salute to Trent before taking a large drink from it. "And I got this really scary feeling that it's not over yet."

"What do you mean?"

"She didn't take it well. And matched with the reason I broke up with her, I just get the feeling that before the end of the week, I'm gonna have to get a new phone number, you know?"

"Got it."

"She accused me of seeing another woman, can you believe that?" When Trent just stared knowingly at him, Carlos asked, "What?"

"I'm gonna go back and finish those wings before they get cold," Trent said and then did so.

Carlos stayed at the table for a bit, nursing his beer and contemplating a plan of action in case his suspicions about Christy came true.

The next time he was aware of anyone around him, Ardella Singer had approached his table. "Mr. Sandoval?"

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Singer!" he replied, standing to greet the woman." Have a seat," he offered, pulling out the chair next to him. "Sorry we got interrupted this afternoon," he went on. He waved a hand at Trent, calling him over to join he and Mrs. Singer at the table.

Christy watched Carlos pull out the chair for the pretty young woman and motion to the barkeep to bring a drink for her. She clenched her teeth in anger.

Carlos rolled over and reached for the phone.

"H'lo," he mumbled into the mouthpiece.

Good morning, Carlos! Christy greeted him. Are we still on for lunch this afternoon? I'm making that pasta salad you love.

Carlos sat up in bed and groaned.

"Christy, I thought we went over this last night," he stated as calmly as possible.

It was all a misunderstanding, Carlos, honey, she replied. I forgive you.

"You forgive me?!" Carlos balked.

Of course. Now, lunch will be ready by twelve. I'll see you then!

She hung up before Carlos could say anything more. He switched his phone off and collapsed back onto his bed.

"Madre de Dios," he whispered, laying his arm across his forehead and letting out a sigh.

Carlos walked into the office and hung his jacket up. When he turned around he was met with a very angry glare.

"Kim? What's wrong?" he asked.

"Where have you been?!"

"I've been working on the Singer case, trying to get a lead on his embezzler. Why? What's the matter?"

"I've been trying to call you all afternoon, Carlos," she replied. "I haven't been able to get through."

"Oh, shit, Kim," he said with a sigh, sinking into his chair. "I'm sorry. I had to turn my phone off."

"You had to turn it off?"

"Christy kept calling me after I didn't show up for lunch," Carlos explained.

"That was rude."

"I broke up with her last night, Kim. She hasn't quite accepted it yet."

Kim sighed too. "Yeah, I kind of got that impression. She's been calling here all afternoon, too."

No sooner had the words left Kim's mouth that the phone began to ring. "I'll get it," Carlos volunteered. "Thunder Investigations," he answered.

Carlos, where have you been? You missed lunch.

"Christy, I told you last night and again this morning, I don't want to see you again."

And I told you that it was all a misunderstanding and that I forgave you. Now, I can salvage the salad and we can have it for dinner, if you get here by five.

"No, Christy. I'm not going to be there. Now, please stop calling me. It's over."

He didn't give her a chance to respond and hung up the phone.

"That's the fifth time she's called here," Kim remarked.

"And it won't be the last," Carlos stated. "Let the answering machine pick up all the calls for the rest of the day, Kim." He looked at his watch. "Hell, might as well just go home anyway, Kim. I'll close up."

"You sure, Carlos?"

"Yeah," he replied tiredly. "I'm just gonna type up this report for Mr. Singer and then go meet Trent at the dojo. So unless you're working on something important right now, go on home."

"Okay, Carlos. And good luck with Christy."

Kim didn't take long to finish up her work and clear out. The phone rang two more times while Carlos was at the office. Both times he let the answering machine pick up and both times he listened to Christy's voice as she left him messages about meeting for dinner that night.

"Might as well call the phone company in the morning," he mused as he turned out the lights and locked the door.

By the time Carlos got home that night it was nearly eleven. He'd sparred some with Trent at the dojo, had dinner at the Malloy's house and talked with Trent about the Singer case. It looked like one of them was going to have to go undercover at one of Mr. Singer's stores to try to find out

who was embezzling money and products from the company.

