John Holton (john_holton) wrote,
John Holton

"Nothing", parts 11-15

Nothing Doing

Eddie walked into the room as I was getting ready for Kate's party. "Ooh, aren't we pretty!"

"I'm going to a party, OK? Might as well look good." I had on a flowered satin shirt, a pair of Britannia jeans, and a pair of dress shoes.

"Looks like you're trying to impress the ladies, my friend. Who's throwing this bash?"

"It's at some church way out near Niles. This girl that I know invited me."

"You know a girl? I'm impressed." Eddie smiled this silly grin that let me know that he wsan't all that impressed.

"Yeah, I run into them all the time, asshole," I said, fighting with my cowlick to try and get my hair to stay down. "I don't just buy them on the newsstand."

"Screw you," Eddie said, not angry as much as sarcastic. "So, who is this mystery woman?"

"Her name's Kate Molloy..."

"NO!" Eddie dropped onto his bed. "Red hair, big green eyes..." He cupped his hands about a foot in front of his chest.

"Sounds like you know her."

"Oh, shit, Tony, everyone knows her."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Hey, I'm not saying anything bad. I'm just saying that she's gotta be the hottest girl on campus. And she asked YOU out?"

"It's not like she asked me out. We work together at Field's. She takes some classes down at LT a couple of days a week. We ran into each other on Monday, she invited me to this party. So what?"

"Ooh." Eddie was clearly impressed. "What about Rosalie?"

"She's fine with it. She's working this weekend, and besides, she thought it was a good idea."

"So, she gave you permission to go?"

"Eddie, it's not like that, OK?" I shook my head and sighed. "Rosalie and I are friends. We get together once in a while, but it's not like I'm married to her or anything. It hasn't gotten that far with her. Hell, I've only known her a couple of weeks. It's not that serious. So, what are you going to do tonight?"

"Bunch of us are going to Huey's. You know Jeff in the next suite? He's got a brother who's in a band that's playing there. They're playing from 9 to 1. Hey, if you get back early, which you probably will considering that this party is at a church, why don't you come down and join us?"

"I might. I've got work in the morning, though."

"You don't have to stay all night. Just come on down if you feel up to it, all right?"

"That could work. OK." I grabbed my windbreaker off of the back of my chair. "See you later."

It took me over an hour to navigate the buses to get out to Kate's church. Fortunately, I saw some people around my age when I got off the last bus and followed them to where the party was being held. I paid my admission and looked around for Kate. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be; every other girl in the place seemed to be a redhead. Someone came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and she was there.

"Hey, Tony! I'm glad you could make it. Come on, I'll introduce you to everyone." She led me to a table in a corner, where I counted six girls and six guys. "Everybody, this is Tony Reardon." She pointed to a tall blond guy. "This is my boyfriend, Rick..."

"My pleasure, Tony," he said.

"Yeah, nice to meet you. Kate's talked about you," I said, mustering as much enthusiasm as I could.

Kate introduced the other five couples at the table, then said, "and this is Esperanza."

I turned and met the eyes of a stunning Latin girl, who smiled up at me. "Hi! You can call me Hope," she said, extending her hand to me. She had a faint trace of an accent, which made her even more appealing.

"How do you do?" I said, taking her hand. "It's a real pleasure to meet you." I pulled up a chair beside her and sat down. I was feeling a whole lot better now.

The evening went slowly downhill from there. For one thing, nearly everyone at the table, being north siders, were Cubs fans. I, being from the south side, was the lone White Sox fan. This put me on the wrong side of most of the conversation at the table. Then, twenty minutes after my arrival, Hope decided that she wasn't feeling well and left for home just before the band started playing. Needless to say, when the music started, everyone but me got up to dance. I sat and watched for a couple of minutes, trying to think of a good way to excuse myself. I glanced at my watch, and saw that it was only quarter to nine. I figured, if the buses were running good, I could make it to Huey's by ten, maybe ten-thirty. I decided to go out and have a cigarette, then come back in and make my excuses.

I went outside and lit a cigarette, and found a place to sit along a low wall near some bushes. It was a nice night, cool and a little breezy, but clear so that I could see the stars. A jet flew overhead, probably on its way to O'Hare, which I knew was only a few miles away. I wondered where it was coming from. I put out my cigarette and stood up to go back inside.

"There you are!" a cheerful voice called out to me. "I figured I'd find you here." Kate was approaching.

"Hey, what's going on?" I asked nonchalantly.

