Storm By HollyC
Disclaimer:- This is a work of fan fiction. I am borrowing the ideas and characters and using them for no profit. First Wave Title and Characters are the property of First Wave Productions, Larry Sugar, Chris Brancato, Peace Arch, Francis Ford Coppla and Pearson Television.
This little tale takes place after Motel California. Cade is injured and in need of help.
Spoilers for Motel California.
Yet another" plot what plot? "story focussing on the relationship between Mary and Cade
Plenty of angst and introspection.
I hope you enjoy it.
Hitching his black bag into a more comfortable position on his right shoulder, Cade paused to turn and give one last look over the impressive mansion that had caused him so much pain over the past couple of days. It loomed bleak and forbidding framed by a darkening sky the opaque glass of the windows endowing it with a sinister air. Cade winced as the movement jarred the wound in his side and with the pain came the memory of the beautiful young Gua slicing at him with the shiny long bladed knife followed by the grotesque mental picture of the relish with which she licked his blood off the steel edge. He shuddered involuntarily, knowing that this memory would remain with him for a long time, a reminder of his own vulnerability and the heartlessness of the Gua.
Whilst it was happening, the hallucinatory experience had been frightening in the way it took away all control from him and robbed him of free will. Yet, at the same time the dream world had been strangely compelling in that it promised to fulfil his deepest desire-for the authorities to recognise the truth about the aliens. Despite the fact that he had felt real pain from the knife and that it had almost incapacitated him, he'd felt utter satisfaction when the policemen saw the girl ripple and reveal her non-human self. That relief had felt all too real, all too seductive because of what it promised: an end to fighting alone, an end to unjust accusations and the hope of a proper investigation into Hannah's murder. Cade knew how fortunate he was to have survived, to have pierced the fog of the hallucination and expose another Gua experiment. And now that it was all over, he merely felt emptiness inside and a weariness that threatened to overpower him.
But it had not been without risk, he admitted wryly to himself as another twinge made him pause to catch his breath and rub at his side. Now that the adrenaline rush was fading the severity of his injury was becoming apparent. He brought his left hand up to his face where it glistened redly in the gloom and a rush of nausea hit him unexpectedly causing him to halt at the roadside, and to bend over and rest his forearms along his thighs till the unpleasant sensation passed. He knew he ought to put some pressure on the cut before it became a problem and impeded his escape. If it wasn't for the fact that he needed to get far away from the Inn and the approaching police, he would have rested longer where he was and administered some rudimentary first aid to himself at the same time calling for Eddie on his cell phone to summon his help too. He shivered, aware suddenly that the temperature had changed and that the lack of light was caused more by an approaching storm than the onset of dusk. He felt the urgency to progress along the road a considerable way before the rain began to fall. Ignoring the growing discomfort in his side he pushed on, drawing on all of his reserves of determination and strength-he couldn't let the Gua get to him now, not after all he had been through. He could not afford to let the police get him either, not after he had managed to slip away unnoticed when they were questioning the other people at the Inn. What conclusions would the police reach? He had destroyed their machinery but the fake smoke detectors were still there, and the Bull hunter could testify to having hallucinations, as could Mary. Would they be believed? Cade felt that was an unlikely scenario, although he was gathering a following of believers, none of them were in positions of authority.
It had been reassuring to meet Mary; for the first time since Hannah's death, he had talked to someone who had been through a similar experience. She had not told him the details of James' death, he doubted his death had been murder, but he knew that on a deeper level Mary was someone who could empathise with his loss. She knew what it felt like to go to bed alone each night under cold sheets with no promise of a warm body to comfort you and hold you. She knew what it was like to think, 'I must tell my love that when I get home', only to be brought up short by the realisation that there would be no more conversations or jokes, or storytelling with the only person in the world who truly understood you. She knew what it was like to have lost the only person who could read your mind, who had the uncanny ability to know what you were about to say even before you did. She knew that there would be no children with your loved one's smile. He could see the loss that was ever-present in his own eyes reflected in hers. He'd felt so sorry for her when he saw how distressed she had been to discover that her night with him had been a mere illusion. The look of profound loss in her eyes and pierced his soul. He knew how that felt.
He would have liked to have talked more with
Mary. But then that was the story of his life such as it was since he had taken
on the mantel of the twice blessed man: wandering from town to town,
essentially rootless, only making sporadic and vicarious contact with other
people, never having time to really get to know them. The simple pleasures of
casual conversation, of flirting, of discovering things you held in common were
denied him now. The only constant in his life at the moment, apart from the
ever-present Gua, was Eddie, his reliable and solid paranoid friend.
His thoughts about Mary kept his mind off the pain for a while. He had found her attractive and from what she had told him about her hallucination, she had been attracted to him also. However, he would not have wanted to pursue a relationship with her, not even under different circumstances. No, he was still in love with Hannah too much that to even consider another woman was tantamount to having an affair. He would not be unfaithful to Hannah, not even in his mind, and that resolution could only serve to augment his loneliness. Anyway, he had already resigned himself to the fact that his bizarre lifestyle would prohibit any permanent personal relationships let alone another marriage. How could he even begin to consider starting and raising a family in a world that teetered on the brink of a second wave? How could he expect any woman to commit herself to a man whose life was controlled by a hundred plus year old set of prophesies? He had no free will of his own anyway, did he? Gua control or Nostradamus control, a rock and a hard place and he was the trapped insect.
