Move On. Nothing To See.Mady Bay -
April 15, 2005
"Sir? Sir, can you hear me?"
The feminine voice seemed to float above him; around him. Carlos moaned as the woman's fingers touched a sore spot on his head.
"Mmm..." Carlos replied.
"That's it, wake up, now," she coaxed. "Open your eyes."
Carlos obeyed, sleepily. "Tryin'," he said.
"Good," the woman responded happily.
But Carlos didn't understand her happiness. He hadn't gotten them opened yet. Or had he? Panic was starting to set in.
"My eyes. Why can't I see?"
His hands were grabbed before he could bring them to his face.
"Calm down, sir," the woman soothed. "You've been in an accident. You've hit your head. You need to calm down."
"I can't see!"
"I know," she said, still in a calm, soothing voice. "I understand you're scared, sir, but we need you to stay calm, all right?"
Carlos felt her fingers gently stroke his as she released the grip on his hands. Her soothing movements moved to his forearms. A gentle caress to his forehead.
"That's it," she murmured.
"Where am I?" he asked. "What happened?"
"You're in a hospital, sir," she replied. "You've been in a car accident."
"My name. You keep calling me 'sir'. My name is Carlos," he told her.
"Okay, Carlos, good to meet you. I'm Doctor Richards. Can you give me some more information? Your last name, date of birth..."
"Carlos Sandoval. January ninth, nineteen seventy."
"Carlos, do you have any medical history? Allergies, diabetes, high blood pressure...?"
"Carlos, what's your address?"
"Fifty-two Maple Drive, Dallas." He blinked his eyes a few times. "My eyes hurt."
"You haven't been blinking," Dr. Richards replied. "Hang on." After a minute or two she returned. "I've got some drops for your eyes that should make them feel better."
He blinked rapidly, then, as the cool drops entered his eyes.
"A little. Why can't I see? How long have I been here? My friends?"
"You've received a head injury that has most likely put pressure and swelling on your optic nerve. Once the swelling goes down, your sight should return. You've been here for several hours now, maybe about six. As for your friends... up until five minutes ago, we didn't know your name, Carlos."
"My wallet. ID."
"We couldn't find any ID on you, I'm sorry. We'll double check with the police officer that came in with you. Carlos, what's the last thing you remember?"
Carlos thought for a moment. "Meeting Trent at the dojo. Trent! Was he with me! Is he okay?"
"Ssh... easy, Carlos," Dr. Richards soothed, rubbing his arm again. "You were alone in the car. No one else was hurt. Do you know your friend Trent's phone number? We could call him for you. Or do you have family?"
"Trent Malloy is my family. My best friend," Carlos replied. He gave her the number to Trent's cell phone.
"We'll try to get hold of him for you, Carlos," Dr. Richards assured him. "I'm going to call in the neurologist to go over your test results with me. In the meantime, I'm going to give you a little something to help you rest."
Carlos was unprepared for the sharp pin prick to his arm and let out a little yelp. Soon any thought of the pain disappeared, and his dark vision changed to colored dreams.
"Where do you suppose he is?" Kim asked. "It's not like Carlos not to call."
"When I saw him at the dojo this morning, he seemed really excited about tonight," Trent said.
"He was on his way out to Lila's."
"Lila's?" Butch asked.
"A diner just outside the city limits," Trent replied.
"I've heard of it," Butch said, adding, "Not the best place for him to be alone, though."
"We've been keeping tabs on one of the waitresses there," Kim put in. "One of our cases."
Trent looked at his watch again. "He said he'd be here by four. Time enough to get home and shower and change if needed.
"You don't think anything's happened to him, do you?" Kim asked, worry in her voice.
"At Lila's?" Butch asked, shaking his head. "Anything is possible with Carlos, Darlin'."
"Nah. He's been working this case, this tail, for almost two weeks now. Just a matter of making sure the waitress actually goes to work as she says, with no side trips. Our client is her husband, who thinks she's cheating on him."
"Carlos actually goin' into the place?" Butch asked. "It's a "good ol' boy" type place. Not too friendly to minorities, if you get my meanin'."
"As far as I know, he just goes to the parking lot. He uses the camera's zoom lens to check on the interior activities," Trent replied. "No signs of hanky panky yet."
"Yet," Kim put in, rolling her eyes. "Probably never. That woman is a saint."
"We'll give him another fifteen or so, then I'll call him again. We might as well head on downstairs," Trent announced.
