“Johnny! Get those medics in here NOW!”
Taggert’s frantic shouting bounced off the concrete walls as he rushed up behind Sonny, who hovered over Alexis’s lifeless body. His hands still touched down furtively, hesitantly skirting the purple marks on her throat in blind search of a pulse.
“Come on Alexis! Please don’t do this to me…” His strangled voice was begging to God as he closed his eyes.
“Please. Not again.”
Taggert roughly pulled Sonny up and shoved him aside. “Damn it Sonny, FORGET the bruises! You’ll NEVER find it if you’re afraid to touch her!”
Taggert laid his fingertips to the proper place along the curve at the front of her throat, pressing down firmly into the tender swelling there. Sonny stared, half-kneeling where he’d fallen on the floor, his shaking fist pushing hard against his mouth. His face bore the streaks of hot tears fallen unashamed from his large, dark eyes. The sound of strange voices and heavy shoes on metal rang down the hollow corridor and into his eager ears. Sonny yelled over his shoulder.
“She’s down here! The end of the hall!”
“Sonny! I’ve got it.”
Taggert smiled as the faint movement fluttered lightly beneath his demanding touch. Sonny’s head dropped like a leaden weight. As the two paramedics hurried into the room, he was up on his feet, ready to take charge. The larger, older man dropped two bags onto the floor.
Taggert looked up at them. “Her pulse is thready, but it’s there.”
“What have we got? Did you confirm that she’s on heroin?”
As Taggert stepped away from Alexis, allowing the medic to take his place beside her, a glint on the small table caught his eye: the last syringe Sorel used on her sat boldly beside an innocent bottle of aspirin. As the medic lifted her eyelids, Taggert pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gingerly picked up the syringe to see the hint of amber liquid still left.
“Yeah, it’s confirmed.”
“Her pupils are constricted…she’s dehydrated…” The younger medic had pulled out a stethoscope to listen to her lungs as they tried to take in air. The other medic looked to Taggert.
“Do you know how much she’s shot up?”
Sonny raged. “She hasn’t ‘shot up’ ANYTHING! She’s not some junkie, you got that? She’s been DRUGGED!”
The medic looked at him warily. “How much she’s been shot up WITH?”
“Sonny…” Taggert made a futile attempt to calm him.
“No, Taggert! They need to know that’s NOT who she is!”
“They will treat her as well as anyone else! Now shut up and let them HELP HER!” Taggert’s eyes now blazed in return.
“She’s barely breathing and they’re...they’re not DOING anything!” Sonny tried to move toward Alexis, but Taggert blocked his path.
His voice was low and intent. “Alexis needs you Sonny, so don’t make me toss you out of here.”
“Her respiration’s seven.” The young man looked to the other…who looked to Sonny.
“You her husband, boyfriend?”
Sonny paused, taken aback. “Friend.”
The man continued. “She’d O.D.’d. We’ve got to get her respiration up, keep enough oxygen getting into her brain.”
“Her…her brain? What...what are you saying?”
Sonny pushed past Taggert, swallowing hard as he watched an oxygen mask being slipped over Alexis’s face. As the younger medic began fitting a small vial over a syringe, he fired off a round of questions in Sonny’s direction.
“Do you know if she has any drug allergies?”
Sonny began to panic, looking to Taggert. Taggert shrugged, having no answers. “There’s no time to call anyone.”
Sonny turned back to the medic. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Any history of heart conditions, seizures…” He handed the syringe over to the other man.
“NO…I don’t know! She’s fainted a few times, is that important?”
One last question, as the medic swabbed her arm with an alcohol pad. “Is she pregnant?”
Sonny looked at Alexis’s face. “No. She’s not pregnant. Please, just make her breath.”
As the needle disappeared under her skin, the stethoscope moved back to her chest…waiting. Sonny knelt down beside Alexis. He took her left hand in his, softly stroking her palm, the feel of her skin too warm with life for him to believe that anything could really pull her away.
“Come on honey,” He whispered into her ear, “It’s me…it’s Sonny. I’ve come to take you home. All you’ve got to do is breath.”
Taggert was watching the medic, his eyes fixed on the syringe now held still against her arm. The younger man looked up from his concentrated search for a change in her breathing, shaking his head at his partner.
“No change. Go again.”
The medic pushed steadily down on the plunger, then stopped, holding still once more.
