Tony studied the lines and numbers that flashed on the machines connected to her restless body. They intimidated Sonny’s untrained eyes. He crouched at Alexis’s side, his fingers gently wrapped around hers as she squirmed beneath the thin blanket. Her breathing had clearly quickened again, and Tony frowned at the heart monitor.
“Alexis, what is it? Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”
She grimaced, trying to find the words. “I don’t know…I don’t know.”
Her hand released, slipping away from Sonny’s hold. He let it go, watching as her hand wandered, stopping as it found her leg. She didn’t even seem aware of her actions as her fingernails began drawing themselves up and down, seeking contact with the familiar crawling sensation under her skin. Her movement caught Tony’s eyes, and he watched with a knowing look.
“It keeps coming back…” Alexis shivered slightly. Sonny pressed his palm to her forehead and she groaned, turning her head away from this new touch.
“It’s hot.” She whispered.
Sonny looked to Tony for an explanation. “She IS still hot. What’s going on? I thought the antibiotics were starting to work?”
“They are working, just not as quickly as I’d hoped.” Tony began adjusting the drip control on the IV bag. ”I’m upping the dosage. I don’t want to go with anything stronger just yet, since I don’t have the lab results, so we’ll see if an increase will do it for now. Her heart rate is slightly elevated, but I think that’s just a result of this discomfort she’s experiencing.”
Tony looked down at Alexis’s hand, still grazing her leg. “Alexis?”
“Can you open your eyes for me?”
Her lids fluttered open. Tony laid his hand on the side of her face, his thumb against her temple. He pulled a penlight from his pocket. “Good. Now just look right at here at my face and hold still for just a few seconds so I can check your pupils. It won’t hurt, you’ll just see a little flash of light, okay?”
Tony pushed her eyelid upward, waving the light back and forth across her eyes as Alexis tried to keep them open. It was so hard…she wanted to close them and sleep again. The warmth was making her so lightheaded and drowsy.
“Good.” Tony slipped the penlight back into his pocket. As Alexis closed her eyes with a deep sigh, Tony laid his hand back against her cheek. He needed her conscious for just a minute more.
“Alexis? I know you want to sleep but I need to ask you something first, okay?”
“I think you should have a family member here with you right now, so I want to notify Stefan that you’re here…”
Her eyes forced themselves open, finding Tony’s face. “No. Don’t.”
Tony leaned in closer to her. “Alexis, you really should have…”
“No!” Her hand found his sleeve, tugging on it. “I don’t want Stefan.”
Tony looked to Sonny for backup. Sonny touched her arm lightly.
“That’s okay. We won’t call him then. Would you rather have Nikolas?”
She looked at him fear and apprehension flickering across her face in tandem. She bit her lip and swallowed, her lids growing too heavy. She groaned in frustration - the words were so difficult for her to find.
“It’s okay. Take your time.”
She gave in to the weight, closing her eyes. Her fingers flexed and Sonny took it as a sign and promptly reached for her hand again.
“No...no one. I don’t want anyone to know.”
She was ashamed.
Sonny desperately wanted to take that away…he didn’t know how. He pressed the back of her hand to his lips, the only thing his instincts told him he could do. His eye was caught by the thin tubes that traveled from her right arm, winding up toward the plastic bags hanging beside her, dripping liquid life into her body. His gentle kiss against her hand suddenly seemed so small and useless in the face of the power in those plastic bags.
It should have been him.
Tony’s voice startled Sonny, reclaiming his attention. It was louder and stronger than before, as Tony saw Alexis quickly drifting off.
“Alexis, listen to me. If you don’t want your brother or your nephew here, I need to know who you want to make any medical decisions for you if you‘re unable to make them for yourself.”
Alexis shivered again, and Tony was unsure if she’d heard him. He leaned closer to her.
“I understand.” Her voice was growing weaker.
“Are you sure you don’t want Ned to…”
“No!” Her head rolled back toward Sonny and she forced her eyes to open. “You?”
Tony looked at Sonny, still holding her hand to his face.
“You – you want Sonny?”
She stared at Sonny’s face in silence, then slowly nodded.
“Okay.” Tony stood up straight, shooting a clear look of mistrust in Sonny’s direction. He caught the arm of a passing nurse.
“I need Miss Davis taken up to the ICU, but I want her to go to x-ray for a skull series first.” Sonny looked at him in concern. “Her head trauma might not be as superficial as it looks.”
“And have me paged the minute the films are ready. And light a fire under the lab for the blood results too please!”
Tony looked down at Alexis, now peaceful in sleep. He now spoke to Sonny in a lowered tone of voice. “Tell me about the heroin. How long was she drugged, how much was she drugged…and what besides heroin might she have been given?”