"Nothing. Just figured I'd come out for a cigarette. They don't allow smoking in there and my crowd doesn't really like it, anyway." She pulled out a cigarette, and I lit it for her, and lit one for myself. "Thanks, Tony. Listen, I'm sorry..."

"For what?" I asked. I knew, but I wanted to hear her say it.

"Oh, that this evening turned into such a disaster."

"It wasn't a disaster. Not much of one, anyway. Hey, I got to see you, and I got to meet your boyfriend..."

"Could I talk to you about that for a minute?"


She took me by the hand and led me around to the back of the building. There was a bench there in a small garden. She sat down and motioned for me to sit next to her. "Tony, I think I might have given you the wrong impression on Monday. Did you think that I was going to be your date this evening?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, you asked me to come, I naturally assumed that you were asking me to be here for you."

"You knew I had a boyfriend, didn't you?"

"I asked you out once, you said you had a boyfriend, I didn't pursue it any further. I guess when you asked me here tonight, I assumed that you two had broken up, or he was busy or something, and you didn't want to go to this thing alone. I don't know what I was thinking. You don't normally talk about him. It's OK."

"No, it's not OK. I should have been clearer with you. You're too nice of a guy to treat like that." She sat back and sighed.

"Your friend was a real sweetheart. I'm kind of sorry that I didn't get a chance to get to know her better."

"See, that was the idea. I was trying to fix the two of you up together. I mean, she just broke up with her boyfriend and was really bummed by it."

I wanted to smack her in the head when she said that. She probably hadn't told her friend that I was coming. I didn't say anything, just shook my head and smiled.

"Listen, I feel bad for dragging you all the way out here and doing this to you. I want to make it up to you somehow. You want me to give you a ride home?"

"Tell you what. Buy me lunch tomorrow, and we'll call it even."

She smiled. "It's a deal."

We sat and had another cigarette together, then I walked her back to the dance. "See you tomorrow, OK?" I said.

She put her arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek. "OK! Don't be late, all right?"

"I won't." I waved to her as she went back inside, then I went out to the bus stop. A bus came right away. Well, there was one thing that went right.

Nothing Makes Sense

I have no idea how I made it to work on Saturday morning. I discovered, half way home from the party at Kate's church, that one of the bus lines didn't run after 9 o'clock, and ended up having a two-mile walk to catch the next bus. I did my best to walk past Huey's on the way home, but a couple of my suitemates saw me and pulled me in. I then spent the next two hours drinking and listening to perhaps the worst band I've ever heard. I finally tumbled back into bed at around 2 AM, only to have the alarm blast me out of bed at 7. I was still woozy from the night before when I walked into work, just in time for the weekly meeting at 9:30.

I fell in beside Kate. "Have fun after the party last night?" She could always tell when it was the morning after for me.

"Not really," I said, turning toward her. I noticed a bruise under her right eye. "What happened to you?"

"I'll tell you later. We have lunch together at 11:30. I owe you, remember."

Kate came and got me at lunchtime. "Any idea where you want to go?"

"I don't know. We could go to Orange Julius, or run over to Jack In The Box."

"It's kind of chilly out. Let's stay in and go to Orange Julius."

We walked out into the mall and started down the escalators toward the third floor. "So, you want to tell me what happened?"

"Well, let's just say that last night wasn't a really good one for me. After I went back into the party, Rick and I had a huge fight, and we decided not to see one another for a while."

"Did he give you the black eye?"

"No. I got that at home. I don't want to talk about that." She bit her lip and I could tell that she was upset by it, so I didn't force the issue. "So, anyway, um..." Her eyes were getting wet. I pulled a packet of tissues out of my pocket and offered them to her. She took one and dabbed at her eyes.

"We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," I said. Of course, if whoever had done this to her were in the room with us, I'd have a few things to say.

"Do you ever have days like that, where it seems like everything goes wrong?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah, all the time. I think everyone does, once in a while." We stepped off the escalator on the third floor and checked out the line at the Orange Julius. As usual, being one of the few inexpensive places in the mall to eat, it was long. We stepped in at the end and stood there quietly. I felt her hand brush up against mine, and I took it. I looked at her, and she smiled up at me.

"You think Rosalie will mind if I do this?" she asked.

"Nah. She's actually pretty cool about this kind of thing. She actually encouraged me to ask you out."

"Really?" Kate smiled more brightly.

"She did. I told her you already had a boyfriend, but she said to ask you anyway. I don't know her that well, but she's really nice."

"She sounds nice. You've only known her a couple of weeks now, right?"