Several cars passed by him as he walked by the side of the road deep in thought, thankfully, none of them were police and he was far away from the Inn when the rain finally did start. By that time, he was passing through a wooded area and he took shelter beneath a group of heavily branched trees, which would suffice to keep him dry whilst he saw to his sluggishly bleeding side. He paused at the side of the road to retrieve a water bottle from his bag. For some reason he was feeling extremely thirsty and soon emptied it. The bottle fell forgotten to the roadside as he wearily plodded to the haven of the trees.
Cade fell heavily to the ground, his bag flopping from his shoulder to rest beside him, spilling some of its contents onto the dry earth. He sat, legs folded propped against a tree trunk and waited for his vision to clear, idly wondering when the irritating buzzing in his head had started. The tap tap of the rain on the umbrella leaves above him sounded like a dinner gong. He moaned. He was sure the cut had only been a flesh wound, so why did he hurt so much? He did not dare look. After a few deep breaths had calmed his racing heart, he reached over from his slumped position to rummage around in the bag for a spare T-shirt with the arm that was not clutching his side. It took several attempts because his blurring vision led him to misjudge the distance from his arm to the bag and leaning across his body aggravated the injury. His objective finally attained, Cade wadded the T into a tight sausage shape and pushed it against his side just below the breastbone. There was nothing in his bag with which to secure it, he would have to hold it in place himself with his elbow and hope it would work. With luck Eddie would soon be along to fix him up.
Eddie. He realised that Eddie was probably waiting for him at the original rendezvous point some distance away. He needed to call him but the cellular was in the bag. His heart sank at the thought of making the effort again. He slowly turned his head to look at the half emptied bag and wondered if he had the strength left to reach over to it. The buzzing in his head seemed to be impeding his ability to not only think clearly, but move efficiently too. He took some more deep breaths; willing the influx of oxygen to energize him, give him the will to achieve his aim. It seemed to take hours but Cade finally had the phone in his hands and tried to punch the numbers in through hazy vision breathing heavily with exertion. He lifted the phone to his right ear and leant his head back against the knobbly surface of the tree trunk; his eyes were closing of their own accord.
Eddie could always be relied upon to answer immediately and this time was no exception. "Foster, that you?"
Cade's eyes snapped open and he managed to gasp out a word of acknowledgement before wincing as a fresh wash of pain rippled through his stomach and he had to lean over and retch losing his grip on the handset as he did so. The phone squealed at him,
"Foster, man...what's going on? Where are you? Foster!"
For a few seconds he
could only hunch over his side pressing the t-shirt tightly against the knife
wound as the trembling took hold. When he finally calmed down, Cade managed
with a great effort to pick up the cell phone and soothe Eddie's fears.
He ran a dry tongue around his lips and grimaced at the sourness he tasted there. "S'okay, I'm okay but I'm hurt a bit." Cade began then paused again as another wave of dizziness hit him. He fought back another urge to puke. "I'm in some woods Eddie, about a couple of miles from the Inn, south of it I think." He paused to take in a shuddering breath, and added faintly, "Hurry, Eddie. Feel so sick."
Cade could hear the concern in his friend's voice as he coaxed, "Okay, Foster, listen to me. Leave your cell phone on and I will try to get a fix on your position from its signal. You got that?"
Cade nodded feebly at his unseen friend, "Foster, answer me, tell me you understood."
Eddie's voice came at him, more urgent now, "Stay with me buddy and stay where you are."
Swallowing dryly Cade managed a feeble, "Okay Eddie, I'll do that. Yeh, just as soon as I've had a little rest," as the phone slipped to the damp grass through his bloodied fingers.
The rain was falling so heavily now that it had started to penetrate the covering of leaves and coat the figure slumped beneath with a layer of moisture. Cade lifted a weary hand to brush a trickle of water from his forehead and his eyes closed slowly as exhaustion overcame the pain and sleep claimed him. The phone rested in the undergrowth Eddie's voice squawking from it unheard, "Foster, stay awake, don't go to sleep, you hear me? ...Damnit, Foster!"
The rain was lashing down harder, and Peter Adams; erstwhile assistant in a failed Gua hallucination experiment cursed and released the pressure of his foot off the gas pedal. He had been following the sedan car for almost an hour but now she seemed to have pulled too far ahead for him to be able to see her taillights. If he fell behind too much there was the risk of her taking a turning off the road and then he would lose her. He needed to keep with her because she was his only lead to the other guest at the hotel, Cade Gilmore-the one who had sustained the knife wound, the one who had resisted and then sabotaged their experiment. He needed to catch Gilmore in order to redeem himself in the eyes of the Assembly.
He turned up the heater, put the demister on
full thinking how ironic it was that they had used a storm as an excuse for the
out of order phones and now here was a real storm complete with light show, and
drum roll. He leaned forward over the steering wheel and rubbed at the
windshield in the vain hope that might clear his view. But all he could make
out was the whiteness of the rain as it pounded the bonnet of the car. If it
got any worse, he'd have to stop. He still could not work out how Gilmore had
managed to work out about the ELF waves or how he'd managed to fight his own
hallucinations. It had been a greater shock to see Anna lose the fight with
this stranger. It must have been Gilmore who called the police yet he had been
as hasty as Adams in making an escape before the officer saw him. He'd hidden
in the trees until the police had gone and Mary had climbed into her car. He'd
given her a head start so as not to arouse suspicion, but had begun to fall
back as the weather worsened: she was a much more adept driver than he'd
expected her to be. Now it was going to be really difficult to pickup her
trail. He cursed his bad fortune for ever getting involved in that stupid
experiment. Never again, he promised himself, never. He pacified himself with thoughts of what he would do to Gilmore
when he caught him and this brought a smile to his beautiful husk's lips. He was determined to not let this one get
The twice-blessed man was so deeply asleep that he did not hear the approaching car, nor did he hear the door open and close and the footsteps as they advanced then stopped before him.