"Carlos? Carlos, time to wake up," Dr. Richards announced.
"Hmm..." Carlos murmured, lolling his head to the side. If anything, he felt even dizzier than before. "Feel dizzy," he voiced.
"I know, it's a result of the medication we're giving you."
"We're still trying to contact him," she replied. "Do you remember what happened, yet? What did you do after you left Trent?"
Carlos tried to think, squeezed his eyes tight. Wished he could put a face to the doctor's voice.
"I went to work. Drove to Lila's."
"You work there?"
"No. I'm a P.I. I followed somebody there. Watched to make sure she wasn't fooling around," he explained.
"Sounds exciting," Dr. Richards drolled. "How are your eyes feeling? Need some more drops?"
She placed the soothing liquid into his eyes.
"You couldn't get hold of Trent?" Carlos asked.
He was feeling scared and alone, and it came out in his voice. Dr. Richards took his hand into hers and rubbed the back of it.
"I'm sure he'll be here soon, Carlos. Why don't you rest now," she soothed.
He nodded his head and closed his eyes.
"We've talked to everyone here. No one's seen Carlos," Trent reported.
"Or the Durango," Kim added, leaning over to speak into Trent's cell phone.
"I've checked his apartment, the dojo, and heck, even your place, Trent," Butch responded. "It's like he's vanished."
"Time to check the hospitals?" Trent suggested.
"I, uh, I already did," Kim said. "Before we left Uppercuts."
"Time to call the police, then," Trent decided.
"Carlos? Carlos, I need you to listen to me."
"That's right, Carlos," she replied. "Listen to me, now. Can you hear me?"
"There's been a misunderstanding. We had to check you out. Make sure you weren't interfering."
"What? I don't understand." Carlos was truly confused. And his blindness was now even scarier to him. "What's going on?"
"If you stay exactly where you are, your friend Trent will find you in a little bit," she told him.
He heard her footsteps go away from him.
"Dr. Richards? Hey! Hey, what about my eyes? You can't just leave me here! Somebody?" he called out, panic building even further.
He pulled the blanket down off his body. Checking himself over, he found himself to be wearing just his boxers.
"Is anybody there!" he shouted.
He swung his legs over the side of the bed. His feet touched the floor sooner than he had thought. The bed did not seem to be as high as hospital beds he'd occupied in the past. Carlos stood, swayed a bit, as his head seemed to swell and twist inside for a few seconds, and then managed a few tentative steps, hands flung out in front of him.
"Come on! You can't just leave me! What's going on!" he shouted. "Shit!" he cursed as he stepped on something sharp.
He bent down to feel around his foot, finding the object, feeling the shape of the syringe. He took a few more steps and bumped into something.
Reaching down and forward, his hands felt around the edge of what felt like a wooden crate.
He realized that he wasn't in any kind of hospital at all. Dr. Richards, or whoever she was, had set him up. She checked him out, she'd said. He tried to recall his conversations with the woman. She had only asked him basic questions - name, address... He'd been kidnapped. And blinded. He reached up and touched his eyes. They still stung, and he still couldn't see. He hoped fervently that whatever the woman had done to him, it was reversible.
"Hey!" he shouted out again, taking another tentative step in what he hoped was the right direction.
Trent flipped open his cell phone as it rang. He looked at the number on the screen.
"It's Carlos," he told Kim and Butch. "Carlos, where the hell are you?" he spoke into the phone when he pushed the talk button.
"Mr. Malloy?" A female voice.
"Mr. Malloy, please listen carefully," a woman spoke.
Trent was not happy, but said, "I'm listening."
Butch and Kim saw the tension in Trent's posture. They knew something was terribly wrong.
"You need to pick up your friend, Carlos. He's in the old shoe factory on Fairfield Road," she told him and ended the call.
"Let's go," Trent told them as he turned off his phone and met their eyes.
Butch grabbed his arm as he started walking toward his car. "Wait up, boy! What's going on? Where are we going?"
"Some woman just told me to pick up Carlos at the old shoe factory on Fairfield Road," Trent replied. "Then she hung up."
"There's no answer, now," Kim spoke up, holding up her own cell phone.
"Whoever she was, she's not answering Carlos's phone."
"Like I said," Trent said, removing his arm from Butch's grasp, "Let's go."
Carlos gave up counting the number of times he'd stumbled or fallen. He could only guess at how many cuts and bruises covered his unprotected body. Feeling the wall next to him with his right hand, his left out in front of him, he inched slowly forward.