Sonny sighed, having few answers. “A few days, is all. She was taken on Tuesday. But I don’t know when it started and I don’t know how much she was given. I don’t think there was anything else besides the heroin…”
Sonny faltered. The feel of the word as it formed in his mouth, the sound of it as it hit the air: heroin. The word still stunned and sickened him. Now, it always would.
“I do know the last time was about four hours ago. Does that help?”
Tony looked down on Alexis’s face, so still. He laid his hand on her wrist, his eyes scanning across the fresh bandage the nurse had wrapped around her forearm. He had counted the tracks already.
“I’ve seen junkies come out of shooting galleries with their arms looking less wrecked. She’s only got a few clean marks with no bruising – I’ll credit those to the good guys. Am I safe in assuming the other eight are the work of your friend, Joseph Sorel?”
Sonny stiffened his jaw at the sound of the name. “It’s a police matter.”
“It’s also a MEDICAL matter Sonny! Until I get those test results to tell me something specific, all I have to go on in treating her is what you tell me.”
“I’ve told you all I know, Dr. Jones! Don’t you think I WISH I could give you the specifics you need to take care of her right now? I don’t know anything else.” Sonny looked down at Alexis, still quiet and at rest. He hadn’t meant to raise his voice.
“I think she’s going into withdrawal.”
The blunt pronouncement made Sonny take a small, unconscious step backward, as if his balance had been taken.
“Withdrawl? His hand touched down on the edge of the table here she lay. “But…how could she be in withdrawal? It was only a couple of day, not months.”
“A couple of days of consistent use is all it takes. Heroin enters the brain very quickly and its hold is powerful, which is why it’s such a truly frightening drug. Most people have no idea. But Sorel – or who ever it was that did this – knew EXACTLY what they were doing. If they didn’t want her dead, which could have been accomplished with one large hit, they most certainly wanted her addicted.”
Sonny’s heart galloped in his chest. He’d been right about Sorel’s true intent. A sudden pull beneath his hand startled him, and he looked up to see an orderly begining to pull Alexis away. Sonny started to move with her, but Tony put a firm hand on his shoulder.
“You can’t go with her right now.”
“I told her I wouldn’t leave her.”
“You can’t be in radiology with her Sonny. You can go on up to the ICU and wait for them to bring her up and get her settled. Then you can stay with her.”
The lost look on Sonny’s face as he watched Alexis disappear from view almost made Tony feel sorry for him. It was the same look he’d seen the day Carly had fallen and lost their child…the look he’s seen in his own mirror almost every day since the loss of his own child. But accidents happen.
THIS was no accident. Tony crossed his arms as Sonny wordlessly turned to the ER door, where Johnny stood waiting.
“I’ve got to say, I can’t help but ask myself why.”
Tony’s voice stopped Sonny in his tracks.
“Why would anyone want to do such a horrible thing to Alexis? Why would anyone want to hurt her in this way…unless it was simply a means to a much bigger end.”
“You should keep your questions confined to those of a medical nature, doctor. Just do your job. Make her well…and keep her from hurting.”
Sonny spoke without turning, unable to look Tony in the accusing eye.
“Oh, I will make her well. But the fact is, no matter what I do for her medically, Alexis is still going to hurt.” He walked up to Sonny, stopping directly behind him.
“She may be clinging to you right now, Sonny, because she’s sick and she’s scared, but don’t abuse her vulnerability. Don’t let your own agenda – about Alexis, or Sorel, or any other twisted thing – keep her from whatever or whoever she needs to get her through this.”
“Any need that Alexis has, it WILL be met. I’ll make sure of that.” Sonny turned to Tony. “See how it works? You have your job, and I have mine. Let’s keep that distinction clear, shall we?”
Taggert had grown impatient. The last thing he needed was for the man to slip away from them now, when they were so close. Something caught his eye in the rearview mirror.
The approaching squad car pulled up alongside him, rolling down its window. Taggert pointed to a light in the building.
“Two minutes. Keep your eyes on it.”
He pulled his phone out and punched.
“Yeah.” Sonny’s voice was weary.
“Hey, it’s Taggert. How’s Alexis?”
Taggert waited, his eyes glancing toward the light in the window of the corner apartment.
“Sorry. I had to get into the stairwell.”
“How is she?”
“She, uh…she’s had some pretty rough moments. Tony Jones is with her and he’s working on getting her fever under control right now. And then…then we’ll deal with the rest. If you were expecting to question her tonight, it’s not going to happen.”
“I wasn’t. But I am going to stop by, check in on her.”
“You find Sorel?”
“I found Malloy.”
Sonny was silent. Taggert continued.
