Part One - reviews welcomed.
It was only when he was actually standing in the warm foyer and could hear the thrum of voices behind the doors that Wilson knew, deep down, he had never had any intention of actually going in. Changing his tie three times; stopping for gas; driving even more scrupulously than usual; all had sabotaged his chances of arriving on time, as he must have known. His hand closed around the soft little disc in his pocket and squeezed. He wondered what the hell he was doing.
He hadn't been to Temple, and hadn't given a crap about the fact he hadn't been to Temple, for years. He wasn't quite, as House had declared over a brandished chopstick one Christmas Eve, the worst Jew ever, but at some point in the process of growing up he had left behind the idea of personal faith and all that had left him with was tradition. Tradition was something for families, for when he was with his parents, or for when he had kids of his own, one day. But waking up on the first day of Hanukkah the idea had seized him, and he couldn't shake it off and he couldn't see the sense in it either, and now here he was, in a half-assed compromise on the doorstep. The low voices from within and the murmur of traffic from outside hummed around him and he stood for some minutes, pleasantly suspended between a haze of half-sounds: his own private atrium.
Finally he reached into his coat pocket, and drew out a handful of change. He dropped the coins one by one into the battered collection box. When he ran out he stared at the little black slot, feeling strangely bereft, before stepping out into the street.
That might have been the moment when they started following him - he'll never know, now, - but thinking back, Wilson certainly didn't notice anyone tailing him as he hunched against the cold and headed towards the parking lot. The wind seemed to push against him and reach under his collar to chill the back of his neck. Reaching the ramp and descending underground was a relief.
The parking lot was an ugly cement block that Wilson would have avoided using on aesthetic principles had it not been so convenient and near-empty. From the outside it squatted on the New Jersey skyline like a sullen half-brick. Inside, it felt oddly cinematic; he was acutely aware of his footsteps tapping deliberately away on the concrete, moving between cold pools of electric light and the huddles of dark shadow that striped the floor (a black and white thriller, he thought later).
He stopped concentrating on noises in favour of warming his hands as he approached his car, gleaming patiently in a corner (and did he deliberately park so that he'd have the longest possible walk to the service? he wondered idly). His fingers were numb, except for the tips, which stung from the cold. Wilson had reached the far wall, digging in his pocket for the keys and watching his breath bloom white in the air, when he finally heard the movements behind him.
Wilson turned round absent-mindedly when he heard the tread behind him, one hand still groping for his car keys, and saw the three guys. They were all younger than him, mid-twenties maybe, two with shaved heads and one with an oversized baseball cap. The one furthest back was jiggling his leg nervously; the one in the cap was staring at his car. The closest one was wearing the same t-shirt that one of his patients always wore to chemo sessions, with the same slightly faded picture of Bruce Lee braced before some unseen opponent. He was holding a knife, pointing it at Wilson's chest.
Wilson went very still, his eyes fixed on the blade. It wagged in front of him like an admonitory finger. In the brief silence, as he felt a sudden sweat dampen his collar and his fingers finally bumped against his keys as his hands went slack, the knife was brought up in front of his face.
"Against the wall."
He edged backwards obediently, bringing his hands up from his pockets and raising them. As soon as his back hit the concrete they closed ranks around him. The one wearing the cap spat loudly on the floor, narrowly missing Wilson's shoe. He grimaced, but they didn't notice; the jumpy one was rooting through his coat pockets and pulling out his wallet. Wilson felt a stab of satisfaction that he had loaned half his cash to House that morning.
"Forty," announced Jumpy, unimpressed. Wilson felt his breath catch as Chemo Shirt Guy waved the knife in frustration.
"The fuck?!" He grabbed the wallet and confirmed the diagnosis, and Wilson suddenly changed his mind and wanted to kill House as Shirt Guy drove a knee into his groin with vicious force and watched as he folded up and dropped to the floor. Wilson pressed his forehead into the concrete, coiling into a tight ball as angry voices argued high over his head. He hoped he wasn't going to throw up on his coat, on their shoes, and make the situation worse. Hands curled under his arms as he was pulled up and forced to uncurl, feeling bands of muscle in his stomach wrenched painfully as they fought to stay contracted.
"Where's the rest?" The wallet was waved accusingly in front of his face, but it was a definite improvement on the knife. Between gasps, Wilson managed to answer them:
"I don't have anything else --" His voice sounded breathy, and they punched him in the face by way of acknowledgement. Wilson made a mental note to ask House if he looked like the kind of man who walked around with rolls of notes in his pockets, as hands kept him propped up against the wall and started rummaging through his pockets. They were talking at him again, he realised. There was something distinctly unfair, he thought irritably, about a society where the muggers go around complaining that you stiffed them.
"What's the PIN?"
Wilson swallowed thickly. "What?"
"PIN, for the AmEx." Three plastic credit cards were waved in front of his dazed face again, and he realised what they meant. Don't they know I'll just cancel them when I get home? he thought in surprise. He wasn't sure what to say; would they be able to tell if he made it up, gave them a fake -?
