The Waiting

Chapter One

Day One

The intercom buzzed. "Damn," Christie muttered irritably as she punched the button on her desk phone. The last thing she needed this afternoon was another interruption. "Yes," she said curtly.

The voice of the magazine's receptionist, Kelly, came from the speaker. She sounded tentative – and a little afraid. "Christie," she began, "there are two, uh, policemen here to see you – uh, a Captain Myers and a Detective, uh, Molina."

"Jimmy," Christie whispered.

"Sorry, what did you say?" Kelly asked.

"Nothing. I'll be right there." Suspecting she wasn't going to return to her office, she grabbed her handbag as she left. She'd been a cop's wife for four years – long enough to know the NYPD didn't send captains to deliver good news. "Something's happened," she told her startled assistant, Sara, as she rushed past her desk, "I have to go."

"But, Christie, what about – " Sara began, then broke off when she realized Christie wasn't going to answer her.

Her anxiety mounting with every step, Christie hurried through the corridors. It struck her for the first time just how far her office was from the reception room. Someone – she didn't stop to find out who it was – called out to her as she passed an open office door, but she ignored him.

She finally reached the reception room. Two middle-aged men, the taller one in uniform, the shorter one in plain clothes, rose as she entered. Their expressions were solemn. The taller one spoke first. "Mrs. Dunbar?" he asked. Christie nodded. "Captain Joel Myers." Indicating the shorter man, he added, "Detective Art Molina." Christie nodded again to acknowledge the introductions.

"Is there someplace we can talk privately?" Myers asked.

"Yes, this way," Christie replied. The two men followed her to the conference room that opened off of the reception area.

When the door closed behind them, Myers took a deep breath before he spoke formally. "I regret to inform you that your husband, Detective James Dunbar, has been injured in the line of duty – "

Christie interrupted him before he could continue. "Injured? Injured how?" she demanded.

"He sustained a gunshot wound – to the head," Myers replied.

"Oh, my God," Christie whispered in shock. She stepped back, colliding with the back of a chair. She held onto it for support. "Is he – ?" Her voice trailed off. She couldn't bring herself to finish the question.

"He's alive and on his way to the hospital." Myers consulted his watch. "He should be there by now. We have a car waiting to take you there."

Christie nodded, then crossed to the door and opened it. Myers and Molina followed her. She paused at the reception desk and spoke hurriedly to Kelly. "I have to leave – it's my husband, tell Clay – tell him it's an emergency." Without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked to the elevators, where Myers and Molina were waiting.

A sense of unreality came over Christie as the elevator descended to the lobby. Surely this was happening to someone else, not to her. Like every other cop's wife she'd ever met, she lived with the knowledge that something like this could happen. But, deep down, she didn't believe it would actually happen to her. It was her way of coping. Now that belief had been shattered.

When she was seated in the back seat of the unmarked police car with Myers beside her, she noticed they were heading downtown from her midtown office. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"Bellevue," Myers replied, "that's where they were taking him."

Christie gave a puzzled frown. This didn't make sense. "What – happened?" she asked.

"There was an attempted robbery of an armored car at a Manhattan Trust branch on 34th Street," Myers told her.

"Wait, wait," she interrupted, feeling a surge of hope, "Jim works uptown, at the 2-5. Are you sure it's him?"

Myers looked at her sympathetically. "His partner was with him – a Detective Terry Jansen," he told her. "Detective Jansen is your husband's partner, isn't he?"

Christie's heart sank. "Yes."

After a moment, Myers continued his explanation. "Patrol officers arrived at the bank before the subject could flee the scene. Detectives Dunbar and Jansen also responded. There was an exchange of gunfire, and Detective Dunbar was hit, but he managed to bring down the suspect. By all accounts, his actions were heroic."

"Oh." Christie thought for a minute. It still didn't make sense. Finally she said, "But he shouldn't have been there. What was he doing there?"

Myers shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Dunbar, I don't know."

Several minutes later, they turned into the hospital's emergency entrance. Two television news vans and a gaggle of reporters were there before them. One of them yelled, "It's the wife!"

Myers swore softly, then turned to Christie. "We'll take you inside – just wait for me to come around and open the door. Are you ready?"

Christie nodded. As Myers and Molina got out of the car and came around to her side, the reporters rushed the car. The two officers opened the car door, standing in front of her as she got out. One on either side of her, they pushed their way through the crowd of shouting reporters and into the emergency room.

Once inside, Christie went directly to the desk. She spoke to the first person she saw, a plump blonde woman in pink scrubs. "My husband is here, Detective Jim Dunbar – " she began.

The woman gave her a look of sympathy. "Yes, he's here," she confirmed, "The doctors are working on him now."

"How – ?"

"I'll see what I can find out." The woman turned away and disappeared down a corridor into the treatment area.

As Christie waited at the desk, she looked around the room and noticed a group of cops clustered in a corner. Jim's squad was already there. Terry was with them. She caught his eye, but he looked away as soon as he saw her. She noticed several of the cops were women. She couldn't help wondering if one of them was the woman she knew only as The Woman. She was still reeling from her discovery, ten days before, that Jim had had a three-month affair with a woman he said he met on the job. Christie didn't know anything else about her. She didn't want to know any details about her, or about the affair. She wasn't even sure The Woman was a cop. When Jim tried to explain, she had stormed angrily out of the room. She wasn't interested in his excuses and rationalizations. She knew all she needed to know. Jim had betrayed her and destroyed her trust in him, probably irreparably. She had no idea whether their marriage could be salvaged – or even if she wanted to salvage it. Her hurt and anger were still too raw. But now –

"Mrs. Dunbar?" a man's voice asked.

Startled, she looked back toward the desk. A gray-haired man in green scrubs was standing there, next to the woman she'd spoken to earlier.

"Yes," she replied.

"Dr. Alex Barton, Chief of Emergency Medicine. Your husband has sustained a gunshot wound to the head."

Christie nodded. "I know, Captain Myers told me. How – ?"

"He's unconscious, but we've stabilized him. The neurosurgeons are taking him to the operating room. You can see him before they take him upstairs, if you wish."

"Yes, I'd like that."

"Come with me, please."

Barton escorted Christie to the trauma room, continuing his explanation of Jim's condition as they walked. She listened in growing disbelief. Less than an hour ago, she had been working at her desk. Now Jim was going to have brain surgery.

When they arrived at the trauma room, Barton opened the door and stood aside to allow Christie to enter. She stifled a gasp and had to stop herself from stepping back when she saw Jim. He was almost unrecognizable. His hair was bloody. The left side of his face was bruised and swollen, and odd bluish smudges had appeared below both of his eyes. Tubes and wires connected him to the medical equipment surrounding him. A nurse stood near his head, apparently adjusting the settings on one of the machines. She noticed Christie and gave her an encouraging smile. "It's okay, you can come closer if you want," she said kindly.

Christie took a deep breath to steady herself and crossed the room to stand next to Jim. He didn't react to her approach. His eyes were closed, and he was motionless except for the regular up and down movement of his chest, in rhythm with the ventilator which pushed air into his lungs. She stepped closer and took his hand in hers. "I'm here, Jimmy," she said. He gave no sign that he had heard her.

Not knowing what else to do, she stood silently, holding his hand and gazing down at the man who had betrayed her. She wasn't sure what she felt. Part of her wanted to snap at him, "Serves you right, you bastard." But she didn't really believe this was some kind of cosmic payback for his infidelity. The universe didn't work that way. And, no matter what he'd done, she had once loved the man who lay there. Maybe she still did.