Catelyn stared out into the night, so dark that the lights of every color dotting the horizon, zooming to and fro, blinking on and off were still no match for the blanket of blackness that they were pinned against. She had seated herself as close to the window as she could, trying to focus on the sounds of the street below. They were comforting to her, not like the sounds coming from inside the room. She would glance every so often at the comatose man lying in the hospital bed, but she'd quickly divert her attention away again. The beeps and the chimes from the various equipment he was hooked to were too rhythmic. Too distracting. They kept penetrating her thought process. No, she much preferred the cacophony of the city night. They were random, buzzing all around her. They did not puncture her mind, they enveloped it like warm water. Allowed her to think.
The city was falling to the wolves. Catelyn had gotten out when she could, but now all she felt like a passive bystander, peering in at a pack of wild dogs ripping apart spoiled meat. This wasn't the place she once knew. Thirty-five years and all she still liked about it was the sounds. She glanced back at the man in bed. His handsome face was scratched and bruised. She returned to the window, just staring out for a long while, idly flipping a quarter between her fingers.
The door opened gently behind her. The sound of the wood sliding across the carpet reminded her of steaming coffee. Catelyn turned to see the doctor entering.
"Hey there, doc." She called to him. He looked surprised to see her.
"Detective Tully! What are you doing here at such a late hour? Surely you're not working?" The doctor asked.
"Nah, Luwin. I'm off right now. Just visiting." Tully stood up from her chair and closed the distance between her and the doctor.
"Ah, I see. I'm sorry, I didn't realize you knew the patient." Catelyn chuckled dryly.
"Yeah, I know him all right." She said, sticking her hands in her pockets. "He's my son."
"Your son!" Doctor Luwin exclaimed, suddenly realizing that his ignorance may have caused impolite actions. "I'm so sorry, detective! I had no idea!"
"Yeah, not many do..." Tully said with a wry grin.
"You must forgive me, though. I'm a little confused." The doctor admitted. "The patient's name was listed as Brandon Starcino, but you're Catelyn Tully?" He asked.
"Tully's my maiden name." Catelyn said.
"Oh, so then you're married-"
"-Once." Cat cut the doctor off.
"Ohhh...I'm sorry." He said.
"Don't be. You learn to move on. When a gal like me finally realizes that the fairy tales we grew up with aren't true, we tend to learn a lot of things." There was an uncomfortable silence between the man who didn't want to ask any more questions and the woman who didn't want to answer. Eventually she broke in again, "So, tell me doc. What's the word on Bran, here? What happened, and how's he doing? And don't sugarcoat it just on account of me being his ma."
"Oh, yes, of course. Well, as I'm sure you know, he was brought in at about midnight. He fell from the window of his ninth story hotel room. Luckily, he landed in the courtyard. If he had fallen two feet to the right and hit the concrete, well-"
"-We wouldn't be so lucky, eh?" Cat finished the thought for him, if only because she didn't want to hear what he was actually going to say. She moved over to the wall that was at the head of Bran's bed and leaned against it.
"...Our blood tests reveal that he had quite a lot of alcohol in his system." Doctor Luwin continued. "If I had to guess, I would say that he had opened the window to get some air into the room, and then in his drunken state he tripped over something near the window."
"And took the fast track down to the lobby. Hell of a way to ask for room service." Detective Tully bit the inside of her cheek. "That all makes sense to me, doc. I guess my only question is, what was Bran doing in a hotel? He's got a house in the 'burbs. A real nice house, I oughta know, I raised him in it. So why's he partying it up down on 93rd street?"
"I couldn't tell you, detective." The doctor answered. Catelyn chuckled dryly again.
"If you could I'd have to ask you to join my firm, doc." She said. She took in a deep breath on the last laugh, which turned itself into a sigh. "So, is he gonna be okay, Luwin? Tell me straight." The doctor suppressed a grimace as he looked down at the paperwork attached to his clipboard.
"Well, he'll live. Everything is stable – heartbeat, lungs, all of that is good."
"But." Catelyn started the sentence for him.
"But...It looks like he'll never walk again." Catelyn bit the inside of her cheek again, this time rather hard. She was silent for several seconds, staring at her son. She studied his face, still so chiseled and handsome even under the caking of cuts and bruises.
"Walking never did him any favors, anyway." She finally said.
"I'm sorry, Catelyn. Do you need a minute?" Doctor Luwin asked sympathetically.
"No, I'm fine. Sorry, doc, I realize I'm holding you up for whatever it is you came here to do to my boy. I'm gonna go get some coffee, okay?"
"Of course, detective." The doctor nodded as Catelyn left the room. She walked down the offensively white hallways idly searching for a vending machine, trying to think as she did. But everything was too distracting. The same sounds of life support machines tapping along refused to let her focus. It was the same reason she never wore a watch, though if anyone asked she would jokingly respond that she didn't ever need to know how late it was because "crime never sleeps."
She also noticed the people glancing at her as she passed. She noticed this everywhere. It was so queer to them to see a woman dressed like her. It had taken a lot of cajoling her very close tailor friend to get him to sew a suit in her size. Even with the rise of the flappers only a couple decades ago, it was still unheard of for a woman to wear such clothing. But it was what an official police detective was supposed to wear, she would argue. And she wanted so much to feel official.
Like she had told the doctor, it was all fairy tales. Now she just wears the suit because it's comfortable. At least, that's what she argues.
Catelyn stopped in front of the coffee vender and shoved four quarters in. She selected a nice iced coffee; Cat never was one for the hot stuff unless it was a particularly chilly day. The detective pulled the coffee out from the flap and took a sip. The delicious taste allowed her to ease her mind a bit off its continuously interrupted logical processes as she walked back to Bran's room.
