"I'm no' askin' for a doctor," Conchobar tried to explain to the nurse behind the desk at St. John's ER. "I just want a band-aid. I'd'a fixed 'er up meself, only we had ta hurry here followin' an ambulance," Conchobar glanced behind him towards Maddie, who was pressing her right hand up against her still-bleeding chin and hugging herself with her left hand.
"That's an awful lot of blood," The nurse said. "She'll probably need stitches."
"Ah," Conchobar said uncertainly, "Well, I din' really mean ta take her to the ER."
"She looks like she might be in shock," the nurse said seriously.
"We both know a doctor won't bother ta see her for several hours," Conchobar said frankly. "Can't cha' jus' give me a Band-Aid an' a blanket for 'er?"
"You said you followed an ambulance?"
"You'll be here for a while. You can wait for a doctor."
And wait they did, for nearly two hours. There was no sign of Sara, no word about Gabriel, just a mentally ill man muttering to himself and an annoying Olson-Twins movie on the TV hanging from the ceiling. Finally, a doctor took Maddie away and Conchobar was waiting alone. This provided time for him to think about all that had happened to him that day, from the moment he'd woken, with Sara's somewhat frustrated visage hovering over him, to his present situation, sitting in an ER alone, waiting on two people he'd meet less than twelve hours ago. It certainly seemed odd. And as with most situations in his life that he couldn't quite understand, he started composing a song about it.
"I woke up this mornin' with blood on my hands
I wish I could say who was bleedin'
The night was dark, the shadows long
The battle raged on and on,
And all the casualties have gone on
So with these crimson hands I'm prayin'" He muttered to himself, getting the sense for what the verses should be about, trying different rhythms, substituting some words for others, letting a melody emerge, listening for a harmony that would eventually be there.
"Hey that sounds pretty nice," the friendly voice of Danny Woo said from over his shoulder. Conchobar turned, infinitely relived to see a smiling face. "Don't let us interrupt you."
"Is tha' Chinese food I smell?" Conchobar said, lustfully eyeing a brown paper bag Jake was carrying.
"Uh, yeah," Jake said. "Sara called, asked us to pick some stuff up. Figured you might be hungry."
"You've heard from Sara?" Conchobar asked, feeling a little jealous.
"Yeah," Danny said, sitting down next to the Irishman in a relatively uncomfortable molded plastic chair. "She wanted us to tell you that she's sorry she couldn't come out and talk to you, but the doctors said if she left they wouldn't let her back in."
"She could'a called," Conchobar said, trying not to sound as hurt as he was.
"Nah," Jake said as he dug through his delicious smelling bag. "You've got a cell phone and that messes up the equipment in a hospital or something."
"'Course," Conchobar muttered. "I hope you brought forks for tha.'"
"You don't know how to use chop sticks?" Danny asked, mock horror on his face.
"I come from Ireland where the meal is to settle our stomachs between rounds of beer," Conchobar said with a coy smile, "If eating involved any more than the smallest amount of hand-eye coordination the entire country would starve."
The three men laughed and dug in to the moo-goo gy-pan and pork fried rice. Another hour passed infinitely more pleasantly than the previous ones. Maddie appeared shortly, a rather large white bandage conspicuously placed where the neck meets the chin. Her eyes were slightly more focused and instead of being dazed she just looked uncomfortable.
"Feelin' better darlin?" Conchobar asked, offering her an egg role, which she took gratefully.
"I don't think I'm gonna feel better for a very long time," the girl said. It was good to hear her speak in complete, coherent sentences, even if her voice was shaking.
"What is she doing here?" Jake asked, clearly dumbfounded. Danny had come to the conclusion that Jake was not a cunning FBI agent who had been pretending to be a scatterbrained-surfer-dude, but rather a scatterbrained-surfer-dude who just happened to be an FBI agent.
"I have blood all over my dress and a bandage on my face," Maddie said, not bothering to look towards Jake. "Why do you think I'm here?"
"And where did you learn English so well?" Jake continued, ignoring his first question and her answer.
"Yes, where I was born and raised."
"Well," Jake said, absolutely baffled. "Where did you learn Bulgarian?"
"From a book mostly. I'm something of an autodidact."
Jake stopped asking questions.
"You know," Danny said, leaning towards the young girl. "We never did get your name."
"And your Gabriel's girlfriend, I take it."
"What gave you that impression?"
"I deduced it from your tone of voice and extensive vocabulary."
"But the fact you saw me at his apartment at 4 a.m. didn't hurt, did it?"
"It wasn't a clue I was going to mention in mixed company."