He pointedly ignored the blinking light on his answering machine and headed straight for his bedroom. Before turning out the bedside light, he turned off the ringer on the phone.

Mr. and Mrs. Singer sat in Thunder Investigations' office, across the table from Trent and Carlos.

"Have you come up with anything yet?" Mr. Singer asked.

"Well, according to the paperwork you gave Carlos yesterday, it appears as if most of the merchandise went missing between deliveries to the first and second stores, not from the warehouse like you thought," Trent replied.

"So that leads us to believe that either the truck drivers or someone from the stores are taking the items," Carlos added.

Just then the phone began to ring. Carlos closed his eyes and let out a quiet sigh, somehow knowing whom it was on the phone. The Singers looked at both Trent and Carlos and then at Kim, and wondered why no one was bothering to answer the phone.

"Just turn the volume down, Kim," Carlos called over to her. "I'll listen to the messages later."

Kim flipped the switch on the phone's ringer and turned down the answering machine's volume as Carlos instructed. Trent looked to Carlos for an explanation, but Carlos just shook his head in response.

"Sorry about that," he said to the Singers. "We've been getting wrong numbers all morning."

Getting back to their case, Trent continued, "We've done some preliminary background checks on several of your employees. One of your truck drivers, Tom Davis, has a criminal record."

"I'm aware of that," Mr. Singer interrupted. "He was very honest with me from the start. He'd gotten into trouble as a youth, but he's been on the up and up for fifteen years now. I really don't think he's involved."

"Okay, then let's move on to Gina Finch and Stan Allen," Carlos spoke up.

"Neither has been employed for very long. In fact, the thefts began to occur not long after they were hired."

"I don't know," Mrs. Singer said. "Gina's such a sweet girl. And that Stan, he's always helping out whenever he can. I just can't see either of them doing such a thing."

"Well, that's where we come in," Trent said. "We can be completely objective in our views. And as a fellow employee, your workers may be more inclined to confide in me."

"Alright," Mr. Singer said, nodding his head. "So one of you will follow the delivery drivers and one of you will work at the store?"

"That's the plan. Starting tomorrow?" Trent confirmed.

They were about to rise from the table when Mr. Singer's cell phone rang. After a short discussion with the caller, he turned to his wife.

"Ardella, that was Frank Simmons. I've got to meet him at his office," he said. "I'll have to call you a cab to get you back to the store. Is that okay?"

"I can give her a ride," Carlos offered.

"That would be wonderful, Mr. Sandoval, thank you," Mrs. Singer replied.

Outside, in the parking lot of Uppercuts, Christy watched as Carlos helped the young woman into his Durango. The same woman he'd met at Uppercuts a few nights ago

After dropping Mrs. Singer off at the store, Carlos returned to the office. He found Trent and Kim listening to the answering machine's messages.

"Why didn't you tell me about this?" Trent asked.

"How many did she leave this time?" he asked Kim.

"Seven."

"Again, why didn't you tell me?" Trent asked, hands on his hips now.

"I never got the chance. Figured it would blow over. Didn't want to bother you with it," Carlos replied, hoping one of the answers he gave would appease his partner.

"Do you know how much it's gonna cost us to have our number changed?" Trent asked.

"I won't let it get that far, Trent," Carlos replied. "She'll get the message eventually."

Trent raised his eyebrows.

"By the end of the week."

Kim raised her eyebrows.

"I'll talk to her tonight, okay?"

"You tell her that if she calls here one more time..." Kim threatened, only to be cut off by the answering machine clicking to life.

Carlos picked up the phone.

"Thunder Investigations," he answered. "Christy! I was just talking about you. All good, of course."

Carlos, I'm very mad at you. You stood me up twice and you're refusing to answer your phone. Your secretary won't let me talk to you...