"Uh huh, and it seems like the longer I know her, the more questions I have. You know how two people in a relationship are supposed to get to know each other better? By the time I get off the phone with her, or leave her after we get together, I feel like I know her less than I did before."

"That's weird. So what do you think is going to happen between you two?"

"I don't know. Whenever we talk about that, she says 'it's going where it's going,' and that's where the conversation ends."

"Where would you like it to go, Tony?" She drew a little closer, and tipped her head inquisitively.

It was a good question, and I wished that I had a good answer for her. "I don't know," I said. "The longer I stand here, the more I think that maybe it won't go all that far."

By now, we were at the front of the line. We placed our orders, Kate paid (as she said she would), and we took the escalator up a level and found a bench near an ashtray. We finished half of our lunch before she asked me, "So, are you going to ask me out?"

"I was just getting to that," I said. She smiled. "Do you want to go out tonight?"


"Where would you like to go?"

"Anywhere. I just don't want to go home. How was that band that you saw last night? You said something about going to Huey's..."

"They were terrible. I wouldn't want to go see them again. How about a movie?"

"Mmmm. I'm not a big movie kind of person."

"Neither am I."

"You know, I think I'd just like to go somewhere quiet and talk."

I thought for a minute. "You know, there's a coffee house north of campus. I think they have someone playing there on the weekends, but it would probably be pretty quiet, at least for a while."

"That sounds like fun," she said. "Then, afterwards, who knows?"

I smiled. I liked the sound of "who knows".

We finished lunch and had a cigarette, then started back up to the seventh floor. As we were going up the escalator, I saw something that surprised me: the guy who had been tailing me on Sunday, riding down the escalator and chatting with the boss. They both smiled and waved at Kate and me.

"Who was that guy with the boss?" she asked. "It looked like he knew you."

"I sold him a bottle of wine last week. That's all."

She looked at me funny. "Are you OK? It's like you got pale all of a sudden."

"Yeah, I'm fine." I hoped that she couldn't tell that I really wasn't. "Just have to go to the bathroom, that's all."

She laughed. "Oh, well, thank you for sharing that." Just as we were ready to go back into work, she stopped suddenly and kissed me on the cheek. "Talk to you later."

In the restroom, I washed my hands and splashed some cold water on my face, then took a couple of deep breaths while I dried off. There had to be a logical explanation for what I was seeing, but I couldn't figure it out. What was the connection between the boss and this guy who was tailing me? Were they friends? Lovers? If so, why was this guy tailing me around? I went back out onto the floor and spent the rest of the day hard at work, trying hard not to think about it.

Nothing By Way Of Explanation

When we got to the dorm, Kate rode up to the fifteenth floor to borrow some casual clothes from a friend who lived there. I went to my room and changed my clothes. Eddie walked in as I was getting dressed.

"Hey, mo, what's going on?"

"Getting ready to go out," I said. "I thought you were going home for the weekend."

"Yeah, in a few minutes. I'll be there until Tuesday. Gotta vote. So, your big date with Rosalie?" he asked.

"No. Kate Molloy."

"You're kidding! You landed a date with her?" He sat down in the easy chair and grinned. "You're shittin' me! Last night, you said she was with her boyfriend and they tried to stick you with one of her friends, who didn't like you."

"Well, a lot has happened since last night." I fought with my hair, as usual. "She broke up with her boyfriend last night and decided she wanted to go out with me tonight."

"Man, you work fast," he said.

"I was in the right place at the right time," I said. I looked around the room and saw that Eddie had a pile of his magazines in plain view. "You wanna ditch those for a few minutes? I don't want her walking in here and seeing them."

"She's coming here?" he exclaimed.

"Well, she's upstairs right now, getting comfortable, and she's going to come down to get me when she's ready."

"Why didn't you tell me she was coming here?" He dove for the pile and stuffed them under his bed just as Kate poked her head into the open door.

"Can I come in?" she asked.

I looked at Eddie, who was now seated on his bed. "Yeah, come on in," I said, smiling.

She walked in and looked around. "Hey, Eddie, Tony didn't tell me you were his roommate."

"He didn't tell me you were his date until about five minutes ago. That Tony loves to keep his secrets."

I picked up my jacket and took Kate by the hand. "Listen, we'll see you," I said.

"I won't be here, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, have a good time at home. Say hi to your folks for me."

We started for the door, and Eddie said, "Hey, Reardon!" I peeked around the corner; he made an obscene motion with his hands and gave me the "thumbs-up". I just shook my head and walked out.