Maddie laughed, just a little, then turned to Conchobar, "Gabriel's not dead, is he?"
"I, ah," The Irishman said nervously. "I don' know."
Her dark brown eyes turned to Jake and Danny.
Jake just shrugged and held up his hands, as if in surrender. "This Baxter case has got me so confused. I'm glad I'm off it."
"The Baxter case is solved," Sara said, walking up behind her two partners. "And don't worry, Gabriel's not dead. He's not a murderer either." She leaned over Jake to look into the brown paper bag that had been emptied of its continents a while ago. "You left a fortune cookie for me, didn't you?"
"Gra mo chrio," Conchobar said, pushing himself out of the chair, past Woo and McCarty, and wrapping his arms around his wife. Before she could even say, "Hey Baby," he was kissing her. The kind of kiss that happens only when there is enough adrenaline and longing in a body to need a passionate kiss, but enough sense and self-awareness to savor it. It didn't happen, it was crafted; an artists kiss. When he pulled away he left Sara breathless. "I was so worried."
"I'm sorry," Sara stuttered, "It's been a crazy day."
"I noticed," he said, kissing her on the forehead.
"Hey, hey," Jake interjected, yanking the lovers out of their privet world. "Get a room."
Sara sighed and turned around, "So what's the word on the White Bulls?"
"Oh Sara," Jake said, "You should'a been there. It was beautiful. Charlene was able to finger Orlinsky, like you said, plus about ten other guys. Turns out McQueen was giving out payments in kind as well as cash. Plus about half the bulls we've taken in are tripping over themselves to turn states evidence."
"Yeah," Danny observed coolly. "Who'd a guessed that a group of profiteers would abandon the cause to save themselves."
"Wha's all this about?" Conchobar asked curiously.
"Trust me, Sweetie, you'll find out soon enough," Sara said, before turning back to Jake and Danny, "You guys need me for anything more with this today?"
"Are you asking for permission to go home?" Danny asked with a sly smile.
"Please teacher," Sara said with a false pout. "I've been really good. Did all my homework."
"Really," Danny asked. "Then let's see it. What you got on the Baxter case?"
"It's a frame up," Sara said simply. "A very elaborate frame up played out by Kenneth Irons to get to me."
Jake looked at Sara critically. "Points off for paranoia."
"Kenneth Irons has wanted to control me since . . ." She looked at the expectant eyes around her. There was so much she'd have to explain. She sighed and hoped they'd give up. "Well, for a while."
"Pez, no offence, but why would a multi-millionaire want to control you," Danny asked, a very reasonable amount of confusion in his voice.
"It's a long story," Sara said quickly, as if talking fast would help her friends get past this huge jump in logic. "It has to do with the fact I was adopted and my real mother . . . It's not really important right now. What is important," she said before anyone could point out that if they were going to build a case, Irons motives would have to be clear and convincing, "is that Gabriel was kidnapped, held hostage, so that Irons could construct this murder. He planed it so that it would be the first thing on my plate when I got back from my honeymoon and he gave me so many blatant clues that I could only come to one conclusion."
"How would he know that you'd be assigned the murder?" Danny asked.
Without knowing how she knew, she answered, "He told Dante to give it to me."
"Irons," Jake said. "And Dante?"
"Someone has to bankroll the bulls Jake," Sara said. "Engraved bullets don't come cheep."
"Ok, ok," Danny said, "Assuming that Kenneth Irons is your real father or whatever . . ."
"He is NOT my father," Sara said passionately. "I never said . . ."
"Sorry, sorry," Danny quickly said, holding up his hands to prove he was defenseless. "So Irons is obsessed with you. He goes to extreme lengths to frame your friend while you're not around to what end?"
"To kill me."
"What?" Jake said.
"Conchobar, Maddie, you were witnesses," Sara said, turning to the pair who had, hither-to, been intrigued by the conversation but had assumed they were not part of it. "Didn't Irons try to kill me. Isn't that how Gabriel got hurt?"
The dawn of recognition and understanding lit in Conchobar's eyes. "That's right," he said, then turning to Jake and Danny, he filled in the blanks. "Sara told me that she was gonna go over ta Gabriel's an' I had Maddie here with me, so I figure'd we could met 'er there. When we got there, though, Irons was waitin' an' he grabbed Medea an' held her hostage. I's how she got cut."
"Is that right, Medea?" Danny asked, somewhat professionally. He wasn't trying to be a homicide detective interviewing an important witness, he just couldn't help it.