“What are you giving her?” Taggert questioned.
“Naloxonone. A bit of a miracle drug. It completely reverses the effects of opiates. And it works very quickly.”
Sonny pulled Alexis’s hand up, pressing it to his cheek as he studied her face. Her hand was so limp within his hold.
“Then what’s taking so long? Why are YOU taking so long, why don’t you just give her what she needs?”
“We have to be careful, especially with an overdose. You don’t want to push her too far the other way. It’d send her into a sudden state of withdrawal, and that’s a whole other kind of problem you don’t want.”
Sonny’s eyes rose up to Taggert, seeking some kind of…he didn’t know what. Taggert’s eyes were elsewhere. Sonny followed them to the doorway, where Johnny stood dead silent. One hand loosely held his revolver, pointed straight down to the floor – the other hand tightly gripped the doorframe for all it was worth. His face was a blank slate, his mind in silent turmoil as it tried to wrap around the vision before him. Taggert tried to catch Johnny's eye, to connect with him, as Sonny turned his focus back to Alexis.
“Alright, here she comes!” The young man looked up from his stethoscope. “One more time should do it.”
Sonny smiled, cupping his hand around her head as his fingers brushed her cheek. “Good girl! Come on Alexis, wake up. You can do it! Just wake up and open your yes. Come on honey…”
With that her body jolted slightly, as if she’d just landed in a falling dream. Sonny held his breath, looking to the medics in panic as he watched the needle being pulled from her arm.
“What the hell was that? What’s happening?”
“She’s breathing - normally.” As the young man checked her pupils once again the slight movement of her chest pulled Sonny’s focus. As he stared, his smile grew, dimples flashing at the steady rise and fall.
“Her pupils are dilating. Also normal.”
Taggert finally released the air from his very full lungs…loudly! Johnny was afraid to move, holding onto the doorframe with even more force lest he collapse where he stood. Sonny’s smile gave way to a full-throated laugh.
“Oh boy. I can just imagine the earful Alexis would give me right if she knew how blatantly I was staring at her…um…her”
Sonny continued to laugh at the thought of Alexis properly berating him while trying her damnedest not to laugh herself. He knew how to look at her in a way guaranteed to de-rail all her business-like solemnity. Taggert smiled as he dropped his weary head, rubbing at his temples. They still pounded, but now it was in a good way.
A dry voice came from the far side of the room. “Don’t worry boss. We’ll never tell.”
The crisis past, Sonny turned his concern to the heat of her flushed skin beneath his touch.
“Why is she still so warm? And why isn’t she waking up? You said the effects should be completely reversed.”
Before he had spoken, the medic was already scanning her temperature. “She’s got a fever – probably an infection from dirty needles.” He’d seen her ravaged arm.
He checked the scan. “103.8 – Okay, we’ve got to get her hydrated.”
The young man took his cue, pulling out a bag of saline solution from his kit. Taggert’s eyes had wandered back to the table, to the bottle of aspirin he’d noticed before. He now saw there was also a glass of water and damp, wrinkled cloth as well. There were large drops of water splattering the surface of the painted wood. Taggert shook his head.
Malloy. He’d tried to care for her in the face of Sorel’s harmful intent. Sonny’s voice drew his attention back.
“Will she wake up, with what you’re giving her now?”
“I hope. Just keep talking to her.”
Sonny did as he was told. “Okay Alexis – one down, one to go. You’re breathing real good, so now all you have to do is wake up. Open your eyes. Okay, I lied – TWO to go.” He lightly brushed his thumb across her temples, hoping to stimulate a response from her eyes.
“Come one Alexis, you can do this. I know you can. Do it for me, honey…”
At last, as the sting of yet another sharp needle hit her skin, Alexis gave Sonny what he’d prayed for. As her arm jerked in protest, a small sound escaped from the back of her throat.
Sonny grinned wide at the sound, renewing the pressure of the fingers he still held closed around her palm. “Alright! That’s good, Alexis, you’re doing great. Now come on, try just a little harder…okay?”
Soon, there came another whimpering sound as she worked to get through the heavy warmth engulfing her. A tiny crease formed in her brow as she moved her head, turning it away from him.
Taggert was concerned. “Can you take that thing off of her now? If she’s trying to talk, and she feels suffocated….”