It was a nice enough evening, if a bit cold, that we decided to walk to the No Exit Cafe, even if it was a mile away and right off of the L at Morse. We stopped for something to eat first at my favorite place for hot dogs, which as far as I know didn't have a name. All I knew about the place was that I went there three or four times a week, usually right before bedtime. Kate's appetite seemed to be a little better than it had been at lunch, maybe because she hadn't eaten too well. I wanted to think it was because she was with me.

I had only been to No Exit a few times before, and what I remembered the most about it was that it was on a part of Glenwood Avenue that was still paved with bricks. Kate thought that was really cool, that the people of the neighborhood fought hard to keep it looking the way it had many years before. We decided to take the scenic route through the neighborhood, rather than staying on Sheridan Road. I was feeling kind of funny about walking down major streets, given my recent past experiences with crazed drivers nearly running me over.

No Exit was a throwback to the beatnik days. Dark and filled with ferns and other plants, it was the only place that I knew of that served capuccino and espresso. The entertainment was generally someone with a guitar and a halfway decent voice, and the politics, while never expressly stated, were somewhere to the immediate left of Lenin, if you were to believe the posters on the wall. Still, the people were friendly enough, the prices were reasonable, and the entertainment was usually pretty good, and I knew from some experience that it was a great place to go to impress a date with one's worldliness.

We got there about an hour before the entertainment started and sat at a small table near the window. A young woman took our order (espresso for me, hot chocolate for her, a slice of chocolate cake for the two of us) and scurried off. Kate looked at the table and smiled. "It's a Go board! Have you ever played Go before, Tony?"

"Is that what they're doing over there?" I asked, pointing to a table against the back wall. Two older men were intently staring at a number of small pieces on the table, as if they were trying to set it on fire.

"Yeah! Want to try?"

"Sure!" I was willing to do anything once, twice if I liked it. When our server returned, Kate had her bring a set of stones for us.

I wasn't all that good at the game. Kate, who had played before, beat me nearly every time. I wasn't as interested in the game as I was in her. She talked nearly the entire time that we played: about her lousy family situation, her abusive father, her mother who looked the other way, how, as the oldest, she was expected to do more and make them prouder than any of her younger siblings. She told me that she was on a pace to finish college by a year from January, because she had taken eighteen hours every semester and twelve hours every summer, with the idea that she could save herself a year and a half's worth of student loans and move out that much sooner. She told me that she had originally wanted to go into nursing, but that she was taking some business courses and thinking of changing majors, that she hadn't taken any of her major classes and all of what she had already taken would work as core classes.

She paused and met my eyes, smiling tenderly. "It's so nice to talk and have someone really listen," she said. She reached across the table and took my hand. "So, what about you? I want to know as much about you as you can tell me before the band starts playing." A guitarist, a violinist, and a string bass player were tuning up on the bandstand, and our server came by and asked if we wanted anything before the music started. We ordered another round, and I turned back to my date.

I told her about how my father died when I was eleven, and how my mother had done everything that she could to support the three of us. I told her about my sister and her alternative lifestyle, about how my mother was so disappointed but how Claire seemed really happy. I told her about my brother, and my big goofy family with hundreds of aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins once removed, second cousins once removed, second cousins, and so on. I told her that I planned on majoring in Production Management, but had no idea why other than I was good in statistics and it seemed to be a good fit for me. About halfway through that discussion, the band started playing, and we turned to watch them. She kept a tight grip on my hand through their first couple of songs, and shifted her chair around so that she could be closer to me during one particularly romantic tune.

"I'd like to go back after this set," she whispered in my ear.

"OK," I whispered back. She rested her head on my shoulder and pulled me close.

I paid the bill when the server came around, and we walked back out into the chilly evening. It had rained while we were in the cafe, and was still drizzling when we started our walk back. "Do you want to take the train home?" I asked.

"Yeah, that sounds good," she replied.

As we crossed Glenwood Avenue in the direction of the L station at Morse, a car suddenly turned the corner. I started to run and tugged Kate's arm to pull her out of the way, but the car's front bumper caught her rear end, throwing her toward me and sending me to the pavement. She let out a pained wail and began to cry as I tried to gather my wits and figure out what had happened. Several people from the cafe came out, saw what had happened, and ran across the street.

"My God, are you two all right?" someone who sounded like the singer asked.

"Oh, God, my leg, it hurts so bad!" Kate wailed.

"You had a nasty fall yourself, kid. What happened?"