"It's all more or less blurred," the girl said, her gaze shifting from Sara to Conchobar and finally returning to Danny. "I really can only clearly remember two things. His eyes were ice blue, cold, frightening, and his hand had a scar, two circles overlapping," She traced it in the air with her finger. "Like a ven diagram."
Sara smiled, that evidence alone was enough to shift suspicion to Irons. There were, of course, a lot of hard questions that wouldn't really be able to be answered. Still, shifting suspicion was a major step in the right direction. "Sounds like a positive ID to me."
"I don't know, Sara," Danny said. "I mean, I trust you, but it just seems so . . . far fetched."
"It's what happened Danny," Sara said solidly. "You know that for the past couple of months, since Irons came into our lives I might add, all reason and logic has been thrown out the window."
Jake glanced over to Danny, "She has a point."
And even Danny had to concede. She did.
* * *
"As far as we can tell, Mr. Bowman, you are in perfect health."
"Good," Gabriel said, not really sure what else there was to say. He certainly felt healthy. Granted, mer hours earlier a mythic blade had been shoved through his chest and, narrowly missing heart and lungs while still generally reeking havoc on his internal organs. But all that had been fixed, somehow. Gabriel didn't know and he wasn't about to ask questions. He was alive, he was free, he was going to count his blessings and enjoy the control he suddenly had over his life.
"Just one more person has to see you," the doctor said, looking intently at the chart which, Gabriel imagined, must have been very confusing. "So just sit tight and he'll be in in a minuet."
"Great," Gabriel said. The doctor turned to leave, "Oh, hey," Gabriel interjected, stopping the Doctor in his tracks. "I don't suppose I could get a shirt or something? I think mine got incinerated."
"Ah," the doctor said, hesitating. "I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks," Gabriel said as the doctor left.
He rubbed the top of his right hand, feeling how smooth it was, enjoying immensely the fact that the odd double-circle scar had disappeared, as he whistled a few bars of a song that was stuck in his head, "Time after Time" by Cindy Lauper. It wasn't a particular favorite of his, but he couldn't help but feel like it was appropriate to the situation, although exactly why he wasn't sure. His memory of what had really happened, how he'd been mysteriously healed by the Witchblade, was shaky at best. He knew he'd killed Kenneth Irons, chopped his head off but at the same time he knew, without a doubt, that he had not really beheaded anyone. He was going to have to ask Sara what had really happened. He hoped she'd tell him.
The door the doctor had just walked out of opened and Gabriel leaned forward eager to get this one last person satisfied that he was healthy, happy and ready to get the hell out of there.
Kenneth Irons walked through the door.
Gabriel's heart stopped.
"You're not a doctor."
"You are correct, Mr. Bowman," Irons said with a wicked smile behind his eyes.
"You're not allowed here."
"Over the years I've donated over three million dollars to this hospital," Irons said. "I'm allowed everywhere."
"What are you going to do?"
"I think I might kill you," the billionaire said, reaching into his suite jacket and pulling out a very large gun. "But not just yet. Stand up if you please."
"I'm sick of doing what you want."
"You forget boy that I have a gun."
"You can't shoot me, not here. The doctors know you're in here."
"Problems for a pedestrian mind."
Gabriel licked his lips and turned his head. Irons was serious, and he was rich, and he was nuts, and he was evil. Unless something happened, Gabriel was dead. There was another door leading to the next examination room to his left and slightly behind him. Maybe, if he was able to role backwards over the examination table he was sitting on and stayed low . . .
"I wouldn't try and escape if I were you," Irons said, as if he could read the boy's thoughts. "You still have hope of salvation. Sara will quickly learn where I am, and she will come."
"So that's what this is all about, Sara?" Gabriel asked casually, as if they were discussing the history of one of the reare artifacts in the Boy's warehouse, not his life. "If you can't have me, nobody will?"
"I am not a man who enjoys being told his place by children," Irons said, taking a step forward, keeping his gun level.
"Look, I never . . ."
"You've worn the Witchblade," Irons said, glancing at a recent and distinctive scar, two overlapping circles, which had appeared on the center of the boy's chest, presumably where the blade had impaled him. It was the only evidence that the injury had happened.
"Is that what it means?" Gabriel said, putting his hand over the scar. He wished he had a shirt on.
"The Witchblade leaves this mark on every man who's bold enough to wear it. Did Sara give you the blade, or did you take it."
"What do you think?"
"She saved your life."
"Wouldn't be the first time."
"I assure you Mr. Bowman," Irons said, leveling the gun to Gabriel's throat, placing the cool steel of the barrel right on the boy's Adam's Apple. "It will be the last."