He didn’t get to finish his question, nor did the medics get to answer it. Sonny had already pulled the oxygen mask from her face, allowing the full sound of her breathing to wash over him like music. She slowly rolled her head back toward him as he stroked her hair, his voice and hands bringing familiar sensations that proved vaguely confusing in her mind.
“I know it’s hard, I know you’re trying. Alexis…listen to me.” Sonny lifted her hand up to his face, holding her palm flush against his cheek.
“Just let me know you can hear me, that you understand…that you know it’s me who’s here with you. That’s all I need you to do, okay?”
The crease in her forehead soon became a frown, and Sonny felt the light pressure of her fingertips moving into his skin. He smiled, squeezing her hand as he turned to Taggert.
“She knows me.”
He turned now to his friend. “Johnny, she’s going to be okay.”
“Okay, let’s call GH and let them know we’re on out way.” The medics had packed up their bags and stood in front of the cot.
But as Sonny turned back to Alexis, he was stunned to see her eyes fluttering open against the fever’s groggy hold.
“Wait…she’s waking up.”
He smiled down on her, whispering. “Hey there, beautiful. I’ve come to take you home.”
Alexis swallowed with some difficulty, closing her eyes again to rest them from her efforts. She bit down on her lower lip, a quirk of hers that even Taggert recognized. It gave him great relief.
The younger medic interrupted. “Um, sir? We’d better get her to the hospital so they can start…”
Sonny held up his hand. “One second. It’s okay Alexis, take your time.” He watched her intently as she struggled to speak.
“Yes, Alexis, it’s Sonny.”
Her breathing grew heavier as her eyelids fought to open again, to see Sonny’s face.
Her voice was hoarse and low. First, she groaned...then the words came. “I’m…I’m not…dead?”
Sonny felt his heart crack. “No…no honey, you’re fine! Do you think I’d ever let you get away from me like that?” He watched her eyes close one last time, unsure if his words had sunk in.
Taggert glanced at Johnny in a silent exchange. Sonny’s dawn was breaking – FAST.
“Sonny, let them take her now. She needs a doctor.”
“Yeah, okay. But I’m not leaving her.”
“You can ride with us to GH, just don’t…” The medic suddenly noticed how rapid Alexis’s breathing had become and he leaned down to her.
“Better put this back on for the ride. She seems to be in a bit of distress.”
As he replaced the oxygen mask on her face, Alexis jerked her head away. Her hand pulled away from Sonny’s grasp, her fighting reflexes renewing against all the hands on her body. Sonny tried to calm her down.
“Alexis, it’s okay! This isn’t going to hurt you…”
“No! No, don’t…” She tried to push the plastic from her face.
Sonny and the medic each took hold of a weakly struggling arm, Sonny desperately fighting the memory of the frightened cries he’d heard from her before…courtesy of Sorel. He couldn’t bear the thought of taking her to that same place, even with a pure intent.
“Honey please, leave it alone. You’re safe, Alexis, I promise. This is just to help you breath.” Her hand trembled in his grasp: again he held against his face, pressing his mouth to her palm.
“Just close your eyes and let it help you, okay? Come one Alexis, this is Sonny…you can trust me.”
As his words sunk in, Alexis allowed herself to stop her fight. She curled her fingers around Sonny’s in a quiet surrender.
“I won’t leave you…I promise.” Sonny’s final whisper.
“Okay, let’s get that stretcher down here.”
The older medic directed the younger, but Sonny had already picked Alexis up in his arms.
“Johnny, you follow us to GH. Call Francis, see if Ned and Zander know that we’re gone.”
“If they do?”
“Tell them we’re taking her to GH, and that she’s okay. That’s it. And Sorel is still out there, so Zander stay PUT! If they don’t know, I’ll call from the hospital.”
Taggert held back in the cold room. “I’ll be there when I can. I have to bring in the back-up and secure the crime scene. He is NOT getting out of this one.”
As the medics followed Sonny into the corridor, Johnny stopped and looked behind him. Taggert stood silent, staring strangely at the empty, rumpled cot. Johnny took a small step toward him.
Taggert turned to him with a slight expression of surprise. “Are you?”
Johnny paused, his jaw stiffening as he glanced around the room that had been her prison. His pain was fresh and deep…and there were scarcely words to be found.
“It’s a hell of a thing.”