Taggert pulled into the dark alley, the squad car following closely behind him. Thomas had sat silent in the back seat, uttering nothing on the short ride there. Taggert glanced at his passenger in the rearview mirror as he slowed the car down.
Thomas looked like he was a thousand miles away - hands locked behind him, blue eyes staring blankly into the black night. He wished he WAS a thousand miles away, any place but back there. He couldn’t look at it – the memory of that basement and the things that happened there sent a chill running along his spine.
The car stopped a good ten yards away from the building, headlights illuminating a path in the road ahead. Taggert sighed and looked over his shoulder at his stone-faced passenger.
“Well Malloy, let’s see if we’ll have to add murder to the long list of charges against you.”
Thomas still stared across the alley, away from the headlights’ target. He slowly raised his eyes to the window on the top floor of the warehouse, where he’d sat, anxiously waiting for her to be found. Taggert turned back around, placing his hand on the door handle. Thomas finally spoke.
“That’s the one charge I’d be proud to plead guilty to, detective.”
Taggert hesitated a moment, wanting to respond. He thought better of it. He got out of the car and squinted at the building. The sight of the yellow police tape tacked across the back door send the irony of it all raining down on him. Just hours ago he’d come through that alley praying he’d find Alexis alive, and now he came there praying he’d find Sorel dead. He didn’t feel one bit guilty about it either.
He motioned to the two uniformed officers who waited in the car behind him. As they stepped from their car, guns drawn, Taggert leaned down to the opened window. He grinned at Thomas, who still refused to look him in the eye.
“Don’t you try running run off now..”
Thomas flatly replied. “I’m not going anywhere.”
As Taggert moved away from the car, his back-up following, the words that Thomas had just spoken began to echo in his own head. A sense of déjà vu. He tilted his head, searching. As he shifted his weight to relieve the pressure of the cold, hard cuffs against his bruised and swollen hand, the connection began to gel in his mind.
It was her voice, her words. Thomas was standing behind her, holding her arms back. She tossed the phrase over her shoulder as he harshly tightened his grip on her – a reflex response to the threatening glare Sorel was giving her.
"I'm not going anywhere..."
He’d felt her body tense and he knew that he was hurting her, but she wouldn't show it. As bad as things would get, she never gave in to the pain and fear…not completely, not as Sorel had expected her to.
Alone in Taggert’s car, Thomas lowered his head. Her strength and dignity had shamed him, even then. The remembrance of it shamed him even more right then and there, sitting in that alley with his eyes looking the other way. Thomas suddenly raised his head, seeking out the form of the detective walking steadily through the headlights’ path. He now wanted, NEEDED to watch as it all came to an end. His respect for her demanded that he refuse to turn away when she had had no choice but to look.
Taggert moved slowly alongside the Lincoln, stopping when he came to the left rear tire. He turned back to his own car, as if he knew that Malloy would be watching. He was, and Thomas met Taggert’s gaze with his trademark blank expression. The two officers moved on past him, rounding the back of the large car with their hands held ready against their weapons. Taggert laid his palm on the edge of the smooth metal, tracing its line as he too rounded his way behind the Lincoln.
He took a deep breath as his eyes lowered to the small, flat key that was stuck fully into the lock. Taggert shook his head at his own carelessness. He hadn’t even thought about that car once they’d found Alexis down in that pit and she was so close to gone. Or maybe he HAD thought of it, but sensed that he shouldn’t. He looked from one man to the other.
“Gentlemen, keep your fingers crossed.”
The two moved in closer behind Taggert’s back, each raising their gun toward the trunk. Taggert reached down and took a firm hold of they key, turning slowly until he felt the spring release, heard the trunk ‘pop’ as its seal was broken. He placed one palm on either side of the lock, his feet bracing against the pavement. With one quick push, the trunk flew upward with a loud groan…revealing the still and blood-stained face of one Joseph Sorel.
Taggert smiled. What a beautiful sight!
“Way to go Malloy.” He muttered under his breath. He turned to the officers, who stared down into the trunk. The one man still held his gun trained on Sorel, the other had already begun to replace his gun in its holster.
“Should I call for the coroner, detective?”
As Taggert opened his mouth to speak, a faint raspy sound came from behind him. He closed his eyes, muttering yet again. “Oh, please…say it ain’t so.”
He turned his head back to the trunk, eyes opening on Sorel - an audibly breathing Sorel.
“Damn!” The image of Sonny’s enraged face, now burned into his brain for life, flashed before him.