"I...we were crossing...this guy..."

"It's OK. Look, they've called an ambulance and the police. Help's on the way."

Nothing Makes Sense (Again)

When they got Kate and me into the ambulance, I passed out. When I woke up, I was in an emergency room, and my mother and Francis were sitting with me.

"W...where am I?" I stuttered.

"You're at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston," my mother said. "What happened?"

"I was out on a date...."

"Yes, we know, dear. We met her parents when we got here. She's an adorable girl, Tony."

"Thanks, Mom, but you didn't let me finish. We were coming out of the place, and going over to the L..."

"What place, honey?"

"Mom! Please! I'm trying to answer your first question. I've got a headache, I'm sore all over..."

"The doctor said you had a concussion, and that you probably dislocated your shoulder, but you didn't break anything, thank God."

"Mom, let Tony finish," Francis chimed in.

Mom turned to Francis, her eyes beetling. "I'm trying to talk to your brother."

"And he's trying to talk to you, Mom, and you keep interrupting him."

"I'm sorry, I'm just very worried." She turned back to me. "So you were crossing the street and this car came around the corner?"

"Yeah. We were about halfway across, and I tried to pull Kate out of the way, and the car hit her. Is she all right?"

"I don't know, dear. Her parents didn't have much news. They said that she was in surgery."

"Surgery?" I felt sick. I tried to sit up, but the room started spinning, and the light was hurting my eyes.

A nurse in a scrub uniform slid the curtain surrounding my bed away. "Hello, Mr. Reardon, how do you feel?"

"Like someone beat me over the head with a hammer."

"I can imagine. Anything else?"

"I'm sore all over, and I'm worried about my girlfriend."

"OK, well, you rest. I'll see what I can find out about your girlfriend. Is she the red haired young woman that came in with you?"


"I'll see what I can find out. I believe that they took her to surgery. She was very badly injured, but I'm sure that she'll be all right."

A young doctor came in behind her. "I'm Dr. Weiss. How are you feeling, Tony?"

"He says that he's dizzy..." Mom began.

"Are you his mother?"

"Yes, Doctor, I'm Virginia Reardon, and this is Tony's brother, Francis."

"Nice to meet you both," the doctor said. "Francis, why don't you take your mother for a cup of coffee while I examine your brother?"

"OK," Francis said. "C'mon, Mom, let's go get coffee."

"Thank you, Francis, but I'd just as soon stay with your brother..."

"Mom?" Francis put his hand on our mother's shoulder. "Let's go get some coffee. The doctor ain't gonna hurt Tony."

"Isn't, Francis."

"Yeah, that too. Come on."

"Oh, all right," Mom said. She stood up, put her coat over her arm and picked up her purse. "Tony, dear, we'll be back in a few minutes."

The doctor drew the curtain when they had left. "OK, so, your mother said that you're dizzy."

"Yeah, my head hurts, my arm hurts, my knees both hurt, and the light is hurting my eyes. And I think I'm going to be sick." I leaned over the edge of the bed and puked. "Sorry," I said.

"That's OK, we can get that cleaned up." He leaned out and asked the nurse to send someone with a mop and bucket. "Yes, you're definitely showing signs of a concussion. You're slurring your words a little bit, too."

"Doctor, what's going on with my girlfriend?"

"What's her name?"

"Ro...I'm sorry, Kate Molloy."

"Right. The girl that came in with you. They took her right to surgery. She had a pretty badly broken hip and some damage to the pelvis, and they're upstairs now getting her fixed up. I wouldn't worry about her. They can do great things these days."

"What time is it, anyway?"

He looked at his watch. "It's...quarter after three."

"Already? Man!" I laid back and closed my eyes.

"OK, don't go to sleep yet," the doctor said. "We're going to keep you in the hospital overnight...well, at least as much of the night as we have left. The police are going to want to talk to you, since it was a hit-and-run. Understand?"

"Yeah. When am I going to get out?"

"Oh, you might be out tomorrow or Monday...."

"I have a test on Monday!" I tried to sit up, but couldn't.

"Not in your condition, pal. You need to concentrate on healing here. I'll work on getting you into a room."

He left, and I went right back to sleep.

Light was filtering through the drawn drapes of my room when I woke up. I turned to find a clock, and was surprised to see Rosalie sitting there.

"Hey, handsome," she said, and kissed me on the cheek. "I hear you had a little accident last night."

"What are you doing here?" I demanded.