"Christy, I'm going to tell you one more time. It's over. Please stop calling me - both at home and at the office."

"You tell her I'll have her arrested for harassment if she keeps calling!" Kim called out.

She can't!

"Yes, she can, Christy. And so can I. So do yourself a favor and just stop calling. Please."

Fine.

"Thank you. Goodbye."

Carlos hung up the phone. And then stared at the instrument, waiting for it to ring again. After a few minutes of quiet, the three sat down in their chairs and began discussing the Singer case.

When Carlos pulled up to his apartment building, he considered backing out of the driveway area and going back to the office. Instead, after banging his head on the Durango's steering wheel a few times, he drove up and parked in his spot. Christy was there to open the car door for him.

"Christy, what are you doing here?" he asked wearily.

"I thought we could, maybe, talk," she replied, caressing Carlos's arm.

Carlos leaned against the side of the truck and crossed his arms, distancing himself from her.

"I thought I told you, several times, that it was over, Christy," he said. "What part of that don't you understand?"

"We're so good together, Carlos!" she replied. "We like the same books and movies, we laugh at the same jokes, we're good in bed..."

Carlos tried to find the right words, the ones that would get through to her once and for all. "You're too clingy!" he came up with.

"Clingy?" she mimicked. "I'm too clingy? What does that mean?"

"It means I don't like you calling me at all hours of the day and night checking up on me. It means that I like to have some time away from you, to be with my other friends. It means, when I break up with you, you should just accept it and move on," he explained.

"It's that other woman, isn't it?" Christy huffed.

Carlos rolled his eyes. "There. Is. No. Other. Woman. How many times...? Forget it, Christy. This is your official notice," he warned, holding a finger up to her. "One more visit, one more phone call, one more... anything, and I'll have you arrested for harassment. Am I clear?"

"Crystal."

"Good."

With that, Carlos stormed off toward his apartment, not looking back at the woman still standing, seething, in the parking lot.

"Just you wait, Carlos. With her out of the picture, you'll be heading straight back into my arms."

Carlos took another sip of coffee before putting his mug onto the dashboard of the Durango. Across the street was the warehouse that supplied the Singers' stores. The first truck of the day was being loaded and the driver, Tom Davis, appeared to be checking his paperwork. A few

minutes later, Davis got into the truck's cab and headed toward the first store.

Carlos trailed behind.

A few minutes into the drive Carlos's cell phone rang. Being on the case with Trent undercover necessitated him turning it on this day. He truly hoped that Christy had gotten the message last night and this wasn't her on the phone. He really didn't want to have her arrested.

"Hello?" he answered, trepidation in his voice.

Carlos, it's me. How's it going?

"Hey, Trent. Davis just left the warehouse and is heading your way," Carlos replied. "Who's working at the first store this morning?"

Gina and Stan are here. I'm doing some basic maintenance and cleaning.

"Better you than me, mano," Carlos remarked with a smile. "Truck should be there in about ten minutes or so."

Okay, I'll talk to you later.

Carlos ended the call and continued tailing the truck. And, just as it was supposed to do, ten minutes later it pulled into the loading dock of the Singers' first store. After parking near the end of the alleyway, Carlos got out of the Durango and headed toward the store, video camera in hand.

Finding a discreet location, though one with a view of the truck and dock area, Carlos began taping the unloading process.

Half an hour later, with the truck half empty, Tom Davis closed the truck's doors and headed for the second store. Carlos was just about to head back to the Durango when some movement from the side of the loading dock caught his eye. Moving the camera aim to follow his sight, Carlos

saw Gina Finch carrying several small boxes over to the dumpster and throw them in. It might not be anything suspicious at all, but they had to cover all their bases. Carlos got out his phone.

"Trent, it's me," he said after Trent answered his phone.

What's up? See anything?

"Maybe. Gina just threw some stuff into the dumpster. I need to follow Davis and the delivery truck. Why don't you see what Gina threw into the dumpster, okay?"

On my way down there now.