The figure crouched to get a closer look, taking in the spiked up hair, the bloodied hands, the makeshift bandage, then let out a small gasp as she recognised his pale face.
"Cade," she whispered. When he did not respond she shook his shoulder as gently as she could, "Cade, it's Mary."
The sound of her voice penetrated the fug of his slumber, he grunted, and with a struggle forced his eyes open to look at her. Mary was regarding him with concern, "You're hurt," she commented dryly.
Smiling weakly at her, Cade indicated his middle with a bow of his head. He moaned in response to the round of firecrackers the small movement set off in his head.
"Keep still, let me see."
Mary pulled his hand from where it was clamped to his waist and gingerly lifted away the sodden T-shirt. Her mouth twisted in concentration as she examined the cut; a lateral slice at least 6 inches long, possibly deep enough to have torn through muscle and the edges wide enough apart to require stitches maybe even a nicked rib. She winced at the thought of how painful it must be particularly as it was still oozing blood and even to her untutored eye appeared sore and inflamed indicating a possible infection. She made no comment about it to her suffering companion, just raised her free hand and felt his forehead. He flinched at her touch and letting out an involuntary moan pushed her hand away. She clasped that hand in her own noting how clammy it felt, she held it tight.
"I'm no nurse, Cade, but this looks serious, I think I should drive you to a hospital and get it checked over. You need stitches."
Cade sucked in a breath with a tight noise of pain and gasped out a whispered, "No." He pulled the makeshift bandage from her fingers and pressed it back against the wound, "No hospital, and no doctor."
She scowled back at him not knowing how to respond. Maybe it was masculine pride that made him refuse her help or the fever had made him distrustful. Or could he still be hallucinating? Even though she hardly knew him, she'd felt she could trust him; they had things in common after all. And when he had left the Inn suddenly just as the police arrived, she had worried about him knowing he was injured. As soon as she had finished talking to a sceptical police officer, she had loaded the trunk and driven off in search of him. It was sheer luck that she had found him; she was driving very slowly because of the rain and had already decided to pull over when she saw an object by the side of the road. Out of curiosity she had got out to look at it and had immediately seen Cade Gilmore sleeping under the trees close by.
She was pulled out of her reverie by Cade's voice muttering something about Eddie. His eyes were half closed again as if he were readying himself for sleep. She shook his shoulder again to rouse him, "Don't go to sleep, Cade. We've got to get into my car, you're getting soaked."
She was pleased to see him respond to her comments by pulling his jacket in closer. He'd opened his eyes but they appeared to be glassy and unfocussed. She felt his head again then tutted softly. "Got to get you up and over to the car. Come on Cade help me here."
She planted her feet between his legs bent her knees and tried to hook her hands under his armpits to lever him to an upright position but for some reason he was resisting and still muttering. Uncomfortably, she bent closer to hear, all the while clinging on to him under his arms, "Wait for Eddie, don't move. No hospitals, no doctors. Eddie's on his way."
Cade's struggles grew fiercer until he managed to wrest himself from her grip to collapse against the tree again where he leant pale and breathy for a second before sliding back down to a crouch. Mary sat next to him, almost despairing, rubbing a hand through her wet hair. Reasoning with him was not going to work at this point as obviously he could only think of this Eddie and waiting for him. She watched the rain drizzle down for a few moments before remembering she had a first aid kit in the glove box. Maybe with a couple of Advil in him, Cade would be more rational and have the strength to get himself into the car where she could get him into dry clothes and patch up the wound.
"Cade listen to me, I'm going to the car. I'll be back." She studied his face to make sure he had understood.
He met her gaze and his
eyes seemed to clear as he nodded, "Mary," he whispered lifting a
hand to her hair, "you're all wet." He brought the hand to his eyes
and studied the raindrops on it like a child examining an insect.
"It's raining," she stood and crossed to the car, casting a glance over her shoulder to make sure he wasn't going to bolt or faint. Satisfied that he was staying put she quickly opened up the trunk to retrieve water and a blanket then from the glove box she withdrew a small medical box. Because she traveled a lot, she liked to keep it well stocked so she knew it was full of bandages and antibiotic cream. She felt confident that she could patch him up enough to get him to a hospital if he'd let her. The rain was falling harder now, if the storm set in then it would be sometime before she'd be able to drive. She decided to move the car off the road completely and nearer to where Cade rested.
After drinking the water, Cade seemed a bit more lucid and cooperated enough to take the pills and allow Mary to wrap the blanket around his shoulders. This time when she tried to help him to his feet, he did not resist and they made it to the car in short order. She also made sure she fetched his bag, scooping all its splayed contents in to it before picking it up. There were some things that she did not recognize and the soft porn magazine in particular puzzled her. He had seemed such a clean-cut guy that finding such an item was out of keeping with his character and she was unable to hide her disappointment. Cade was not aware of her distaste, he was too engrossed in insisting she checked at least twice to make sure the phone was there and switched on.