Wilson had clearly hesitated too long ("Mean fucker, i'nt he?") because the one in the cap, who had been the only one keeping eye contact and who kept grinning at him horribly, punched him hard in the stomach. Cap and Jumpy held his arms tightly, pinning him against the cement while the one with the knife moved forwards to fill his line of vision. "Mean bastard, aren't you?" Pale blue eyes roamed over Wilson's face, and Wilson wondered how he was supposed to act in a situation like this; how to appease someone like that. Shirt Guy leaned forward until he was practically spitting in his face when he spoke. "Fuckin' Jew."
Wilson's eyes widened and he opened his mouth (to say what? He wasn't sure,) but the grip that Cap had on his arm made it feel like it might grind out of its socket at any moment and he didn't say anything. Shirt Guy held up his car keys, and pressed the button so that his car door flashed and clicked open. Fuck, my car too, thought Wilson, but only for a second because a panicky chorus had started up in his head and drowned out everything else the moment the guy had said "Jew" in that voice.
"Wouldn't you just know," said Shirt Guy calmly, turning to his buddies, "that a nice car like this would belong to a fuckin' Yid?"
Wilson wished he knew what the hell they were expecting, so he could just give it to them and go home. And then Shirt Guy turned to him and stabbed the knife through Wilson's coat and jacket and deep into his shoulder. He pulled it out again with a satisfied grunt, and that hurt even more.
Wilson gaped in horror, and anger that he hadn't even fucking done anything, and tried to wrench away. He might have fought them for a whole three seconds before all the blood seemed to drain from his face and pulse out of the hole in his skin. Wilson felt limp, the shout dying on his lips. If I'd known this was coming, he thought dizzily as those hands pulled him upright again, this wouldn't be happening, I wouldn't have just --
"Stand up, you piece of crap," said the one with the cap into Wilson's ear, almost conversationally, and Wilson did, getting his trembling knees under control. Cap looked like he was enjoying a private joke; the others just looked jumpy as fuck; and vicious. Wilson's shoulder felt hot and tight and made him feel sick whenever it moved. The knife hovered in front of his vision, a gleaming white smile in the darkness, but as it moved he saw it was all red and slippery. He felt faint, and his mouth felt clumsy when he spoke:
"What do you want?"
The knife blade pressed against his chest and Shirt Guy unbuttoned his overcoat and peeled it open, revealing the dark stain spreading over his shirtfront. Ruined, noted Wilson vaguely, and he heard a cry of pain as it echoed around the car park and faded away.
"Shut the fuck up."
His phone was plucked out of his suit pocket, and for some reason Shirty was acting really hurt and angry that he hadn't handed it over straight away, and yelled in Wilson's face, calling him all these terrible things, foul words, and Cap was chuckling and saying something that tickled his ear softly, and he heard the word "kill", and "fucker" and "Yid" and he opened his mouth and squirmed weakly against their hands, to say something to save himself. Shirty jabbed him again, in the side, and as he slid down the wall he felt the skin part and peel and realised that he'd been stabbed again.
A foot slammed into his stomach, and when his vision cleared he was watching shoes move over to his car and open the door. The safest car in its class, and I get knifed for it, Wilson thought in fury, and then he was overwhelmed by another fit of rage that he was probably dying and he wasn't thinking about anything more important. He was trying to wrap around himself and keep his blood in, his left hand groping his side and his right pressed against his shoulder, and the harder he pressed the more those purple blots spread over his vision.
"What's the PIN, you piece of shit?"
"S-s-six . . Four . . ," Wilson was mumbling into the concrete, and couldn't remember what came next, so he just said it again and prayed desperately that they might go away, "four - it's six, f-four, . ."
"Six . .". Shirty knelt down beside him - he was reaching into his trouser pocket because the bastard still wanted something, and Wilson wanted to tell him to fuck off but couldn't quite manage it. If this was school his brother would have stepped in by now, and told them to fuck off for him, but there was no one else there; his brother couldn't help and probably never would again. He felt the fingers slide against his hip and moaned; tried to kick.
Then he saw the guy's body convulse suddenly and slip down, palms pressed against the slick concrete. Wilson watched as Shirty gasped for breath, his eyes bulging. The other two bent over him and shook him, and then swore. He heard them running away.
Shirty was turning blue. Anaphylaxis. Timely, huh? commented the House in his head, but Wilson ignored him. He was imagining the headlines when they found their two bodies lying here in the dirt in the dark, the stabbed doctor and the suffocated delinquent. That'll be a puzzle for you, he thought bitterly.
Wilson watched as Shirty slumped over, and felt vaguely pleased that he was so far above this man's panic. He felt calm now, even though he could hear House's voice from somewhere inside his head telling him things and calling him names, yelling about blood loss, about shock. But he felt incredibly calm. Maybe Wilson could just leave Shirty here: leave him on the floor like he deserved, leave him to bleed . . . But there was so much blood creeping over the ground, it made him feel dizzy. Call help, the voice was insisting loudly, strident as ever despite the fog in his brain: Call an ambulance, you moron.
Shut up, House, thought Wilson sleepily, but House never did, and Shirty wasn't going to help him, so he tried. He reached forward. His hand was all white on the back and all red on the front. He groped for his phone where it lay on the floor, and watched as his numb fingers slipped over the keypad. 6,4 - no, not that, - 9,9 - stop shaking - 8, no, . . . 9, . .1,1.