He'd already figured he was in some sort of warehouse. His earlier shouts had echoed off the concrete and metal walls. He'd found one stairway leading upward, so he believed he was on the first, or main, floor. He also thought he'd have found an exterior door by now. Unfortunately, the only ones he'd found were large, sliding doors, and they were locked tight.
"There's gotta be a way out of here," Carlos practically wept. Dr. Ri- she - got out. Damn!" he swore, bringing his right fingers to his mouth, soothing a cut they'd received from a nail in the wall.
Suddenly he heard pounding, as if someone were trying to break in.
"If you stay exactly where you are, your friend Trent will find you in a little bit," the woman's voice repeated in his head.
"Trent? Trent!" Carlos shouted, moving toward the sound. He heard his name being shouted. "Trent!" he called. "In here!"
"I heard him!" Trent shouted, continuing to kick at the door. "Carlos!"
"Carlos!" Kim shouted along with him.
Finally, the wooden door gave way and the three friends entered the warehouse.
"Carlos?" Butch called, looking around.
"Over here!" Carlos called back, dropping to his knees, unable to go further, the stress of his situation taking its toll once again as it mixed with the relief of being found by his friends. "Over here."
"There!" Trent shouted, pointing to their left and running toward his best friend, dodging debris along the way. "Carlos," he whispered as he dropped to the floor next to him, taking in the sight of his battered partner.
"What happened? Are you okay?" He put his hand to Carlos's cheek.
Carlos reached up and clasped Trent's hand, held it tight. "I can't see," he told him. "Trent, I can't see!"
Butch and Kim, having heard Carlos's words, having seen his battered body, stood silently, unsure of what to say. Trent looked at them, helplessly.
Butch took off his jacket and placed it around Carlos's trembling shoulders.
"Come on," Trent finally said, rising, and bringing Carlos up with him, steadying him. "The car's outside. Let's get you out of here."
Butch moved in closer, so that he and Trent flanked Carlos, and the two men guided him out of the warehouse, with Kim running ahead to unlock the car.
Butch glanced into the rearview mirror, his anger building as he watched and listened to Carlos tell them what had happened, what he heard and remembered, anyway, Trent's protective arms holding him.
"I only heard a woman. She called herself Dr. Richards," Carlos said. "She told me I'd been in an accident. Then, later, that it was all a misunderstanding. That they had to make sure I wasn't interfering in something. What the hell did she want? She blinded me!"
Trent grabbed Carlos's hands as he moved them toward his face, wanting to rub his stinging, unseeing eyes.
"Leave them," he told Carlos. "What little I've seen of them, they're red from you rubbing at them already."
"Hurts to keep them open. She put drops in them. Maybe..."
"We're almost to the hospital, Carlos," Kim spoke up from the front seat. "I'm sure the doctors there will be able to help you," she added.
Trent met her hopeful gaze with one of his own. "Just relax, Carlos," he said, giving Carlos's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
When they'd finally arrived at the hospital, Butch and Trent led Carlos in to the Emergency Department. He was immediately brought into an exam room. At Carlos's insistence, Trent stayed with him.
A nurse arrived shortly after, began taking his vital signs and asking him about his medical history. They told her the short version of his abduction and subsequent treatment and release. A doctor arrived a few minutes later and began his examination, starting with Carlos's eyes.
"How long have these contacts been in?" he asked.
"Contacts?" Carlos and Trent questioned in unison. Beyond the confusion, there was hope in their minds now. "I don't wear contacts," Carlos told the doctor.
The doctor consulted with the nurse and she came back with an eye wash kit. Then she lowered the lights.
"I'm just going to put some drops into your eyes, first, Mr. Sandoval," he warned Carlos, then did as he said.
Carlos blinked several times as the cool liquid soothed some of the sting.
"Now just keep still," the doctor told him and gently held Carlos's left eye open with one hand while he removed a dark, opaque contact lens from it with the other.
Carlos immediately cried out and slammed his eyes shut tight as the light, even dimmed as it was, stabbed its way painfully through his head.
After a moment, the doctor said, "Now for the other one," and repeated the procedure, with similar results, on Carlos's right eye.
He followed up by administering more drops to Carlos's eyes, letting him lie quietly and adjust slowly to the light in the room.
"Keep them closed for a bit, until you get used to the light some more," he told his patient.
