Joe burst through the main doors of the hospital with Darnell, Heather and Marcy hot on his heels.
"Where is she?" he demanded of the people at the nurses' station.
"Sir, if you'll please calm down and tell me who—"
Joe flashed his ID badge. "I'm looking for Lily Bernham—she's in this hospital. What room?"
A large nurse tapped a few commands into her computer, then relayed: "Room one-twenty-two, down that hallway."
Not even bothering to thank the nurse, Joe took off again, his agents trailing after him once more.
He skidded to a stop in the doorway of Room 122, his breath catching in his throat as he stared at the young woman in the hospital bed.
"Hey, guys!" Lily greeted as cheerfully as she could considering the pain she was in. Her left arm was in a plaster cast, and a large bandage adorned the hairline of her forehead. An intravenous line was attached to her right arm, the elevated drip bag containing liquid nutrients for her dehydrated body.
With wide smiles, Marcy, Heather and Darnell each gave her a careful hug, expressing their joy at her presence.
Joe hung back for a moment, taking in the sleepy but genuine smile on Lily's pretty face as she welcomed her friends and colleagues.
Conversation waned after barely a few minutes, though, and neither of them really had anything more to say to each other.
Marcy took this opportunity to give Joe a smile and a subtle nudge in Lily's direction. Then she pulled Heather and Darnell back into the hallway to give Lily and Joe a little privacy.
Lily's eyes followed Joe as he sat gingerly on the edge of her bed, brushing his fingertips lightly against hers. The physical contact helped to assure him that Lily was really there—that she wasn't a mirage taunting his emotions. "How are you feeling?" he asked softly.
"Great," Lily lied with a smile. She tried to scoot into a better sitting position, and her sore ribs protested the movement. "Ow. Okay...maybe not great," she admitted sheepishly. "But I'll be fine."
Joe's mind was swimming with questions, but he only posed one for now. "Where have you been all this time?"
"Well honestly," Lily answered hesitantly. "I'm not quite sure. I don't think I was even conscious most of the time."
Joe looked at her in confusion and concern. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I banged my head on something when that building collapsed on us," she began, fingering the edge of the bandage on her forehead. "I guess I must have been knocked out completely at one point because I don't remember much after that..." Her sentence trailed off as she became lost in thought, trying to put together the fleeting events in her mind.
Joe's hand gently cupping her cheek brought her back to reality. "What do you remember?" he asked softly.
Lily scrunched her nose slightly. "It's weird, you know? Almost like a dream. I remember muffled sounds, and vague images of some apartment we must have been in...but none of it really makes much sense when I try to think about it." She shrugged a shoulder, adding, "Josh told me I'd been a little 'out of it' for a few days, so I guess that kind of explains it."
"Joshua Bankman," Lily elaborated. "One of those guys I've been working with?"
Joe nodded in acknowledgement. "The money-laundering job."
"Yeah. He's the one who got me out of the building. I don't remember much, but I do remember he kept saying over and over, 'I'm not gonna let you die'." Lily gazed up at Joe with bright eyes. "He could have just left me there, but he didn't."
Joe leaned down and gave Lily an impulsive but tender kiss near the corner of her mouth. "I'm very grateful he didn't leave you there," he stated in all seriousness. "But he should have taken you straight to the hospital instead of hiding you away somewhere without decent medical attention. He took a big chance with your life."
"Yeah, I know," Lily answered helplessly, entwining her fingers with his on the hospital blanket. "He finally brought me here last night when I was awake, and stayed until the nurses kicked him out. He said he wanted to make sure I was going to be okay before he left."
"You were here all night?" Joe echoed in confusion. "Why didn't you call me sooner?"
"I wanted to, but those darn nurses wouldn't allow it!" Lily answered hotly. "They wouldn't let me call anyone until after Josh left this morning. They said they didn't want a bunch of people showing up outside visiting hours and 'getting in their way'."
"Did Josh tell you where he was going? Did he leave any clues?"
"No...I'm sorry. He wouldn't tell me. "
"Yeah," Joe sighed quietly, caressing Lily's knuckles. "It's not your fault. You did good."
"Hey, what caused that building to collapse, anyway?" Lily wanted to know. "Weak foundation? Earthquake? "
Joe shook his head. "Someone set off a bomb."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "A bomb? Why?"
"We don't know yet. It's still being investigated."
"Wow." Lily's eyelids drooped a bit and she awkwardly stifled a yawn with the hand of her bandaged arm. "Sorry," she said with a sleepy smile.
Joe smiled back, reaching his free hand out to caress her cheek. "I should go. You need to rest."
Lily merely nodded her agreement, smothering another yawn beneath her hand.
"We're still going to have to talk about Josh some more, you know," Joe reminded her as he rose to his feet. "He played the role of the Good Samaritan this time, but he is still wanted for money fraud."
"Yeah," Lily conceded in a soft tone. "I know he's a con man and a thief...but he also saved my life. This probably makes me sound like a bad person, but right now, I'm not really sure I want him to get found."
"Honestly...me either." Joe pressed a gentle kiss to her palm, adding: "He brought you back to us. That's the most important thing."