"Talk to you in a bit."

Carlos ended the call and returned to the Durango so he could follow the truck. He caught up to it fairly quickly, as it hadn't strayed from its route.

About five minutes later, his cell phone rang.

"Yeah," he answered briskly, still watching the truck as he drove. When he got no reply, he said, "Hello? Trent?" When he got no answer again, he ended the call.

The phone rang again and Carlos answered it again. This time it was Trent.

We have a winner!

"Gina?"

You pegged her. One of those boxes had some brand new cameras in it. "How you want to handle it?"

I'm taking the cameras back into the store now. I'll bring them up to Mr. Singer's office. Why don't you meet me back here with the video, okay?

"On my way."

Carlos turned the Durango around and headed back to the Singer's first store.

"Well, gentlemen," Mr. Singer began, "I knew you had a good reputation for getting the job done, but I never thought I'd see results so quickly!"

"We lucked out this morning, Mr. Singer," Trent replied. "Just happened that Gina liked what she saw in today's delivery."

"And since Mr. Simmons just confirmed that there are three cameras missing from the other store's shipment, I think we have all the proof you need," Carlos added.

"I know we do," Singer agreed. "And if you'll hang around for a little bit longer, long enough for me to give Ms. Finch her walking papers, I'll write you a check for your services."

"So, any more problems with Christy?" Trent asked as he and Carlos walked through the Uppercuts parking lot toward their office.

"So far, so good, today," Carlos replied. "She was waiting for me at my apartment last night. I gave her the ultimatum that if I got any more phone calls or visits and I'd have her arrested for harassment."

"And nothing yet?"

"Not yet. But..." He reached for the office door handle and paused.

"But you still don't think it's over?"

"Somehow, Trent... no," he answered.

Kim was waiting for them, her hand outstretched, as they entered the office.

"What?" Carlos asked.

"The check, please?" Kim replied, her hand making a "gimme" gesture.

"How'd you know we got a check already?" Trent asked.

"Because Mrs. Singer called, all gushy about you solving the case already. Now hand over the check. We've got bills to pay."

Trent shook his head, but dutifully handed over Mr. Singer's check to Kim.

"So what's next for us?" Carlos asked, dropping into his desk chair.

"Mrs. Singer will be by around seven," Kim replied.

"What?" Trent asked. "Why?"

"She still wants to hire you two to prove that her husband's been cheating on her. Especially now that she's got proof of how good you are!"

"Looks like you'll have to deal with her again, Carlos," Trent said. "You did such a good job turning her down last time that I know you can do it again."

"But..."

"And, I've got to teach a class at the dojo today. Sorry, buddy."

"But who says we've got to turn her down?"

"We just got done working for her husband, Carlos."

"Key word there, Trent: done."

"Kim?"

"I'm with Trent on this one, Carlos. I think it could get a bit sticky, if you know what I mean," she replied.

"So you just couldn't tell her this when she called?" Carlos asked, trying to get out of the job.

"Not my job," Kim said.

"Fine," Carlos conceded. "By the way, Kim, any phone calls from Christy today?"

"Actually, Carlos, now that I think about it, no. I guess you finally got through to her."

"Hey, Carlos, Trent. What's up?" Butch greeted him from the bar.

"Not much, Butch. Gotta meet with that Mrs. Singer again tonight and turn her down again," Carlos replied, sidling up to the bar.

"Even though you're not working for her husband anymore?" he asked, placing a beer down in front of Carlos.

"See? That's my thinking, too!" Carlos remarked. "I don't see a problem with it, but Trent here just keeps thinking that things'll get complicated and all. Even though they're two entirely different cases."

"It will!" Trent put in, exasperated over having gone over this subject with Carlos a dozen times.

"Maybe if there was a little more time in between?" Butch suggested.

"Now there's a thought," Carlos agreed, before taking a swig of beer.

"Maybe I'll tell her to come back next week or something like that."

"Tell who to come back?"