Once she had him settled in the front of the car, she switched on the interior light, reclined the seat until he was almost horizontal then from her position kneeling in the driver's seat leaned over and helped him shrug awkwardly out of his jacket. It was like trying to remove clothes from an uncooperative baby. That done she pulled away the T-shirt from where he clasped it tightly against his left ribs. Cade held his breath as she did so; the blood had partially dried and had stuck the t-shirt to his skin. He gasped as it came away.
"Sorry, I had to do that. I'll clean it up now and you should start to feel a bit better."
He grimaced at her, not having the strength to draw breath to speak, just watched her as she opened the first aid box and searched for what she needed. He kept very quiet as she cleaned up the wound with antiseptic wipes, smoothed on anti biotic cream then cut up some tape into thin strips to make butterfly stitches. These she used to secure the edges of the wound after she had drawn them together. Cade's face lost all color as she performed this procedure and his eyelids fluttered as he fought to stay alert breathing quickly through a haze of pain. Nevertheless, he made no sound as she strapped on a dressing and secured it with tape as tightly as he could bear. By the time she was done, he was paler than ever and beads of sweat covered his face but he was still struggling to stay conscious. He was afraid that if he let his guard down she would take him to a hospital or to a doctor and then Eddie would never find him.
She cut away the remains of his t-shirt with difficulty as he was too weak to help her now then she folded the blanket over him running a finger over his bare throat unconsciously. He smiled gratefully at her, finally managing to rasp out thanks, and she smiled in return and held his gaze for a moment breaking it only when the memory of her hallucination came back to her in a rush. She reddened and turned away to distract herself by turning on the engine and putting the heater on full to dry them both out. Cade reached out and grasped her wrist, "Mary," he whispered. She turned back to meet the intensity of his stare, "Mary it was out of your control, it was an hallucination." It was as if he'd read her mind.
"Who are you?" she asked quietly.
He looked as if he was
carefully considering an answer, "A man who is very grateful to you,"
He lifted his hand from her wrist and stroked her chin gently, then moved his
fingers to wipe away the tears trickling from her eyes. "You really are
beautiful, don't you know it's time to stop feeling guilty for liking other
men. It's time to stop mourning."
Pulling his hand away from hers, she tucked it under the blanket, "You need to keep warm, and try not to talk, conserve your strength, you have a fever."
She turned off the interior light hoping the darkness would help him sleep.
She hoped the damp hadn't penetrated Cade's skin too much, in his vulnerable state he could be at risk of developing pneumonia. She wondered if she had her supply of Goldenseal root with her, it was a good herbal anti biotic and would probably help his immune system fight off anything nasty. If so, it would be in the trunk with some of her clothes. There would probably be something there that would fit Cade if she could manage to get him out of his own remaining garments. But that would have to wait till he recovered from her ministrations, the poor man looked exhausted. She peered through the windshield to the outside where the rain was pounding harder, a flash of light lit the interior of the car up like a strobe and she saw Cade jump at the accompanying crash of thunder. He raised a hand to his head and moaned. Reaching over she stroked his forehead, "Shhh." He seemed to relax at her touch and soon his breathing evened out as he slipped into sleep.
The trilling of the cell phone roused Mary from her dreams; she bolted up in the car seat and looked around her, temporarily disorientated. She was sure she was in the hotel bedroom cuddled up against the most divine looking man she had seen since James-a man who catered to her every need, who knew what she wanted almost before she did; the perfect partner. The sheer comfort of another body beside hers, the sensation of his fingers smoothing her lips, the soft moistness of his breath against her neck, the sensuality of his sighs, the warmth of his skin against hers had been so soothing after so many months alone that she never wanted the feeling to end. Then as she took in the car windshield streaming with rain, the sleeping man breathing heavily beside her and the noise of the phone, reality came at her in a rush and she began to weep. When the ringing finally penetrated her sobs, she reached over the seat and hooked it out of Cade's bag. She studied it, debating what to do, what sort of people would be phoning Cade? She came to a decision and pressed the answer button but allowed the caller to talk first, "Foster," a man's voice rumbled at her.
"There's no Foster here," she looked over at her sleeping companion and scowled, could it be…?
"Whoever you are I want to know what you've done with him. Who are you? Where's Cade?"
The speaker was obviously concerned, she could tell from the way his voice broke on the last two words as if he were overcome with emotion.
"Cade?" Mary felt like a fool, "Cade Gilmore is with me here in my car."
"If you've hurt him-"
The sentence was unfinished but Mary knew it for a threat and her heart skipped a beat. Who were these people? What had she gotten herself involved in? Only people who were up to no good would use assumed names and carry magazines like Naughty But Nice in their bag.
"Damnit," the phone was growling, "I shoulda known…okay Miss whoever you are. I'm Eddie. I know he's injured, I'm trying to find him, he's my friend. Put him on the phone."
"Eddie?" Mary calmed her fears, "He was talking about you, said he had to wait for you to find him. He got hurt in a fight at the Inn but I just fixed him up. It's a knife wound and now I think he has a fever but he's asleep and I don't really want to wake him up."
On his end of the line Eddie nodded, "Okay, stay where you are, I have a fix on the phone, I reckon I'm about five miles from you. I'm going to wait for the road to clear a bit then I'll be on my way to you, look out for a classic gray caddie. And hey…what's your name?"
Mary told him. "Thanks for looking after my friend." Then the line went dead.