"I'm not blind. I'm not blind. I'm not blind," Carlos whispered over and over as he squeezed Trent's hand in his.
The doctor asked the nurse to turn off the lights in the room. After she had done so, he returned to Carlos.
"We've darkened the room, Mr. Sandoval. I need you to open your eyes now, so I can see if there's any damage," he said.
Blinking rapidly, tentatively, Carlos complied.
"Can you see?" Trent asked.
"Everything's dark again. And blurry," Carlos replied. "They sting."
The doctor examined Carlos's eyes more closely.
"Looks like the corneas are scratched," he began. "From the contacts being in for so long."
"Will they be okay?" Carlos asked.
"With time and rest, I think so," the doctor replied. "But I'm going to have an ophthalmologist come take a look, to be sure."
"In the meantime, let's get you cleaned and bandaged. That's going to include your eyes, Mr. Sandoval. We need to keep them clean and protected."
"I'll tell Butch and Kim the news," Trent said. "I'll be right back, Carlos," he added, gently patting Carlos's shoulder.
About two hours later, Carlos was abed in a room upstairs at the hospital.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Ranger Cordell Walker asked him.
"Being with Trent at the dojo."
"So you don't remember going to Lila's?" Trent asked.
Carlos shook his head. "But that's gotta be the key. Someone there," he said. "I've been going there for two weeks, tailing Karen Millwyn. Someone obviously thought I was tailing someone else. Did you find the Durango? My camera was there, with a couple of rolls of film."
"The Durango, your cell phone and empty camera were behind the shoe warehouse," Walker replied. "Forensics went over it and the room with the bed you'd been held in, and came up empty. They're pros, whoever they are."
"I don't get it," Trent put in.
"Well, eventually we're going to figure this thing out," Walker told both men. "In the meantime, I think Carlos here needs to get his rest."
"Thanks, Walker," Carlos replied, and held out his hand.
Walker took it and gave it a shake. "I'll let you boys know if I come up with anything."
The ophthalmologist showed up and examined Carlos's eyes. As the Emergency Department doctor had said, the corneas were scratched, but would heal, with care, in a few days. Carlos was given antibiotic and saline drops to use and told to take it easy. His other injuries, mainly minor cuts and bruises from his blind trip through the warehouse were taken care of as well.
That evening, when he was being discharged, Trent brought Carlos to the cashier's office to take care of the hospital bill.
"It's already been paid," the woman told him.
"Excuse me?" Carlos asked.
"It's already been paid," she repeated. "A woman came by about an hour ago and paid cash."
"Are you sure?" Trent asked.
"I was here. And let me tell you, when someone pays fifteen hundred cash, you remember it," she replied matter-of-factly.
"I just don't get it," Carlos muttered, agitated. "Who the hell would do this? And why?"
"Carlos, calm down," Trent responded.
"Calm down!" Carlos shot back, rising to his feet only to take two steps and bump into the coffee table in his living room. "Shit!"
Trent immediately went to Carlos's side ready to guide him back to the chair.
But Carlos shoved Trent away, continuing, "She fucking blinded me, Trent! I might have permanent damage! I have a right to know who and why!"
"And we're going to get the answers, Carlos," Trent replied. "Walker's getting the tape from the hospital. Trivette's been out to Lila's interviewing people there, starting their own surveillance..."
Carlos continued to pace, even if it was only two or three feet in each direction.
"They've got to be good guys," Trent mused, stopping Carlos's pacing.
"How can you say that?"
"She called me," Trent began. "She paid your hospital bill. Bad guys would have just left you in the warehouse. Dead."
The anger left Carlos, leaving him confused and tired. He wanted to slump down into the chair again. Trent sensed the weariness in his friend and guided him to the chair. When Carlos was seated, Trent knelt on the floor and put his hand on Carlos's knee.
"We'll figure this out, Carlos," he said. "Maybe its some government organization or something. Black Ops stuff, huh? Won't be the first time we got mixed up in somebody else's business; almost messed up a police case without knowing it."
"Yeah, but at least they had the courtesy of letting us know who they were and what they were doing," Carlos retorted.
"Maybe this is one of those things that maybe we're better off not knowing?" Trent suggested.
After a moment, Carlos let out a sigh. "I think I just want to go to bed, now, Trent."
"Sure, Carlos. Can you make it?"
"Yeah, but I think I need some of those drops first, my eyes are killing me."
"I'll get them and meet you there," Trent offered.
