Ria closed her cell phone and looked apologetically across the restaurant table at her sister.
"Looks like I'm gonna have to cut this dinner short, Eva. Lightman needs me back at the office. Maybe we can get together over the weekend and I can make it up to you?"
"Yea, no big deal."
They paid the check and then headed to the car so Ria could drive Eva home before heading back for yet another late night at the office. On the way there, Eva continued to fill her in on the happenings in her life. They only got a chance to get together once every couple of weeks, so there was always a lot to talk about.
"So, guess what? I made the soccer team!"
"Really? That's great! Let me know when your games are and I'll definitely come." Ria let her pride show on her face, glad that her sister was making an effort to turn her life around and stay out of trouble.
Finishing a story about her first day of soccer practice, Eva glanced over at Ria, noticing the lines of fatigue on her sister's face. "You okay? You look tired. And kinda stressed out."
"Yea, I'm fine. Lightman's got me working on a difficult case and, well, you met him, you know how he can be. I stayed up til 4 a.m. reviewing 17 hours' worth of interviews for a case we're on. And then he chewed me out today just before I left to pick you up because he wanted me to stay and I refused. Gave me a bullshit line about my lack of dedication to the job and threatened to fire me like he does every other day. Apparently there's been some new break in the case though and he insists I go back in."
"I don't know why you put up with that. I mean, sure the guy's brilliant and helped me get outta juvi, but you deserve better treatment than that." Ria glanced over at her sister, wanting to read her face and see if she really meant it. She found no signs of deception.
"Well, we both know it's the best opportunity I've ever been given. And if that means putting up with an insufferable know-it-all taskmaster so that I can learn his science and get paid while I'm doing it, then I guess it's worth the trade-off, right?"
"But, Ria, just because it's a great opportunity doesn't mean that you should let him walk all over you. We've both been treated like doormats enough to last us a lifetime. And I know how much time you spend on the job. You're working your ass off to please a guy that's unappeasable."
"Hey, language." She shot a slight warning look at her sister, as she pulled the car into a driveway in front of a yellow house and put the car in park.
"Yea, yea. Anyways, you need to start laying down some ground rules with Dr. Lightman."
"Right. That'd be the day. Anyways, he's not so bad, just some days he makes me crazier than others. He's actually quite a good guy, he just doesn't let on. I doubt he even admits it to himself. Anyhow, I'll call ya later and we'll make plans for the weekend. Stay outta trouble, okay?"
"Yea, yea. Love you." She replied, giving her big sister a quick sideways hug before getting out.
"Love you too." Ria called after her, before backing the car out of the driveway and heading towards the office.
"I don't get why I had to stay late if Ria got to leave. How is that fair?" Loker asked in a whiny voice.
"Something about her sister. Told her to stay here, but apparently the fact that it's my name on the door doesn't seem to count for much anymore." Cal stated in a tone clearly indicating his annoyance.
"Cal, you made her work all night last night." Gillian stated.
"Yea, well, we're under a tight deadline here."
"I think she deserves a little time off. Anyways, she's on her way back now, she should be here soon."
Suddenly a song started playing from the other side of the room, seeming to come from Gillian's purse that was sitting on the couch.
Can't read my, Can't read my
No he can't read my poker face
She's got to love nobody.
Can't ready my, Can't read my
No he can't read my poker face
She's got to love nobody.
P-p-p-poker face, P-p-poker face…
Loker broke out laughing. "Poker face by Lady Gaga? You've got to be kidding me."
"What?" Gillian blushed, though grinning at the same time. "It seems appropriate, considering." She rushed over to her purse to stop the song from playing. "It's Reynolds." She stated, glancing at the number displayed and then flipping it open. "Hey, Ben, what's up?" As she listened to the guy on the other end her face fell and she dropped onto the couch, visibly shaken. A moment later she hung up the phone and looked up to find Cal and Loker staring at her with worried expressions.