"Visiting you," she said. "I stopped at the store and didn't see you, and I asked your boss where you were, and he said that you and Kate had been in an accident and were both in the hospital. I called all of them until I found you. What happened?"

I told her the story of the night before, as best as I could remember it. "Rosalie, what's going on?"

"I'm not sure, honey. I'm trying to find out. I have my suspicions, but I need to check into a few more things before I can say for certain."

"What do you think is going on?"

"I'd really rather not say..."

"Oh, OK, fine. Someone's tried three times in the past week to run me over with a car, he damn near succeeds last night, he damn near kills my girlfriend, who doesn't have a goddamn thing to do with any of this shit, and you don't want to tell me what the fuck is going on...."

"Tony, calm down..."

"No, goddamn it. I want some answers."

"You'll get answers when I have them." She stood up and put her coat on. "I have to go. I promise, when I know more, I'll tell you." She bent over to kiss me on the forehead, and I turned away. "Fine, be that way," she said, her voice choking. She turned and left.

Something Out Of Nothing

A nurse came in soon after Rosalie had left. "Good morning," she said cheerfully. "How are you today?"

"Lousy," I said. "What time is it?"

"It's quarter to one. I'm here to take your vital signs."

Quarter to one? I was late for work. OK, so there wasn't much of a chance that either Kate or I would be going in, but I hadn't called. "I need to make a phone call. I'm supposed to be at work like, twenty minutes ago."

"Relax, Mr. Reardon," she said. "Everything will be all right."

My head was spinning and I lay back in bed. "I'm going to lose my job for sure," I moaned.

"I'm sure your boss will understand," she said. She stuffed a thermometer in my mouth and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around my arm. "Hold still now." She pumped up the cuff and let the air out slowly while I tried to calm down. "Your blood pressure is way up. That's probably because you're upset." She checked my temperature. "It's a little high, 99.6. You had some pretty nasty scrapes and bruises. I'll come back in half an hour and check on you again. You get some rest."

"Can I use the phone?" I asked.

"Sure! It's there for you. Dial 9 to get out." She left, dragging her blood pressure machine behind her.

I picked up the phone and dialed the office. "Mr. Schwartz? It's Tony Reardon."

"Where are you, Mr. Reardon? And where is Miss Molloy? I'm two people short and the store is open."

"I'm in the hospital, sir. Kate and I were in an accident last night."

"And you couldn't have someone call for you?"

"I thought my mother would call for me, but evidently she forgot."

"I see. Can't take enough responsibility for yourself. What am I supposed to do?"

My head was really hurting now. "Mr. Schwartz, I'd be there except that I'm in the hospital with a concussion. Kate would be there except that she's in the hospital with a broken leg. I am sorry that this has happened, but I really didn't have much control over it..."

"Fine. Bring a note with you when you come back to work." He slammed down the phone.

"Fuck you," I said to the receiver as I set it back onto its cradle. I picked up the phone again and called Eddie.

"Hey, mo, where you been? Your boss called here looking for you. He was so pissed off, I swear you could smell him through the line."

"I'm in the hospital."

"The HOSPITAL? What happened to you?"

"Kate and I got hit by a car."

"What! Are you guys OK?"

"I feel like shit, and I just banged my head really bad and got some cuts and scrapes. Kate got hit right in the ass and I heard that she's got a busted hip...."

"Oh, shit. Man, what hospital you at?"

"St. Francis. I'm not sure what room."

"I'll come and see you. Want me to bring anything?"

"Nah, that's all right. You don't have to come."

"Man, I want to, OK? I'll bring Will with. He's going to want to know. Look, I'll leave in a few minutes..."

"I don't know where it is or how to get here..."

"I know where it is. My roommate last year ended up there. Just sit tight, OK?" He hung up before I could say anything.

There was a knock at the door. A big man with a hatchet face loomed in the doorway. "You Tony Reardon?"

"Yes, sir, I am." I tried to sit up, but couldn't move.

He walked into the room. "What the fuck happened with you and my daughter last night?"

Well, that solved that mystery. "Mr. Molloy, we were crossing the street and someone in a big car came rushing around the corner. I tried to get her out of the way...."

"Didn't do a very good job of it, did you?" He stalked over to the window. "Jesus, she doesn't come home, next thing I hear, she's in the fucking hospital. What the hell were the two of you doing?"

"We were out on a date." The guy stunk of alcohol and was pacing back and forth in front of my bed. I hoped that he'd just lose interest and leave, or that someone would come along and convince him to leave. My head was pounding and I was seeing double.