Mary stared at the cellular for a few seconds, wondering about this stranger in her car. He had given her and the people at the Inn a false name; his real name was Foster, not Gilmore. What other lies had he told her? Was the story about his wife false too, a ploy to get her sympathies? And if so to what end? For all she knew he could have been behind her hallucinations, he had left the Inn suspiciously before the police could see him. Was she even safe alone with him? She wondered if maybe she should push him out of the car and leave him at the roadside before he had chance to hurt her, or should she just confront him with her knowledge? It was difficult to decide especially as when she looked at his face distorted in pain or nightmare, all she could see was innocence. He had struck her as so sincere, so trustworthy. She often relied on her instincts; that was part of her job after all, and her instincts had told her she could trust this man. He had saved her life in the Inn, hadn't he? He'd stopped the man with the rifle from shooting her in her room. She had him to thank for that whatever his name was. No, she knew she could not abandon this man vulnerable as he now was because she owed him.
Maybe he had a good explanation for having a false name and avoiding the police, she could always ask him. Her thoughts were interrupted by a groan from the subject of her musings. Cade was shifting in his sleep and had thrown off the blanket to reveal his bare chest; he looked just as he had in her hallucination. Automatically she reached a hand towards him till it hovered over his throat from where she could feel the heat radiating. He was burning up. His skin where she gently touched it was clammy, his temperature had to be lowered or he'd be in danger of having a seizure and she'd never be able to cope with that. She turned off the car heater, peered through the side window, and saw that the rain was easing off enough to allow her to go to the trunk to fetch more water, the goldenseal root and the garment bag.
There was a body close by; a woman's body, almost as long as he, stretched out on the matting. He bent over it with caution and studied the head intently through sleep misted eyes and noted the black curly hair tumbling in ringlets past the ears, the long supple neck which he had kissed so many times. Hannah.
He felt her throat; no pulse throbbed there with the promise of life though the skin in his palm was still warm. All sounds including approaching sirens faded into insignificance replaced by the lament of his screams. He was not even aware of the pounding at the door, the gruff shouts of the police officers as they broke in, their demands of him to stand away. He clung to her desperately, kissed her unresponsive lips, bathed her in his tears. He felt as if he could weep forever and never let her go.
Then all too soon there were strong arms encircling him, parting him from his dearest love, commanding him in a language that could have been Swahili for all he understood of it. Then his head cleared and he felt an urgency to flee as old instincts took over automatically. Riding the surge of adrenalin, he kicked and punched his way out of the room and soon found himself on the street running, still sobbing.
He was in a courtroom, old woody aroma filling his nose, mingled with the smell of sweat, of sweet perfume and dusty books. Again his voice drowned out all other sounds, "Not guilty, I didn't do it, the aliens killed her, replaced her with a monster with tentacles. They are going to take over the earth. I didn't kill her. I love her."
He stared at them, a sea of open mouths, their collective chant drowning out his protestation of innocence, "Wife killer, lock him up, wife killer, throw away the key, wife killer, insane."
White walls, bright light casting no shadow, padded floor, white everywhere like a snow scene and just as peaceful. White pills, little circles of dullness, brain numbers, all palmed. Men and women like snowmen, talking about him as if he had no ears to hear, no eyes to see them. He was invisible to them, that's why they didn't see him sneak away the pills, hide the sliver of wire, cut through his fetters. Subject 117, that's me, he thought. No name, the invisible wife killer.
Out in a corridor now, staring at a camera and pointing in defiance, "I know you're here," I know and I'll fight as long as I can breathe, I'll fight you. Out of the building now and running, feet pounding the earth, fists clenched, heart racing to catch up, into a trailer park. Hammering on the trailer door, the sky a dark smudge all around, then the door opening on creaky hinges, lit from behind a maggoty death mask stares at him in Eddie's pajamas. Why is Death wearing Eddie's pajamas?
Then everything went black.
The slam of the car door closing woke Cade from his uncomfortable sleep. He lay stiffly for a few moments stretched out on the front seat listening warily to the rain spitting on the roof and tried to work out where he was trying to remember the dream that had left him feeling so uneasy. His mind was fuzzy and his thoughts refused to cohere, this was something he'd gotten used too in his dealings with the Gua, this waking up with no memory, in a state of bewilderment. He often felt like Alice did in Wonderland, things were turned upside down and inside out, and nothing made sense. His body ached like he'd been stamped on all over, and there in his burning side was an annoying twinge. He tried to review his last conscious minutes but the pounding in his skull interfered too much; it was no use, he just could not clear his mind. So instead, he stilled his heart and breathing, conquered the pain and listened. There was movement, the seat was shaking gently; it sounded and felt like he was in a stationary car. He could smell that vinyl/plastic smell that is so characteristic of modern models, the smell of old toys. His left side was hurting like hell but he did not dare peek at it, and he felt shivery and hot together. His lips were parched and his stomach and bladder ached. It was no use he was going to have to try to move. Cautiously he lifted his eyelids a fraction and confirmed that he was indeed in an unfamiliar car. Opening his eyes wider, he remarked that he was partially blanketed and naked to the waist and he could not for the life of him remember who had undressed him. He gingerly checked his upper body for electrodes then finding none sighed relief at the absence of Gua interference. He pushed away the soft blanket and levered himself into sitting position by grabbing the door handle and pulling. Big mistake, Cade, he chided himself, for the movement brought forth an involuntary yelp of agony as an electric shock centred in his injured side jolted through his body. He leaned against the glove box shivering weakly, head in hands. Suddenly a blast of humid air hit him as the passenger door opened and a woman's face appeared in the gap concerned and angry at the same time. He tone of her voice was soft even though the words were harsh.