"What is it, luv?" Cal asked, walking closer to her to discern the look of dread and worry on her face.
"We need to get to the hospital. Ria's been in an accident."
Cal drove them to the hospital, turning a typical 20-minute trip into a 7-minute one. He threw the car in park, and rushed into the emergency room with Loker and Gillian on his heels. Spotting Reynolds off to the side of the room right away, he made a beeline towards him. "Where is she? Is she alright?"
"The ambulance just arrived. They took her into the O.R. She was unconscious. It didn't look good. There was a lot of blood." His calm government-trained-to-handle-emergencies voice was belied by the worry and panic displayed openly on his face.
"Oh no." Gillian quietly exclaimed at Reynolds' words, tears welling up in her eyes. Cal put an arm around her shoulders to comfort her, drawing her in close to him.
"She's a fighter." He stated, hoping the words would reassure her as well as himself.
"Do you know what happened?" Loker asked.
"I have officers collecting witness statements as we speak. So far all we know is that someone in a red car was swerving out of their lane and into oncoming traffic. They hit Ria's car and then took off before the police arrived. A buddy of mine on the force arrived at the scene first and recognized Ria's name from one of the cases we worked on with the D.C. police. He called to let me know and I got here just as they were bringing her in a couple minutes ago."
Cal's mind was going a million miles a minute jumping from one thought to the next: Anger at the guy who hit her and ran, guilt that he had called her back into the office, and then worry drowning out all the other emotions. "Alright. I'll want to talk to all the witnesses. But first I'll wait to hear what the doctors have to say. And somebody should call her sister."
Reynolds nodded his head and then directed them over to a couch in the waiting room nearby. "I'll take care of it. Stay here. I'm gonna check at the nurse's station for an update."
He returned a few minutes later to find Gillian in tears being held by Cal, and Loker pacing the room. "I talked to a nurse. She's still in the O.R. There's some internal bleeding that they're trying to stop. That's all they could tell me." Loker sat down in a chair, putting his head in his hands. "I also called Eva and she's taking a cab over right now." Cal nodded, acknowledging his words, and Reynolds took up Eli's place in pacing the room.
Eva arrived ten minutes later looking frantic. Gillian got up to hug her, filling her in on what they knew, and then they both took a seat on the couch, waiting in silence for the news. It was a long 45 minutes after that before the doctor finally came.
"We managed to stop the internal bleeding and we've stabilized her."
"Oh, thank God," came Gillian's reply.
"She's not completely out of the clear yet. She'll be moved to ICU in about half an hour, but she's in a mild coma that we expect her to come out of in a short while and we'll be monitoring her closely. You can visit her after she's been moved upstairs but only for a few minutes." They each took turns thanking the doctor and then he took his leave.
"I'm gonna head down to the police station and get started on the witness statements." Cal stated to no one in particular, but getting a roomful of incredulous stares in return.
Gillian grabbed his wrist and pulled him over to a corner of the room so they could talk in private. "You're not gonna wait to see Ria first?"
"No. I don't think so." He avoided her eyes, looking down towards the floor instead.
"Guilt? Cal why are you feeling guilty?" Gillian asked in disbelief.
Cal looked up at her, showing her the anguish in his eyes, and then looked down again. "Cause it's my fault, Gillian. If I hadn't called her and told her to come back to work she'd still be out eating Italian with her sister, not lying in a hospital bed unconscious."
She put her hand on his shoulder, saying "Cal, look at me." He looked into her eyes, the compassion he saw there almost too much for his guilt-laden soul to bear. "It's not your fault. Accidents happen all the time. The only one at fault here is the person who hit her and then took off. She's gonna be okay, Cal. I just know it."
He looked at her, not saying anything at first, but so wanting to believe her. "I can't stay. But I'll come back later. Call me if anything changes?"
She looked over his face trying to discern whether or not he believed her, but couldn't make anything out. Nodding at his request, they shared a lingering hug before he walked out the door.