"Out on a date," he said, his head bobbing up and down. "You don't even have the fucking decency to come by the house and introduce yourself. Who the hell brought you up? Where are your fucking manners, kid? Huh?" He smacked the railing on the side of my bed. It clanged loudly and continued to hum for a couple of seconds.

"Mr. Molloy, I didn't know..."

"Don't you 'Mr. Molloy' me," he shouted. "Here's something that I know. I know my pride and joy is upstairs in traction with half a dozen fucking pins in her goddamn hip and pelvis, that's what I know..."

"Leo," came a quiet voice from the doorway. I turned and saw a shorter and older version of Kate standing there. Mrs. Molloy's hair was the same shade of red, except for the ample amount of white in it, and her tired eyes were the same shade of emerald green. She was still a very striking woman.

"What, Peg?" His voice seethed with impatience.

"It's not his fault that Kate's in here, dear," she said quietly. "Now, please, go get the car. I want to go home. Sheila's home alone with the kids."

He shot me another dirty look and stormed out of the room. She watched him go down the hall, then turned and smiled. "May I come in, Tony?"

"Yes, ma'am, please." She came into the room and sat down in the chair beside the bed.

"I'm very sorry about Leo," she said. "He's just very upset."

"I understand. I am, too." Upset that I was just accosted by a drunk in my hospital room, upset that he had the nerve to blame me for what happened to her. "Is Kate all right?"

"Oh, Katie's going to be fine," she said. "She wanted me to come down and check on you, and to let you know that she's doing all right. How are you feeling, dear?"

"My head hurts, and I'm sore, and I'm happy that neither of us was hurt any worse." She looked like she had a bruise over her eye, but I didn't ask her about it.

"Well, you take it easy and don't try to rush back into anything." She left a piece of paper on the table beside the bed. "She told me that you probably didn't have our number, and she wanted me to make sure that you had it. She'd like to hear from you again, and we'd all like to get to know you better. I don't understand why she didn't bring you by the house, but that's neither here nor there." She stood up and patted me on the shoulder. "She's in room 602, by the way, when you get better. She'll be here for a while, I'm afraid. I'd better get outside. Leo doesn't like to be kept waiting." She waved as she left the room.

The nurse came back in just as Mrs. Molloy was leaving. "You're a popular guy, Mr. Reardon." She took my blood pressure and temperature, and pronounced both of them normal, then gave me a couple of pills to take. "These will help you with the pain, and to get some sleep," she said.

I thanked her and took the pills. They worked almost immediately.

It was dark when I finally opened my eyes. Mom was sitting by the bed. "Hi, Mom," I said.

"How are you feeling, dear?"

"Tired. Sleepy. Ready to go back to sleep. My head still hurts, and so do my knees. Eddie and Will were supposed to be here..."

"They went down to the cafeteria with Francis. The man came by with dinner, but you were asleep. Would you like dinner now?"

I sat up, and for the first time all day the room wasn't spinning. And, I was hungry. "Yes, thanks."

She went out into the hall and came back a few minutes later with a tray. "I don't think it looks that good," she said.

"It's OK, it's no worse than what they serve at the cafeteria half the time," I replied, digging in. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, carrots, and green Jell-o. My favorite.

"You know, you could live at home and go to school."

"Mom, we've talked about this already," I said. My stomach was starting to churn again.

"I know, dear. I'm sorry. I won't mention it again." She was quiet while I finished. Just as I ate the last of my Jell-o, Francis, Eddie and Will came in, followed closely by the doctor.

"Hey, mo," Eddie said. "How you feelin'?"

"I think I'll live," I said. Something deep inside told me not to be so sure.

"Hello, Tony, how are you feeling today?" It was the doctor from the night before.

"A lot better, Doctor, thanks."

He came up and shined a light in my eyes. It burned. "Good, good," he said. "You're getting back to normal. We can probably let you out tomorrow afternoon. You'll need a couple of days' rest..."

"I'll see that he gets it," Mom said.

"I'm sure you will, Mrs. Reardon. Um, Tony, do you feel up to speaking with the police yet? There's an officer here that's been waiting to speak with you."

I had forgotten about that. "Um, sure," I said.

"OK, I'll let him know that you're ready to talk to him. Mrs. Reardon, guys, why don't you wait down in the lounge at the end of the hall?"