"What are you trying to do? Kill yourself?"
Cade's reply was automatic, "Gotta go…you know." He hoped she understood what he meant because he did not want to disgrace himself and it looked at that moment like he was never going to manage without her help.
Nodding at him, she crossed to the driver's door and placed the bundle she was carrying onto the seat there, then returned to his side of the car. Cade followed her with his eyes as far as he could without moving his pounding head.
"I hope you are going to be more co operative than you were before when I tried to get you in here."
"Just help me, will you?" Cade mumbled as he swung his legs over the sill and onto the wet ground. She fussed with the blanket, ensuring it was protecting him from the drizzle, and then drew his left arm over her shoulder to give him leverage. Cade cursed himself for his weakness, why wouldn't his legs support him properly? He felt like his nerves had been jellified in his sleep. He hoped she hadn't been the one to undress him. The woman was staring at him again, becoming aware that he had forgotten her.
"Cade, it's Mary, remember? "
The memory came back with the force of a tornado, "S'okay," he reassured her, after a beat, "I was just a bit confused when I woke up, hurting too much to think straight. Bad dream I think. But I can make it now, I'm feeling stronger."
She smiled at his attempt at bravado and tried to take more of his weight as they staggered together to the trees. He managed to prop himself up enough to take care of the business of relieving his aching bladder whilst Mary returned to the car for the herbs. He was struggling to fasten his pants when she returned.
"Your friend Eddie rang, he's on his way, I want you to take this Goldenseal, it's like an antibiotic. You are showing signs of an infection. "
Cade leant back against the tree and studied the herb suspiciously but took it anyway, he knew Mary was no Gua, she'd been subjected to the same experiment as he, it was just his regular paranoia kicking in for a second. He swallowed it with the water she offered and followed it with more painkillers. Mary took the opportunity of examining his knife wound since he was in a standing position. As she pulled away the bandage, he peeked at it too. It was still red and swollen but at least the bleeding had stopped thanks to the makeshift stitches. Mary remarked that the bandages had been disturbed during his sleep and that she would have to change them and that it would be easier for her to do so out here where there was more room. He held his breath as she unwound the dressing, her touch was so gentle he soon realised he had nothing to fear from her, she would take good care of him whatever. Whilst she redressed his injury, he finished off the bottle of water; the fever had augmented his thirst to the point that his throat was raw and his voice husky.
Once she had finished, he allowed her to help him back to his seat in the car where she thrust a thermometer into his mouth telling him she wanted to know how high his fever was. Cade was too exhausted to make any sarcastic response, instead he just lay there and watched through slitted eyes as she fussed over the readings, dabbled a bit more water onto his lips then searched around for a cloth to dampen.
"I'm going to try to get your temperature down, I don't have much more Advil so I'm going to try the old fashioned cool sponge method."
Cade looked at her curiously,
"What?" She asked.
"You would make a great Mom," he whispered grasping her hand.
Turning from him in embarrassment, she reached for his discarded T-shirt, poured water onto it, and began to bathe his forehead, his eyes, his cheeks, his neck and his throat in an attempt to cool him down. Cade relaxed beneath her touch, still clinging to her hand, revelling in the feeling of being cared for so completely. The bunched up wet T-shirt lingered over his chest as she replayed the hallucination in her mind, almost caressing his nipples until contact with the bandage brought her back to reality. She was having great difficulty separating the accomplished attentive lover of her dreams from this injured stranger beside her. It was as if she knew him intimately.
"Tell me why you lied about your name."
Cade was taken aback by the forthrightness of her question.
"I know your name is Cade Foster because your friend Eddie told me. And I- I heard you say things in your sleep."
"You might not believe me if I tell you, Mary, not many people do." Cade closed his eyes, he had told this story so many times.
"Go on," she pushed.
"Okay, I'm on the run from the police." Cade proceeded to tell her a shortened version of his story, of how he found he was the twice-blessed man, about Hannah and about the Gua and Eddie. She continued to sponge him down as she listened attentively and without comment. He finished by telling her that the events at the Inn had been engineered by the Gua and then directed his intense gaze at her to see if he could read her response. He thought he saw an element of belief in them, a willingness to trust him at least. "Well?"
"You were convicted?"
"Committed, it's different, I'm supposedly insane."
"And you escaped, that explains the assumed name, you're still a wanted man."
Her tone was cold. Cade turned away, what could he do to convince her, what words would make her believe?
She stopped to reapply water to the cloth, considering what he had told her. Cade's heart was thumping against his ribs willing her to accept his story for the truth it was. It was really important to him that Mary believe him.
"I'm thinking about it," Mary recommenced the sponging of his face, "It's an incredible story and I do really want so much to believe you."
Satisfied, Cade smiled feebly at her; thinking about it was a beginning, he trusted Mary well enough to come to the right decision, he nodded and allowed his eyes to close. The back of his throat was starting to itch now and he was unable to suppress a fit of coughing that took him by surprise. He was even more surprised to hear Mary's little cry of alarm as she grasped him tightly and held him close till his tortured lungs and chest eased.
