Her mother was frantically racing from one end of the bridge to the other calling out “Rose? Rose? Where are you?” So that was her name. How did Keith know?
I set Rose down and she walked unsteadily over to her mother. My Spanish is ok but not great, and from what I could tell, as she cried and her mother smothered her in a hug, Rose was saying “I fell, I fell.”
The rest was a garble of Spanish. I live in Nevada, so I know some. I don’t need it, so I don’t know much. The mother wanted to thank me, hug me, pay me, make me part of the family. I didn’t want to be touched. I didn’t want to talk.
I said “You’re welcome, keep a better eye on her” in broken Spanish, and walked away. She quit following me after half a bridge. I collected my stuff and kept walking.
The walk back to the Sierra was over too soon. I felt hollow. Empty. Emptied. There was a hole in me where there should be something. If there had been traffic, I would’ve stepped in front of a car without hesitation.
I dripped through the lobby and dripped in the elevator and dripped down the hall. My room was dark and warm and empty, and it was only in the bathroom that I turned on the light. One look at my soaked, haggard looking reflection, and I choked, rushed to the sink, and puked for the second time that day. I raised my head from the mess and looked the glass Samantha in the eyes. “You recognize me now?” I asked her hoarsely.
The little girl I used to be didn’t recognize the woman I was. She stared back at me from the mirror, unanswering.
I splashed water on my face, getting the river grit out of my eyes and mouth, dropped my satchel on the counter, and stripped off my wet clothes, throwing them in the tub. I set the water in the shower to scalding and stood under it for exactly three minutes, letting it wash and burn off all the crap from the river and bay.
I could feel the child against my shoulder, still. Rose. I stared at the door, willing my steely gaze to keep down the emotion rising inside. When that didn’t work, I slammed my fist into the tiled wall hard enough to spike pain up to my shoulder. “DAMN IT!”
What do you do when you’re stuck in the past and the world ignores you, keeps on spinning? You keep moving too.
After I dried off I got my satchel and pulled out the first aid kit, then hiked myself up on the counter. I’d bought a Cavalry Arms Individual Combat Medical Kit years ago. Now it was doing some good. I opened the bag and got out the antibiotic gel, unscrewed the cap. This was going to hurt…
I jammed the nozzle of the tube into the cut in my leg, squeezed the tube, stuffing the wound with gel. I groaned at the pain and pounded a fist on the counter. “Son of a..”
The antibiotics went back in the bag, and I cut a roll of gauze in half with the Sandshark. One half I folded and pressed over the hole in my leg. The other half I wrapped tightly over it. I added a few strips of medical tape and tried limping around the bathroom. It wasn’t perfect, but it’d do.
Tomorrow…later today…I was going to the hospital to get some real antibiotics, maybe get this thing sewed up.
Keith walked in as I was doing the zipper on my new jeans. I hadn’t heard him open the door. I should’ve felt embarrassed with him walking in on me half naked, but I’ve never been self-conscious, and I didn’t think he would really care if I was wearing just underwear or a burqua. I didn’t think he was human like that. Or at all.
I had my back to him, and looked over my shoulder. “How’d you get in?” I asked.
“You left the door unlocked,” he said mildly.
I finished dressing in a new black tank top, and retrieved the satchel from the bathroom. I slung the satchel over my shoulder and briefly considered taking the Pea Two Thirty Eight it contained and shooting Keith dead on that ugly floral comforter. Considered how much more satisfying it would be to use the Sandshark it also contained, or the strike bezel on the Surefire.
It’d make a mess though. And I didn’t think Dad would want to pay a few thousand bucks to get blood out of hotel room carpeting and bedding.
“What the hell?” I said when I finished.
He was sitting ramrod straight on the edge of the bed, hands around his crossed knees. “You risked your life to save a little girl named Rose.”
That hurt. A lot. “You’re a real son of a bitch.”
“What was that for? Why? Why’d you do that? What the hell possible reason could you have for trying to drown a little girl?” I realized I was shouting and didn’t care.
“I got your attention. And it makes what I’m about to say carry much more weight. It’s exactly what you need to know.”
I folded my arms. “Which is?”
“Timothy Kaanen is going to commit suicide in three days.”
I felt cold. Like I wanted to throw up again. My hands started shaking again. “What?” My voice sounded very small.
“He’s going to sit in the food court at the Meadows Mall where the two of you used to meet for lunch. He’ll watch a little girl stand on a chair and pull on her tongue and make faces at him, and then he’ll go out to his car and open his radial recurrent artery four times.”
My hand was halfway to my ear with my phone when Keith said “Stop.”
“Try and make me.”
“If you tell him what I told you, you’ll put the idea in his head even sooner. If you call him and don’t tell him, he’ll get angry and hang up, and will not return any more of your calls.”
I put the phone away, returned to staring straight at him. “How…how do you know this?”
“I can see every choice.”
“Tell me how to stop it. Please.” Tears ran down my cheeks. I didn’t care.
“You can’t. This is the price, and it is yours to pay.”
I tried to say something. Nothing came out. I blinked away the tears, blinked again and again until the world looked different.
“Get out now. NOW.”
“Ok.” He didn’t react at all to the anger in my voice.
“And if I see you again, I swear, I’ll kill you.”
“You’ll try.” He rose and walked over to the door. He had it half open when he turned back. “I think the ‘Like A Rose’ paint job would look better than ‘Los Angeloser.’ More artistic, and it was a better song anyway.”
He shut the door quietly, leaving me standing there. I looked around the hotel room. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if there was anything TO DO.
I breathed deep and pushed down my shock and regrets. Time to move. I limped over to the bed and grabbed up the Vanquisher. It felt half empty. Hopefully there’d be a filling station wherever I was going.
The door shut with a click of the lock, an exclamation point to the previous turmoil. It was over. It was behind me, behind the door, locked away. The elevator ride was dead quiet, and the only sound as I walked through the lobby was my boots on the tile and the burble of the water fountain.
I spotted the two guys staking out my car nearly from the door. Concern, apprehension…it didn’t even register. It flowed well beneath the active level of my mind.
One of them was behind a car four down from mine, the other two behind. It was a simple matter just to walk up to the closest one and shoot him. Twice in the chest, once in the head. Then I ducked.
His comrade came running, shooting over the roofs of the parked cars. When the water stopped flying overhead I stood, one-handing the pistol over the roof, spraying a scatter of shots right to left. He ran into one with his throat, and it paused him. I brought the soaker up into a two-handed grip, and fired twice more, blowing mist off two big spots on his shirt.
I stalked back to my car and got in, shut and locked the door. Turned the key in the ignition.
The clock flipped from two fifty nine to three.