“I got a call from the guy I had watching his place. I’m there with a unit now and we’re about to go in and get him.” He glanced at the two officers in the car next to him. “If Malloy knows where Sorel is, he will tell me.”
“I trust you’ll be there when I come by.”
“Where would I be going Taggert?”
Taggert smiled. “It’s called a rhetorical question, Corinthos! Don’t tell me you’ve lost your sense of humor, because Alexis will not appreciate that at all.”
“Go do your job! Why do have to keep telling everybody that tonight?”
Taggert snapped the phone shut and opened his car door. The two uniformed officers followed suit.
The sharp rapping sent a jolt straight through him.
Thomas raised his head up from the duffle bag lying on the bed. He’s been stuffing it full with whatever clothing his hands first touched when they reached into in the dresser drawers. He held still, barely breathing as he prayed that he wouldn’t hear the sound again.
This time, the banging on he door left no room for question. A deep voice barked an order, and Thomas’s blood drained from his face.
“Police! You have until the count of ten to open the door Malloy! Don’t make this get ugly! One…two…three…”
Thomas’s eyes darted from the two-food square window to the door. He was trapped…it was over. “Wait! I’m coming!”
He walked, legs carrying his numbly toward the door.
“Just unlock it, then step back with your arms in the air!”
He did as he was told. Thomas watched the knob turn, slowly, then flinched as the door flew inward. Two guns were pointed at his midsection, and he flashed on the face of the man in he garage. He wondered if he now had the same expression on his face as that man had, looking down the barrel of Thomas’s gun.
As the three men stood, staring at each other in silence, a familiar figure appeared between the uniforms. The recognition slowly set in, and Thomas took a small, fearful step back.
“You…you’re not a cop. You work for Corinthos!”
Taggert grimaced. “Oh, man! How did THAT nasty rumor get started?”
He pulled out his ID and held it up in front of Thomas’s face. “Detective Marcus Taggert, PCPD, thank you very much!”
“But I saw you with…” Thomas stopped himself. He swallowed against the dryness creeping through his mouth.
“I…I wasn’t sure.”
“Sure about what.”
“That…that Mr. Corinthos would act. On the tip, I mean.” Thomas’s eyes looked from Taggert’s raised eyebrows to the guns still trained on him. He slowly lowered his arms and stood, waiting.
“I’m not armed.”
“I see that.”
Thomas hesitated, then asked. “Is she okay then?”
“What do YOU think?” Taggert shot back. Thomas’s head slowly hung down, his eyes closing. The image of her flushed, groggy face still held fresh in his mind.
“Tell me something Malloy. Did Sorel overdose her on purpose? Was that how he really wanted it to play out all along?”
Thomas’s head snapped back up, blue eyes widening. “What?”
“He sends you to Corinthos, to get him to go tearing down into that basement only to find her dead?”
Thomas’s jaw dropped. His legs began to tremble –he thought they would give way. His eyes closed against the dizziness that swept through his brain.
Taggert eyes Malloy up and down, noting the body language of this hulking man as it spoke volumes.
“She’s a mess, Malloy! But I thank God that we got to her just in time, and that the paramedics knew exactly what to do.”
Thomas slowly opened his eyes, raising them to Taggert’s hard face. One corner of his mouth began to twitch. “She’s alive?”
Taggert took his time before answering. Malloy had to know that Taggert meant business. “Yeah. She’s alive.”
Thomas inhaled sharply, releasing his breath with equal force. He fought the urge to smile…he didn’t know why, but it felt inappropriate somehow. Taggert nodded to the officers, who lowered their guns to the ground. He pulled out his handcuffs and moved behind Malloy, who’d already pulled his hands behind his back.
“I should have gotten her out sooner. I shouldn’t have been such a coward about Sorel.” Thomas glanced over his shoulder as Taggert snapped the cuffs closed.
“I guess Mr. Corinthos knows it was me then. I guess that mean I’m pretty much a dead man.”
“What makes you think Corinthos wants to hurt you? It’s Sorel’s head he wants on a pike!” Taggert paused.
“Where is he?”
Thomas was silent. He thought sure they’d have found him. “Ask me tomorrow.”
Taggert stepped in front of him. “I’m asking you now.”
“Believe me, Mr. Corinthos will be much more likely to have the outcome he wants if you ask me tomorrow.”
Taggert was beginning to understand Malloy’s implication, and it was tempting to let it slide. Damn. Two serious temptations in one day? Good thing for him the day was almost over.
“Tomorrow would have done me just fine, but…” He turned to the officers standing witness behind him.
“Unfortunately I’m going to have to insist on now. Give it up Malloy. Where’s Sorel?”