Mom began to protest, but Francis took her by the arm and walked her down the hall, with Eddie and Will right behind them. The doctor motioned, and a big Black man, dressed in a sharp looking dark blue pinstripe three-piece suit, carrying a gray fedora and overcoat, stepped into the room. "Mr. Reardon? I'm Detective Johnson." He extended his hand and engulfed my outstretched one. "Understand you and your girlfriend got hit by a car last night. I have the accident report from the officer on the scene and some witness testimony, but I'm going to need to hear your side of it." He set his coat and hat on the radiator, sat down in the guest chair, pulled a long notebook out of his inside pocket, opened to a blank page, then dug out a blue Bic pen.

As he wrote, I told him everything that I remembered from the night before, sparing him no detail. He practically filled up the notebook with everything that I said.

"And that's all I remember," I said.

"I'm glad for that. I'm about out of paper," he said, and laughed. "This is great. This gives me enough to start an investigation. Now, before I get out of here, is there anything else you can think of that might help me?"

"Well, this is like the third time this week that someone's nearly run me over," I said.

"Third time?" He sat back in the chair and looked at me.


"Wait a second." He went out of the room and came back a minute later with a legal pad. "Tell me about the other two times."

I told him about being out with Rosalie the week before, and how she had pulled me out of the way of a car and come out with a pistol.

"Who's this Rosalie?" he asked.

"She's a woman that I met at Butch McGuire's who came to Field's. We went out for dinner, and it happened while we were on our way back to her apartment."

"I think I'd like to talk to her. What's her name?"

"Rosalie Jakubauskas. She says that she's an undercover cop."

He tipped his head and peered out of half-closed eyes at me. "Rosalie Jakubauskas?"

"Yeah. Do you know her?"

"Mmmm, name doesn't sound familiar. You say you met her at Butch McGuire's three weeks ago?"

"About that, yes."

"Any idea where this Rosalie Jakubauskas lives?"

"Oh, yeah. Hancock Building, apartment 6703."

"Hm. She might be out of Harrison and State. So, you said that there was another time?"

I told him about the incident at Archer and Cicero, and about the night before, with the guy following me home. He wrote every word down.

"And that's all there is to that," I told him.

"Right," he said, drawing it out like Bill Cosby. "Tony--it's OK to call you Tony, isn't it?"

"Sure. Almost everyone I know calls me that."

"Can you think of anyone who might have it in for you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Anyone who might want to kill you?"

"My boss tells me that he'd like to wring my neck sometimes, but I don't think he means it that way."

He laughed. "My boss tells me the same thing." He pulled a plastic card case out of his vest pocket, extracted a business card, and left it on the table beside my bed. "I'll let you get some rest here, Tony. If you think of anything else, give me a call, OK? And, if anything else happens, you get right on the phone with me. You going back to the dorm when you get out of here?"

"No, I'm probably going home."

"Where's home?"

"95th and Cicero."

"OK. Anything happens, you give me a call."

"Any idea what's going on?"

"No. I might know more after I talk to Ms. Jakubauskas and your date. She's still pretty well out of it. I nearly had to get myself involved with her parents while I was up there." He stood up and extended his enormous hand again. "You take care of yourself, get some rest, and be careful. Anything else happens, I want to be the first to know."

"I'll do that. Thanks."

He set his hat on his head, put his coat over his arm, and waved as he walked out.

Mom, Francis, Eddie and Will came back in a few minutes later. "Tony, dear, the doctor said that you're probably going to get out tomorrow afternoon. I'll have to call Claire to pick you up."

"That's fine, Mom."

"Good night, sweetheart," she said, kissing me on the cheek. "Francis has to be up early tomorrow, and he's my ride."

"I understand. Love you, Mom."

"Love you, too, sweetheart," she said. Francis just waved as he walked out.

"So, Tony," Eddie said. "What's goin' on?"

"Not much. My sister's going to come and drive me home tomorrow, and I'll be there until I feel up to coming back."

"So you're gonna miss steak tomorrow?"

"I was going to miss it anyway, Eddie."

"Yeah, well, it's like the only time we all get together for dinner."

"Hey, I'll be back by the end of the week. I promise. We can go to the hot dog place, you can have four hot dogs, I can have a gyro, Will can have his combo."

"OK, that sounds good."

The nurse poked her head into the room. "Visiting hours are over, guys, sorry."

"OK," Eddie said. When she left the room, he made a couple of obscene movements with his hips. "Hey, I bet you could nail her."

"Eddie, no." Strangely enough, my head didn't hurt.

"OK, mo, see you later. Gimme a call when you get home."

"All right. Talk to you later." When they left, I put the television on and found "Kojak".

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