Carlos was startled by the voice and turned around on the barstool. He came face to face with Christy.

"Christy," Carlos said with a sigh.

"It's a public place, Carlos. I have every right to be here," she said before he could protest.

"Fine. Just go somewhere else, okay? I'm meeting a client here." He started to walk away from her, but she grabbed his arm.

"That same woman from the other night," Christy stated, looking Carlos straight in the eye.''

Carlos didn't know how Christy knew, but acknowledged her answer. "Yeah, not that it's any of your business. Like I said, she's a client." He pulled out of her grip.

"I don't believe you," Christy hissed. "You're lying."

Carlos took Christy by the arm and brought her toward the back door of the bar, hoping to talk to her a little more privately.

"Christy, why would I lie?" Carlos asked, truly dumbfounded.

"Deep down you know you belong with me, Carlos," she went on, ignoring his query. "Once that other woman is gone, you'll realize that."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute," Carlos murmured, getting a sick feeling in his stomach. "What are you talking about Christy? What are you going to do?" When she didn't reply right away, he asked her again, "What are you planning, Christy?"

"She's gonna learn not to take what's mine," Christy replied and pulled a gun out of her purse.

Carlos immediately made a grab for the weapon, but Christy had a good strong grip on the weapon. The two struggled, gaining the attention of Butch, Trent and some of the bar's patrons. When the gun fired, the resulting screams from the crowd were almost as loud.

"Carlos!" Trent yelled, seeing his friend jolt back from the power of the gunshot.

"Oh, God. Oh, God, Carlos!" Christy wailed, before dropping to her knees beside him.

Trent and Butch took a few steps towards the pair, wanting to come to Carlos's aid, but were halted when Christy looked up and pointed the gun at them.

"Stay back!" she ordered.

Butch halted his progress and put his hands out in a placating gesture.

"Now, Miss," he began. "I don't know what it is between you and Carlos, but you don't want to hurt nobody else."

"You don't know what I want!" she snarled.

Trent tried to talk to her, too. "Christy, shooting Carlos isn't going to get him to take you back."

Butch looked past her to his friend on the floor. There was a large bloodstain on Carlos's chest and it looked to be getting bigger.

"You came to hurt him, because he hurt you, right?" Butch surmised. "So now you've done what you came to do. You can put down that gun and just go on your way now."

They really needed to get to Carlos.

"I didn't mean to hurt him...It's all her fault. That little bitch that's been coming by to see him. It's her fault he's hurt!"

"Whose fault?" Butch asked.

"He was meeting with a client," Trent tried to explain, suddenly realizing that Christy thought Carlos was dating Mrs. Singer.

"It's true, Christy," Butch added.

"Please, Christy," Trent implored, "if you really didn't want to hurt Carlos then you've got to let us help him. Put down the gun."

"I'm not giving up! I want to see her face when she realizes just what she's caused!"

"She's not going to get in here," Trent countered. "The police are probably already outside."

The reality of the situation finally hit Christy and she sat back, away from Carlos. "I don't know what to do," she whispered.

"Start by letting us help Carlos," Butch suggested. "Let me get some towels to stop the bleeding."

"If you really love him as much as you think, you'll let us help him," Trent added.

Christy pondered their request as she kept the gun trained on them, preventing them from getting closer. Then she pointed the gun at Butch.

"Do it," she told him. "But no tricks."

Butch nodded before reaching back down behind the bar to grab the bin of clean dishtowels kept there. He brought it and some bottles of water out around to where Trent was standing. At the woman's nod, the two men made their way over to their fallen friend.

"Easy, Carlos," Trent whispered. "Try not to move around too much, okay, buddy?"

Trent watched as Butch tore open Carlos's shirt to get to the wound. High on the right side of his chest, just below his collarbone, was the bloody entry wound. As Butch pressed a towel down to try to stop the flow of blood, Carlos let out a loud painful scream and tried to squirm away from

Butch's strong hands.