Trent watched as his friend felt his way down the hallway, hands bumping against the walls, searching for the doorway to the bedroom. He didn't have any more clues to this mystery than Carlos did, but he was just as outraged at the treatment Carlos had been given at his kidnapper's hands. And despite the ophthalmologist's assurances that Carlos's eyes should heal without any lasting effects, seeing his best friend, bandaged and blind, still scared him.
"Yo, Trent, you coming?" Carlos called.
"Yeah, almost there," he called back, heading down the hall, medications in hand.
Several hours later, Trent woke from his place on the couch to the sound of Carlos's shouts.
Trent ran into Carlos's bedroom, finding Carlos writhing under the blankets, calling out to him, hands trying to remove the bandages covering his eyes.
"Carlos, no," he called, grabbing Carlos's hands and holding them down.
"Wake up now, Carlos. Wake up," he coaxed his friend. "Come on."
"Trent? Trent, I can't see," Carlos cried gently.
"Yes, you can," Trent assured him. "You just have the bandages on. Your eyes will be fine."
"I couldn't find you," Carlos continued. "I was looking for you, but it was so dark."
"I know, but we found you. You're going to be just fine, Carlos."
"Dios," Carlos muttered, letting out a sigh.
A week later, Carlos and Trent were in the Thunder Investigations office, talking with Walker and Trivette.
"We've been hitting dead ends all around," Trivette spoke up. "They're ghosts."
"We've done background checks on everyone at Lila's. Everyone's clear," Walker added.
"Which makes me think even more that it's a Federal operation of some sort," Trent added.
"Oh, and Cancerman's at the center of it?" Carlos put in, disgustedly. He adjusted the sunglasses he still needed to wear, even indoors.
Trent rolled his eyes at the X-Files reference. "I was a part of that once, in my Army days, remember?" he said. "It's one of the reasons I got out."
Kim entered the office then, carrying the mail. "The usual bills," she announced, placing a stack on Trent's desk, "and a large envelope addressed to Carlos," she added handing a thick manila envelope to him.
Carlos's eyebrows scrunched together, his confusion showing. "Huh," he muttered as he opened the envelope. Then he let go of it, as if burned by it, and let the envelope drop to the floor.
Kim gasped as crisp one hundred-dollar bills slipped out of the envelope.
Carlos stepped back as Walker stepped forward, shuffling the envelope back, allowing the rest of the contents to slip out. On top, was a note.
"For your inconvenience," it said, simply, typewritten in the center of the page.
"There must be thousands there!" Kim exclaimed.
"No return address," Trivette noted. "Heck, not even a post mark!"
"I don't want it," Carlos said, stepping further away from the money and envelope. "Get it out of here. Donate it; burn it; I don't care."
"Are you kidding!" Kim balked, taking a step toward the money. "That could get us debt free for the next year!"
"No!" Carlos shouted. "Get it out of here. Probably somebody's bloodmoney or something. I don't want any part of it. It's over."
"Carlos?" Walker questioned.
"You've said it yourselves," Carlos began. "They're ghosts. We're not going to find them." He paced back toward his desk and sat down heavily in his chair. "It's over," he said, shaking his head. "I need it to be over."
Trent locked gazes with Carlos. Carlos had had more than one nightmare in the past week. The sunglasses he wore hid the dark circles under his eyes, the result of his lack of sleep, as well as protected them.
"Go back to fighting the real bad guys, Walker," Carlos continued. "The ones we can see and catch."
"You're giving up?" Trivette asked. "We can check the money, look for prints," he offered.
"I'm choosing to leave this battle, Trivette," Carlos responded, sullenly. "I need to move on."
"Probably won't find any prints anyway," Trent countered, receiving agreeing nods all around.
"And it's evidence," Walker added, motioning to the money. "We have to take it."
"You gotta be kidding me!" Kim wailed. "Carlos! Take the money! That witch owes you!"
"Get it out of here, Walker," Carlos said again.
"Well?" the woman asked impatiently.
"The package has been delivered, ma'am, but he's not taking payment. He's giving it up as evidence to the Rangers," the man replied.
"Like I told the bosses," she mused, "we don't have to worry about this one. He's legit."
The man closed his cell phone and turned off the listening devices he had in the van. Stepping outside, he turned his attention back onto the road and the cones he'd set up around a man hole in the street across from Uppercuts and Thunder Investigations, muttering to the traffic going slowly by, "Move on. Nothing to see."