“Now I’m going to have to look the other way.”
Sonny slumped down into his chair in far the corner of the ICU waiting room. Johnny paced the floor, a small white box held gingerly in his hands. He glanced now and then at the corner, as Sonny fought his body’s demand for sleep with intermittent success. His head would drop from his shoulders, only to be roused at the slightest sound - and hospitals were filled with sounds. And smells. That awful, medicinal hospital smell had invaded Johnny’s nose and it wouldn’t let go. God, he HATED that smell. As a nurse passed by, Johnny quietly caught her attention, hoping not to disturb Sonny.
“Excuse me. Has Alexis Davis been brought up here yet? Dr. Jones sent her for some x-rays first…”
“Yes, she’s being set up in a bed right now. It will be a few minutes, but I’d be happy to come back and let you know when you can see her.”
“Yeah, that would be good.”
As the nurse began to walk away, he reached out and touched her arm.
“Is it...can she have this in her room? I mean, is it okay – not against the ICU rules or anything?” He opened the top of the box to show her the small bundle of gardenias he’d found in the gift store while Sonny was out talking to Taggert.
“They smell nice.” He felt the need to explain himself to this total stranger.
She smiled. “Yes they do. And it’s fine, as long as she’s not allergic.”
“She’s not. Thanks.” Johnny smiled, satisfied. He’d smelled gardenias in Alexis’s apartment every now and then, when she’d leave her door open to pop across the hall to Sonny’s. This small, familiar reminder of home was all that he could do for her – the only gesture of comfort he felt was within his place to give.
Johnny turned back to Sonny’s nodding head once more, then settled himself into the chair across from him, the box of flowers resting in his lap. He wished Sonny would just give in to it and rest before Dr. Jones had to set up a hospital bed for him too. Why Johnny himself felt no need for sleep was a mystery. The intoxicating fragrance drifted upward and he inhaled deeply, closing his eyes to allow the sweetness of it to swirl through his head.
Tony’s third attempt to wake them did the trick. His sharp voice made Johnny jump, jarring him out of some flower-filled dream. By the time he’d pulled himself out of his confusing fog, Sonny had already jumped to his feet.
“How’s she doing? Can I go to her now?”
“She’s okay – she’s sleeping, at the moment.” Tony hesitated, and Sonny saw it.
“It was a bit difficult getting the x-rays.”
“Why, what happened? What did you do to her?” Sonny’s angry frustration was rising without cause.
Tony was much too tired to deal with him much longer. “Sonny…”
“Did she get scared, was she panicking again? Why didn’t you call me if she needed me? I was right here!”
“You cannot be with someone while we’re getting films, Sonny, I told you that! And she got through it fine, it just took a while. It’s not invasive, it doesn’t hurt, but the patient just needs to stay still and Alexis has been very…skittish, which you know.”
Sonny frowned. “Is the fever getting worse?”
“No, it’s not getting worse. Look, Sonny, I know you want to be with her, so why don’t you just go…now! This separation anxiety of yours is working my last nerve, and I’m not going to be of much more use to her or ANYBODY tonight if you don’t calm down.”
He glanced at Johnny, standing wide-eyed beside Sonny. “But I don’t want more than one person in there at a time. She can’t handle too much stimulation right now, so no one else is to be in there with you, you got it? And I hope you remember what I said before. If she wants anyone else but you, don’t you mess with her head about it.”
Sonny pretended he didn’t hear that last barb.
“Johnny’ll be outside her door, watching out for her. I don’t want Ashton or anyone else slipping in and upsetting her either.”
“I don’t think Ned will do that, knowing that any added distress could harm her. I was pretty clear about that…”
Tony stopped, wary of giving Corinthos any more than was his right to know. But for whatever un-godly reason, the man was Alexis’s emotional center right now, and he had to honor that. He continued.
“In fact, I ran into him outside the O.R. about twenty minute ago. He was no doubt waiting for Monica to come out of surgery – I didn’t ask, he didn’t tell. But I didn’t want him to put her in an awkward position so I re-iterated the hospital policy on patient privacy AND I re-emphasized how crucial the next twenty-four hours will be for Alexis’s recovery.”
“And…he said that he loved her enough to do as she asked, even if she didn’t mean it. I believe him. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. You might want to take notes on that.”
Sonny assumed a vague look of territorialism on his face, and Tony felt true pity for Ned Ashton. The man couldn’t possibly understand the root of Alexis’s rejection – or her strange attachment to Corinthos. Ned didn’t even know what had really happened to her. Tony hoped he’d given him encouragement enough to tough it out.