"I'm sorry, Carlos, but we gotta stop the bleeding," he said, trying to calm down his young friend. To Trent, he added, I can feel the bones movin' underneath here. I think that bullet broke his collarbone, maybe his shoulder, too."

"Carlos, did you hear that?" Trent asked, putting a soothing hand to Carlos's forehead. "You've got broken bones, buddy. You've gotta keep still."

Carlos turned his head toward Trent's voice and immediately regretted it, as a wave of dizziness and nausea overcame him. Carlos let out a painful moan. "Trent?" he managed to get out, the one word sounding like a whimper.

"I'm right here, buddy," Trent replied, grasping Carlos'shand. "I'm not goin' anywhere."

"Hurts!"

"I know, I know," he soothed. "And we're gonna do the best we can to get you out of this mess. In fact, all I need is a little distraction," he added, looking at Butch.

Butch met his gaze and nodded in understanding.

"Sit tight, Carlos," Butch said. "And hold on tight, too," he added, placing Carlos's left hand over the towels covering his wound.

Rising from the floor, Butch picked up one of the water bottles. The two men took a couple of steps closer to Christy before she realized it and brought the gun up to aim at them once again.

"Christy," Trent began, "You know the best way to get out of this is to surrender. And the sooner you do it, the better off Carlos will be. He's bleeding a lot. Too much to last very long."

Before Christy could reply, Butch tossed the water bottle towards her, and in the split seconds she was distracted, Trent was able to kick the gun out of her hand. The two men then descended upon the woman and brought her to the floor, kicking and screaming.

One of the bar's patrons quickly removed his belt and handed it to Trent to use to bind her hands. Another had picked up the gun. Trent motioned for him to place it on the bar. Once Christy was immobilized, Butch took her to the front door of the bar and handed her off to the waiting police

officers while Trent returned to Carlos's side.

"It's over, Carlos," he said, adding pressure to the wound again.

"Carlos?" he called when he got no response.

Panicked, Trent quickly felt Carlos's neck for a pulse. He sighed in relief when he found one, but knew enough that his best friend was still in danger.

"We need medics in here!" he shouted.

It was several hours later, when Trent and Butch were finally able to leave the police station, after giving their statements about the incident, and head to the hospital. Kim met them outside the surgical waiting room and greeted both men with a hug.

"He's still in there," she said, sitting back down.

Trent moved to the couch and sank down heavily onto it, leaning over to rest his elbows on his knees, putting his face into his hands.

"He'll be fine," Butch spoke up, choosing not to sit, but walk around the small room, instead. "That Carlos, he's a fighter. You know?"

The three waited another two hours, some of it sitting, some of it pacing, but all of it praying, until the surgeon came to talk to them. All three rose to meet the man. All waited silently for him to speak.

"He's stable," the doctor began. After the three friends let out relieved sighs, he continued, "He's still in serious condition, though. He was shot at close range; there was a lot of damage."

"But he's gonna be okay, right?" Kim asked.

"As long as there are no complications," the doctor replied.

"When can we see him?" Trent asked.

"Probably not for a few more hours. He's headed for recovery now, and then he'll be in ICU for a bit," the doctor replied.

"Sounds like we might as well head home and try to get some shut-eye then," Butch put in, getting a nod from the doctor. "We'll come back first thing in the mornin' to see him."

Trent and Kim nodded, albeit reluctantly, to Butch's suggestion.

"Thanks, Doc," Butch said, offering his hand.

Trent sat and watched the rise and fall of his friend's chest. Or, at least, what he could see of it. Carlos's upper chest and right arm were bound up tight, between the bandages and dressings covering the surgical openings and bullet wound and the contraption immobilizing his arm and

shoulder, keeping him from inflicting more damage or pain.

His mind kept replaying the events in the bar. How an innocent little relationship gone bad had almost gone deadly. He winced as the gunshot echoed in his head. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, slumping down further in the chair.