* * *
"Lady Sara," Ian Nottingham said. No one had seen or heard him approach. Everyone jumped.
"God, Nottingham," Sara said angrily. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Mister Irons request's your presence."
"This's Ian Nottingham?" Conchobar asked, eyeing the dark interloper suspiciously. Jake and Danny were doing the same.
"You can tell Irons to go to hell, the sooner the better."
"You ought to give him that message yourself. He is just yonder."
"Yonder?" Sara asked.
"In the ER, room eleven, with your friend Gabriel."
"God," Sara gasped. She pushed past Nottingham, climbed over a set of unused chairs and rushed the nurse guarding the entrance to the ER proper. Danny and Conchobar followed. They were panicked because Sara was so panicked. Jake and Maddie brought the rear. Ian didn't move.
"NYPD, we need to get in," Sara said, flashing her badge.
The nurse reached for a clipboard "You'll have to sign . . ."
"No time," Sara said, pushing her way past the nurse, Danny and Conchobar were on her heals. Jake and Maddie, on the other hand, were just a little too slow. The nurse, who was about fifty years old and as solidly built as any woman Jake had ever seen, placed herself in front of them. Her stance effectively communicated, no one enters without signing in, and Jake just didn't have the conviction to argue with her.
* * *
"Did you like watching the world as it passed you by?" Irons asked. "Seeing and hearing everything, but not being able to touch it, to make your voice heard?"
"Ah," Gabriel said, licking his lips, "Not particularly."
"I wonder, sometimes, if that would be a fate worse than death."
"What are you gonna do?"
"A bullet through the neck will puncture your trachea, rip through your vocal cords and shatter your spine around the third or fourth cervical vertebrae."
"So it'll kill me."
"If we were alone, yes, it most likely would. But we are mere feet away from the finest triage physicians in the city. I have no doubt they would be able to give you a tracheotomy and save your life, but you would never again converse on the matter of the Witchblade with the lovely Sara, never stroll through your storeroom examining the eccentric and exotic wares, never move your hands across the decidedly unromantic surface of a computer keyboard. In short, young Gabriel, you will see and hear everything, but be unable to touch the world or make your voice heard. You will be trapped permanently in the prison of your own mind."
"At least I won't have any pushy cell mates," Gabriel said defiantly.
That's when Sara busted in, "Irons!" she shouted, advancing on him with murder in her eyes.
"Sara!" Gabriel shouted, at exactly the same time, relief in his eyes.
"I wouldn't move any closer," Irons said, his voice was cold and hard, he was relishing the situation. He didn't bother to look behind him to see if she had her gun or the Witchblade drawn. It didn't concern him. He had Gabriel Bowman, that was what mattered. "This gun has a hair trigger, Sara, one false move from you and your friend here becomes about as interactive as a lawn gnome."
"Irons put the gun down."
"It's not fair, Sara, not fair at all."
"Your right," Sara spat, "you've got a gun and he doesn't."
"I have planed, manipulated, schemed, done all in my power to prolong my life and this simple ignorant boy is immortal."
"No I'm not," Gabriel said, mystified.
"No one's immortal," Sara said, her voice steady and hard. "He's died a thousand times."
"Only to be born a thousand and one," Irons said. "If I have to die, the least he can do is long to join me."
"You won't get away with this," Sara said. "There are witnesses who won't be bought off."
"There are other ways to silence a witness."
"Don't," Danny said forcefully. "Don't do it!"
"I will not be denied my most elegant Revenge," Irons said with relish.
Then, for Sara all the color seemed to drain out of the world as time slowed, events unfolded neatly and in order and at a regulated pace. She heard a bang, and thought, for a second, that it was quieter than it should have been, considering Irons gun did not have a silencer on it. But then she saw what appeared to be an explosion of glass shards on the right side of the room. There was a door there that she hadn't seen, a door with a window her shooter could aim through. She watched a spiraling bullet cut its way through the air, and then she saw Irons fall backwards dramatically in slow motion as the small mettle projectile board its way through his body. She heard Maddie scream, high pitched and full of terror and surprise. She heard a sort of gurgling sound come out of Irons before he hit the ground there was a whole on the right side of his chest.
And then time started.
While everyone was still too shocked by what had just happened to move, the door that had just gotten it's window shot out opened and Jakes head appeared, "You all right man?" he asked Gabriel.
"Ahh," the boy stuttered, blinking, "Yeah,"
"Jake!" Danny yelled, running to the rookie absolutely furious. "What the hell'd you just do?!"