“I still want her guarded. Ashton isn’t my only outside concern for her safety right now.”
Johnny stepped up. “Don’t worry boss. No one’s getting past me. She’ll be safe, on my life.”
“I know Johnny.”
Tony had gotten sidetracked by Sonny’s paranoia. “Oh – and just so you know, there aren’t any new injuries to the skull. I looked at the x-rays and her bruises are luckily just bruises. So there’s nothing to be concerned as far as head trauma.”
Sonny frowned. “New injuries? What do you mean by ‘new’?”
Tony faltered. He was exhausted in this, the eighteenth hour of his workday. He looked to Johnny, who took the cue.
“I’m going to go find her room now, okay Sonny?”
“Yeah.” He answered without taking his eyes from Tony’s face.
“Down that hall, second door on the left.” Tony directed. As Johnny disappeared, Sonny repeated.
“What do you mean by ‘new’?”
“It has nothing to do with her current condition Sonny, so it’s really not your business. And it’s nothing for you to even be concerned about because…”
“Of course it’s my business! Alexis wanted ME to be responsible for her. I need to know whatever YOU know, because I can’t be sure how an old condition could impact on her now. If I’m to be responsible, you need to tell me.”
Tony sighed, narrowing his eyes at this irritant. “What was it you were saying to me earlier? Something about you having your job and me having mine? I’M the doctor here, Sonny! That’s why I have this little white jacket, the little name badge that says ‘Dr. Tony Jones, MD’, and it's also why I can tell you that a twenty-something year old fracture is irrelevant to Alexis’s current condition, and you can believe it!”
“Fracture - you mean a skull fracture?”
Tony sighed again. He would kill for Starbucks. He would kill Corinthos for nothing, at this point.
“Yes, Sonny, a very old and very healed childhood injury which was not re-injured in conjunction with any new facial trauma. Okay?”
Sonny shifted, rubbing his hands across his tired face. “What about the…what did you call it? The blood tests to see what else…”
“The toxicology report?”
“Yeah. Did you find any other drugs in her system?”
“I’m still waiting for the results, which should be in any time now.” Tony checked his watch. “I was supposed to be off almost three hours ago, but I’m not leaving until I hear back from the lab. When I do, I’ll let you know.”
Sonny cast his eyes down, sweeping them across the linoleum tiles until they found Johnny, standing watch beside her door. He nodded toward the room.
“I’ll be in there.”
The heels of his shoes clicked his way down the short hall, stopping in front of Johnny. He noticed the white box sitting on the floor at Johnny’s feet.
“What have you got there Johnny?”
Johnny tuned a light shade of pink. He bent down to pick it up. “Nothing much. I stopped downstairs at the little store they’ve got. It smells like antiseptic in here. It’s already making ME nervous, so I figured…do you think it’s okay?”
He opened the lid and lifted the tiny bowl of flowers, and the scent quickly rose up to meet Sonny’s face. He smiled.
Johnny’s shade of pink deepened. “Yeah.” He handed the bowl to Sonny. “It’s better if you take it to her, I think.”
“Sure...” Sonny lightly touched his fingertip to a small, soft, white petal. The delicacy of some things amazed him.
He released a cleansing breath as he reached for the doorknob, slowly turning so as not to awaken her if she was still sleeping. He hoped she’d still be sleeping. The opening door cast a ray of light into the dim room. Sonny quickly slipped inside and quietly closed the door behind him. His eyes tried to adjust from the bright fluorescence they’d been taking in these last few hours, and he carefully felt his way to the table beside the bed. He set the bowl of flowers down, his eyes catching sight of a thin green light that hovered in the middle of the room. A monitor of some kind. His hands moved down, to the left of the table, feeling for the edge of the bed. As his pupils began to reclaim their night vision, he found the metal railing than ran alongside the bed and wrapped his fingers around it, leaning down to try to distinguish her form. He could not.
Again, the green light drew his attention. There was no noise, just the light, and something about it seemed strange. His hands moved from the cold railing to the soft cotton sheet on the bed below. He blinked once, twice, increasing his efforts to focus in the lightless room. After another moment or two, Sonny’s eyes were back. They left the monitor with its thin green light and drifted over to the glint of clear liquid in the IV bags that hung from a stand beside the bed. But as his gaze continued to travel, his eyes followed a downward trail of loosely hanging wires and tubes, a trail that ended…on the rumpled, empty bed.
Alexis was gone.