He'd talked to Detective Ryan at Dallas PD before coming to the hospital. While not his or Carlos's favorite person in the police department, Ryan was handling the case, and would have information about Christy. The detective told him that Christy was being held and evaluated at the local psychiatric center. At least she'll be getting some help, Trent thought.

A movement and a groan caught Trent's attention. He opened his eyes and looked at his best friend.

"Hey, Carlos," he called quietly, getting Carlos's attention.

It wasn't the first time Carlos had awoken that morning. The first few times he'd been disoriented and confused and needed the quiet reassurances of his friend. The last time he'd seemed a bit more with it, but almost immediately had gone back to sleep.

"Trent," Carlos murmured in greeting, his voice raspy.

"The one and only," Trent replied.

"Thirsty."

Trent offered Carlos some ice chips to soothe his sore throat. After a few spoonfuls Carlos closed his eyes and Trent thought he'd gone back to sleep.

But just as Trent went to sit down again, Carlos asked, "Christy?"

"She's being held at the psych center," Trent replied.

"Me?"

Trent didn't miss the fact that Carlos was only speaking one word at a time.

"You're gonna be just fine, buddy," he said, gently patting Carlos's good shoulder. "Now why don't you go back to sleep, now, okay?"

A few weeks later, Carlos sat uncomfortably outside a courtroom. He, Butch and Trent had already given their testimonies, relating what had happened in Uppercuts that fateful night and were awaiting the judge's decision about whether Christy would be charged criminally.

He moved a little bit to his left, hoping to get more comfortable, but let out a hiss of pain anyway. While he'd been released from the hospital, he wasn't close to being completely healed. He still wore the brace that kept his right arm and shoulder immobilized and would probably

be having at least one more surgery to reconstruct and stabilize his collarbone and pick out more of the shattered bone fragments.

And if the physical pain wasn't enough, the mental anguish was almost as bad. He kept wondering if there was anything he could have done or said differently that would have prevented Christy's actions. Maybe he should have just given in to her demands...

"You did the right thing, Carlos," Trent said, somehow picking up on Carlos's thoughts. "It would have just gotten worse, for both of you."

"Not to mention Mrs. Singer," Butch added.

"What do you think is gonna happen to Christy?" Kim asked.

"I don't know," Trent replied. "Hopefully, she'll get some kind of counseling, wherever she goes."

Half an hour later, District Attorney Alex Cahill stepped out of the courtroom. When Carlos tried to rise to greet her, she gently pushed him back down.

"No, Carlos, you sit," she said, taking a seat next to him, turning to face him.

"So? What happened?" Trent asked, when Carlos didn't.

"Well, her defense attorney tried to get everything dismissed, of course," Alex began. "But the answering machine tapes provided a lot of evidence. I think she'll be spending a bit of time at the State Psychiatric Hospital."

Carlos let out an audible sigh of relief. "Good," he whispered.

Just then, the doors to the courtroom opened again and the court officers led Christy out.

"Carlos!" she cried, trying to break free of the officers' hold to get to him.

Carlos's friends all took defensive positions in front of Carlos, shielding him from Christy, but luckily did not have to act, as the officers maintained control and got her out of the building. All the while she kept screaming his name.

They turned back to see a pale, stricken Carlos on the verge of hyperventilating.

"Easy, buddy," Trent soothed, kneeling in front of Carlos, rubbing his good arm. "It's okay, she's gone."

"For good," Alex added.

After a few minutes, Carlos calmed down.

"You gonna be okay now?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, sure. Nothing a few months of pain killers and therapy won't cure, right?" he replied, flippant.

But Trent saw behind the fa├žade. "Carlos?"

After a few moments, Carlos responded, "I just can't get over it, I guess. I mean, you hear about this kind of stuff all the time, see it on the movie of the week or something. But to have someone so obsessed with you... it's scary."

"I know, Carlos," Trent said. "But we've talked about this before, remember? You've got friends that'll be here for you. No matter what."

"No matter what," Butch and Kim echoed.