"What's the word, doc?" Detective Tully asked, sliding back in.
"All his vitals are still fine. I expect he'll wake up soon." The doctor explained.
"How soon is 'soon?' We talking hours or what?" She sipped her coffee.
"No way to tell that, detective. But I wouldn't bet on anything longer than a couple days." Doctor Luwin smiled reassuringly.
"I hope it's not that long. I'm looking forward to my son telling me a little story..." Tully could see that Doctor Luwin was about to ask what she meant, but was cut off when a nurse rushed into the room.
"Doctor! Code Red in room 231!" She said urgently.
"Damn! Sorry, detective, I have to go!" The doctor said, turning.
"No problem, doc. I'll stay here and watch over things. The rest of the family ought to be here soon, anyway." She continued her thought even after the doctor had left and closed the door behind him. Catelyn stared off into space for a few seconds. "Rest of the family..." She said lowly under her breath. Sighing, the detective turned and walked back to the window, staring down at the lights below. She sipped her coffee, pleased by the sound of the steam that reached her ears.
As she drew the cup away and licked her lips she could only think of how strange it was that the iced coffee sounded like it was steaming. Slowly she turned around until she was facing the other side of the room, and the man who had entered it with the brim of his hat hung low over his face. They stared at each other for a long while.
"Sorry to tell you, pal, but visiting hours are over." Catelyn said as she tried to take in as many details about the man as she could. His suit was ill-tailored to him, his beard unshaven. His hands were stuck deep in his coat pockets, as if he were cold.
"Nobody's supposed to be in here." The man remarked, seemingly more to himself than to Catelyn.
"It's my job to be a nobody, bud. Now tell me, if no one's supposed to be in here, what's your story?" Tully could feel her free hand ball slowly into a fist.
"Just doing this boy a kindness." The man pulled his hands from his pockets, revealing the revolver he had been hiding. "No one deserves to live like that, you know." He said in false sympathy, before he leveled the gun at the detective. "Now get out of here, unless you want me to extend my charity to you, too." Tully eyed the revolver carefully. She could see how hard the man was clutching its ivory grip.
"Yeah, I get you." Catelyn said as she very slowly raised her drink and took a sip.
"I ain't joking, lady. Beat it." The man said, taking a step forward. Catelyn continued sipping for another second before she pulled the drink away, smacking her lips and giving a satisfied "Ahh."
"This is a fine coffee." She remarked, smiling. A second later and she had chucked it right into the man's face. The plastic top popped off, sending ice and liquid in every direction. It would have been nice if it had been hot coffee, but the distraction worked just as fine as Catelyn immediately closed the distance between them and forced the man against the wall. "You son of a bitch!" She growled, punching and scratching and trying to force the gun out of his hand as he did his best to fight back. "You son of a bitch! Think you can kill my son? Huh? You think I'm just going to let you? You bastard!"
Catelyn grabbed the revolver around its body, trying to get a good anchor point to force it away from the man. She heard a loud bang and felt a white hot burning on her palm as the assassin pulled the trigger. She withdrew her hand to see the reddened skin curling up like smoke, burned from the heat escaping the barrel. The man used her pain and confusion to forcefully push her backwards, sending her into Bran's bed.
The hitman lunged at Catelyn. She fumbled with her good hand for anything she could use to defend herself and felt her fingers wrap around cold metal. Before the man could pin her she had swung and hit him once, twice right in the head with Bran's bedpan, sending him reeling backwards and his gun clattering to the floor. They both leapt for it, colliding together as they grabbed frantically for the weapon. Catelyn could hardly tell what was happening in the confusion. She just felt his body, the metal of the gun in her hand, the entaglement of clothes and limbs. And then, two gunshots.
The man went limp and slumped to the floor. Catelyn fell into a sitting position on the floor, breathing heavily. She didn't even know how it happened but the gun was in her trembling grip. She looked over at the man. He laid still, his eyes gazing lifelessly at the ceiling fan. Slowly, the detective stood up. She looked from the assassin to his weapon. The grip was ivory, like she had noted before. The revolver itself was very finely crafted with many intricate engravings around its barrel. A Colt Single Action Army. She looked at the man again, at his dirty face and his slack suit. Tully ran her fingers through her hair as she thought, but had to stop as the burn on her palm sang her praises when it connected with her scalp. She withdrew her hand, grimacing, and looked around for something she could patch it with before making her way to the drawer by Bran's bedside. She withdrew a roll of medical gauze from it, quickly wrapping it around her injured hand just as the door swung open again.
"Detective we heard gunsho-Oh my God!" Doctor Luwin exclaimed, seeing the body on the floor. "What happened?"
"Nothing, nothing happened." Tully said, her voice rushed. "I was never here, you understand me?" She tied the gauze to her hand.
"What? What do you mean?" The doctor asked, bewildered.
"You never saw me here, got it? The biggest aide you have walked in to check on Bran and saw this guy, see? They wrestled and he ended up shooting him, right? I was never here."
"I...I'm afraid I don't-" The doctor started, but Tully cut him off.
"Your aide was so shocked by what happened, he broke the window and threw the gun out, got it? And you don't know where it is, do you understand?"
"No, I don't! Tully just tell me-" The doctor was once again cut off as Catelyn lifted a chair and swung it forcefully into the room's window, shattering it.
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND, DOCTOR?" She screamed.
"Yes! Yes, okay!"
"Say it back to me!"
"One of our aides found this man in the room, killed him and disposed of the weapon!"
"Good!" Catelyn tossed the chair aside, threw on her trench coat and hat, and stuffed the revolver into her coat pocket. "Now you call the police and tell them that exact story. I've gotta go."
"Where are you going?" Doctor Luwin asked, exasperated.
"93rd Street." Tully answered. "I've got a crime scene to investigate."