Cade's breathing began to deepen as the Advil took effect and sent him into a much-needed sleep again. Mary sighed, he really was a fine looking man and in spite of her reservations, she could not help be attracted to him. She brushed his sticky hair back off his face and left it standing spikily to attention in clumps then she tucked the blanket in tightly around him for reassurance. He looked so peaceful, so open, how could she have doubted him? She gave a last tender wipe across his throat then put the makeshift cloth down, it was too warm to be of any use now. Feeling his forehead with the back of her hand she found it to be still warm but cooler than the raging heat of earlier. He had begun to murmur softly and so she leant forward in order to make out the words. Most of it did not make sense, but she recognised the references to his wife Hannah. He seemed to be reliving her death and then he started to weep silently, uncontrollably- his defences down, completely weakened by blood loss and the drugs he had taken. Mary shushed him, aware that his memories of Hannah threatened to reawaken her own memories of the loss of James. These feelings were a heavy lead weight on her heart and unbearable to her. She had hoped her grieving had been done long ago, then something like this would happen and the aching loss would be resurrected. Stroking his face with the back of her hand she tried to soothe this enigmatic man, "Don't, Cade, just go to sleep, relax."
After a while, he calmed down and Mary was able to uncramp herself from her awkward crouched position and sit in the driver's seat properly. She dried her hands on her shirt and studied her face in the door mirror. There were black circles under her eyes and her hair was mussed. She pushed it from her face with her hands, and then rested there for a few minutes puzzling over Cade's story. It was bizarre, no doubt about that, but truth it could be as it was indeed far stranger than any story she had read. What Cade had told her certainly tied in with the strange events at the Inn: the hallucinations, the weird behavior of guests and staff alike, the way the woman had burnt away like so much paper.
Whatever the truth was, one thing was certain, she was not a nurse and could not help Cade enough. He was in need of professional medical assistance and she was not confident enough to try and get it for him. She looked at her watch, almost 9am and way past breakfast time, wondering how long this Eddie in the gray caddie would be. She hoped he would have some food with him because she was ravenous, she hadn't eaten since breakfast yesterday and neither had Cade. She fished some chocolate out of her purse, sat munching it and waited.
A soft rain had started to fall when Mary heard the sound of a car engine coming to a stop nearby. She could not make out the model of car, but nevertheless figured it must be Cade's friend since it was the first car to come near in all the time she had been parked. She got out, closing the door as quietly as she could so as not to wake her sleeping companion. As she approached the stranger, she recognised him as one of the staff from the Inn. If Cade was to be believed then this man could be an alien, yet he looked quite normal and when he spoke to her, there was no threat in his voice when he asked her if she needed help.
In spite of the care Mary took not to disturb him, Cade woke when the car door closed. He wriggled gingerly into a more upright position so he could see where Mary had gone; he hoped she hadn't left him. He peered through the side window and could just make her out; she was by the trees with another person. Cade pushed open the door then fell to a coughing fit that doubled him over.
" Eddie," he croaked past swollen tonsils.
A pair of muddy shoes came into his field of vision and a voice whispered menacingly in the customary arrogant tone of his race, "Sorry, no."
Cade looked up from his bowed position to see the Gua from the Inn, holding a pale Mary tightly at the elbow. Her eyes when they met Cade showed fear.
"Out!" Commanded the Gua. Cade levered himself erect with some difficulty, using the car door for support, all the while formulating a plan to get Mary away from the alien and to safety.
"You ruined our experiment, Mr Gilmore, and you must realise that I can't let you get away with that."
At least this Gua did not know his real name, did not know he was subject 117.
"Damn right I did." He hissed through teeth clenched in pain. "It won't be the last I destroy either," he spat out venomously, "I'll close them all down."
The Gua hissed at him, "Brave words," he rippled briefly showing his true form and Mary yelped at the sight then stared wide eyed at Cade.
"Yyyou were telling the truth," Her voice wavered with the shock. The Gua tightened his grip drawing forth an involuntary squeal.
"Let her go," Cade tried to push himself further upright in an effort to disguise how vulnerable he truly was.
The Gua laughed at him, derisively, and replied that Mary was his bargaining power. Cade prayed for Eddie to come quick. He needed an element of surprise as he was too weakened to attack the Gua in his current state. He was using every ounce of strength in his body to remain upright and keep the coughing fit at bay. He felt his options narrowing, despair nipping at his heels; his burning side distracted him from thinking straight. He could feel his lower body begin to sway as he started to lose balance, and then as his knees buckled, he took the opportunity to shift his center of gravity towards the Gua. The alien was taken off guard as Cade's body smacked into him- a dead weight.
He let go of Mary in surprise and as she wriggled past him, Cade whispered into her ear the word, "Scissors." Cade hoped she understood what he wanted her to do because he knew that he would not be able to fight this Gua alone. He had exhausted all his reserves with this simple movement. The Gua collapsed to the mud under Cade's weight with a squishing sound. Using the last iota of energy, Cade kneed him in the groin drawing forth a satisfying yelp of agony, and then rolled over onto his back and lay spread eagled in the mire panting and staring at the misty sky. The air when he sucked it in was damp and provoked another fit of coughing.
The Gua curled around his nether regions snarled and reached into a pocket, searching for his weapon.
From Cade's horizontal position, the next few minutes seemed to happen in slow motion. The Gua was crouched over now ready to rise and Cade, his coughing easing off, could just hear the squelch of Mary's shoes as she approached him from the direction of the car. He watched powerless as the Gua continued to rise holding something that glinted in the light in his right hand. He tried to shout a warning but all that issued from his mouth was a feeble croak. The alien was on his feet now but he wasn't pointing the weapon at Mary, no, he was slowly lowering it towards Cade. His vision narrowed to the blue barrel of the gun till it achieved cannon-like stature.