"What was that!" a nurse yelled, pushing her way past Danny and Sara, who had yet to get over the shock of seeing Irons die. "Oh God! Doctor, Doctor!"
A second later two doctors and a host of nurses as well as security officers rushed into the room. The doctors garbed Irons body and laid him on the ground, starting CPR desperately. The Nurses shoed them all away, the security officers took them all into custody.
* * * EPILOG * * *
Sara opened the door to the hospital security office. This had been, without question, the longest day she could remember. She was exhausted but, oddly, at total peace with herself. She felt like the boogie-men that had been hovering over her shoulder since she got the Witchblade had vanished, like someone opened her closet door and turned on the light. She felt, oddly, that old business was done with, like she could start moving forward. She hadn't realized it, but in retrospect the past few months had seemed like a re-do, like she was granted some time to fix her mistakes before she moved on.
As she entered the poorly lit room the conversation she could barely hear through the door stopped. Three stets of eyes stared at her and Sara wanted to sit down with each of those sets and explain everything. And she would, eventually, but not now.
"Ok you trouble-makers, you're free to go."
"Go?" Gabriel asked, leaning forward. His hand was intertwined with Maddie's, and as he leaned forward she seemed to almost hold him back, like she was afraid Sara would spirit him away and she'd never be able to hold his hand again. This was, Sara reasoned, a fair enough fear given the days events. "As in leave?"
"Exit," Sara provided, "depart and withdraw."
"Wha' abou' the shottin'?" Conchobar asked. "Don' they need us fer questionin'?"
"Maybe later," Sara sighed. "When two Homicide Detectives and a FBI agent agree on events civilian testimony is rarely necessary."
"Wait," Gabriel said. "Who's the fed?"
"You're kidding," Gabriel said.
"He saved your life Gabriel," Sara said. "Be a little grateful,"
"Oh, greatful I am," Gabriel said, "Gullible I'm not. Jake, he's so . . ."
"Callow," Medea supplied.
"Be that as it may," Sara said. "His testimony is good as gold in this situation. He'll probably have to go though some investigation or something to make sure he had justifiable cause for shooting Irons. You'll all probably be interviewed for that. But that's something for tomorrow, now we can go home."
"Oh goodie," Gabriel said. "After a day like today I wondered what I could do tomorrow."
"Hey," Sara snapped, "None of that. I almost killed you today, don't think I won't finish the job."
Gabriel laughed and smiled and looked away. "Damn I missed you."
"I missed you too, sweetie," Sara said.
That's when Conchobar cleared his throat. Sara turned to him. "Yes man-who-I-love-more-than-anything-else-in-the-world?"
"Can I ask a question?"
"What exactly did happen today, when you almost killed Gabriel?"
"He charged me," Sara said, "I defended myself."
"No' that part," Conchobar insisted. "The part where your bracelet turned into armor and spikes."
Sara glanced around, everyone's eyes were very intent on her, they all had seen, they all wanted answers. "Oh, you saw that did you."
"No, I made it up," Conchobar said sarcastically.
"Jeez," Maddie muttered. "How could we miss it?"
"I'm sorry," Sara stuttered. "It's just ... nobody ever sees what this thing does, they just see the results, if they're still alive."
"Well, yeah," Conchobar said a little uncomfortably. "I saw it and I'm alive. So why don't you tell me what exactly that is."
Sara's left hand drifted to the Witchblade she was tempted to take it off, to show it to him and say it was nothing. But then, that was a lie. "Gabriel?" She asked, looking at the younger man for help."
"It's called the Witchblade and everything, and I mean everything in our lives revolves around it."
"Pyubvnik," Maddie said, "That sounds a little crazy."
"It's a weapon like none other," Gabriel continued. "It chooses a wearer and, ah, changes the world."
"You make it sound like this bracelet has a will a it's own," Conchobar said suspiciously.
"It might," Gabriel said, shrugging.
"So, when you say everything, you mean this situation, you and the murder, and your eyes, and . . ."
"Yes," Sara interrupted, "It was about the Witchblade. Kenneth Irons was obsessed with it, which means he was obsessed with me. He used Gabriel to get close to it."
"An' now he's dead," Conchobar said firmly.
"And now he's dead," Sara nodded.
"Well then," Gabriel said, "I guess this is a happy ending."
"You bet," Sara nodded, taking Conchobar's hand and weaving her fingers through his. "Happily Ever after."
THE VERY END!!!!
I hope you all enjoyed this. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who reviewed. You seriously made my day each time. And also, please don't ask for a sequel, there won't be one. The point was to bring closure, no use reopening it. -- Harri