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."
"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".