There were other sounds now which all mingled together in a confused jumble. He could identify the soughing of his labouring breath, the rustle of wind through leaves, the rumble of a dying engine, the click of a trigger. Then time sped up again returning to normal as he felt something slam into his side and roll him over into a prone position. He lay frozen, face pressed into the soft earth and waited for the pain of the bullet entering skin, tearing through flesh and muscle, and ripping apart his vital organs. But none came.
His ears whooshed like they do when you dive in deep water and his stomach convulsed. He could smell roiled earth and a faint whiff of ozone, and tasted metal in his mouth. Then a voice in his right ear finally spoke, "Foster, you still with us man?"
Eddie. Too exhausted to form words from scant breath Cade turned his head to the side with Herculean effort and met the brown concerned eyes of his best friend and smiled. Eddie leant back on his haunches, relief evident on his pale face.
"Been making friends, dude?" he gestured to the ground a few feet away and out of Cade's line of sight.
Cade moaned at him and tried to lever himself up to a position from where he could make more sense of what had happened. Eddie grasped him under the arm and helped him turn over into a sitting position. Mary was standing in shock, a pair of surgical scissors in her hand. She was staring at a burnt patch of earth near her feet.
"I'll be okay, Eddie, " Cade inclined his head in Mary's direction, "Help her."
Eddie patted his friend on the shoulder in reassurance then crossed over to Mary who was still as a rock, wide eyed. He gently took the scissors from her petrified fingers and guided her down to the grass. She remained quiet, staring at the brown stain that had once been a Gua.
Eddie spoke to her in a gentle voice in order to bring her out of her shocked state. In Eddie's opinion it took her far too long to come round, he wanted to be with Cade, to check him over, as he did not look like he was doing too well.
"He was telling the truth," Mary finally looked away and towards the car where Cade had flopped back to a supine position.
"Yeh, ya know Foster does sometimes do that-tell the truth."
Reassured that she was all right, Eddie returned to his friend. "Looks like I saved your twice blessed ass again, man."
As he knelt by Cade's shoulder, he took in the mud-splattered face, the cast of fever, the bare chest, the grimy bandage, and the bruises.
"You been mud wrestling?" He did not fail to notice the lack of an invective filled rejoinder. Cade was in serious shit if he didn't have the energy to rise to one of Eddie's witticisms. At least he was still conscious. "Come on man, let's get you in the caddy. "
Eddie supported Cade's weight as he raised him up and walked him over to the Caddy. Once Cade was settled in the front seat, which Eddie had to clear of clutter first, he returned to check on Mary. She had returned to her car and was getting something out of the trunk. She was more lucid now and managed to greet him, "You're Cade's friend? He was so sure you would come for him."
"Yeah, good thing I did, too. Talk about nick of time." Eddie smiled at her, "So can you drive or d'ya want a lift?"
Mary assured him she was fit to drive but she wanted to say goodbye before she went.
Eddie watched her approach the Caddy and decided to let her speak to Cade alone. He wondered what they were saying but did not interfere. He was anxious to get Cade to the trailer, make sure he was safe and find out just what the Hell had been going on. He'd arrived on the scene just in time to push Foster out of the path of a bullet and see Mary stab the Gua with scissors. Go figure. You could always rely on the Twice Blessed Man to get into trouble. The quatrains never predicted that, it was the annoying thing about them apart from their cryptic nature. They never told him how dangerous each investigation would be. Heck, even if they did that wouldn't stop Cade, driven as he was. As long as Eddie was around to rescue him, be his safety net, then Cade would continue to behave recklessly. They had the ideal partnership.
Mary passed him on her way to the car, "Thanks," he told her. She nodded in reply, her expression serious, reaching into her pocket she pulled out a package, which she pressed into Eddie's hand. "Give him two of these every four hours, works like anti- biotics. I just checked his temperature, it's going down. You'll be all right; I don't think you'll need to take him to a hospital." She climbed into the car and pulled away.
Climbing into his seat, Eddie turned to Cade. "You okay to go now, man?"
"Sure, feeling a bit better now. Just tired."
Eddie noted that he was looking less flushed. "And Mary?"
Cade indicated a brightly colored silk shirt that lay in his lap. "Gave me this."
"More useful than a phone number, I guess."
Eddie looked at the sky; it was a clear blue, as if no cloud had ever had any right to be there.
"Put that shirt on, Foster, I'm putting the roof back. Let's enjoy the sun. You are far too peaky, man."
As Cade wrestled with the shirt, Eddie pushed the roof release button and opened up the glove box withdrawing two pairs of sunglasses. He passed a pair over to his companion noting as he did so a slip of paper peeping out of the pocket.
"Hey dude what's that?" Grinning widely, Eddie pulled the paper out and handed it to Cade. As he turned his attention to firing up the engine and pulling out onto the road, Eddie stole a glance at his friend. Just as he thought, a row of numbers beside a name.
"Don't lose that number man, you never know when we'll need someone so good at stabbing Gua with scissors."
"Hey, she saved my life."
Cade tucked the paper safely into his jeans pocket, turned his face to the warm sun and closed his eyes a satisfied smile playing on his lips.
"Let's go home, Eddie."