First time reading? Start from the beginning here.
Dave drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. Every time he woke, he’d keep his eyes shut, feeling an overwhelming and nameless sense of dread. Then he’d remember that he’d escaped, that no one was waiting to torture him more. Eventually, he opened his eyes. The off-white, rectangular ceiling tiles of a hospital room greeted him, and he could hear muffled voices from the people in the hallway.
Dave turned his head, which was cushioned by a thick pillow. Harris and Moreen sat next to his bed.
“How long—” Dave coughed, his throat scratchy. “How long have I been out?”
“A couple hours.” Harris tried to smile, but it didn’t quite stick. “Which really isn’t enough. You should get back to sleep.”
Sleep sounded nice. Dave’s head felt cloudy, and his limbs were heavy and numb. But something nagged at him. He was forgetting something, or there was something he needed to do and….
He jerked up. “They’re working together. Blueblood, the Black Valentine, and—”
“And the Fox Woman. We know,” Moreen said. “You already debriefed Walter.”
He had? Dave eased himself back down onto the pillow, trying to remember what he’d said. Had he told Water that the Black Valentine had saved him? She was going to be pissed if that was the case. He thought back to when she’d let him lean on her as they fled—no, that had been Madame Morphine, technically, but in his hazy headspace, he pictured Val with him in person.
Getting him out of there hadn’t profited her at all. It had been a huge risk. So why had she done it? Dave thought he might know the answer, but he was too afraid to follow the thought to its conclusion. It was something too wonderful and terrible to wrap his head around.
“Not that I blame you for wanting to warn everybody,” Harris said. “I kinda want to run around shouting at everybody to run away, to be honest. Those are three of the biggest players in the country, and they’re working together now? It’s like three giant robots combining together to make an even bigger, invincible robot.”
“Thank you for summing up how serious this is,” Moreen said in a flat voice.
“Your arm,” Dave said, noticing her cast and sling for the first time.
“Broken.” She gave half a shrug, moving only the shoulder attached to her good arm. “No big deal.”
“Broken? Try completely crushed—”
“Seriously, I talked to her doctor.” Harris put a hand to the side of his mouth like he could block the sound of his voice from reaching Moreen’s ears. “If they gave a prize for the worst broken arm in the state, she’d be holding a trophy right now. Don’t let her tough guy act fool you.”
Moreen glared at him. Harris leaned away from her.
“What happened?” Dave asked.
Moreen sighed. “I ran into Giordano in the lobby. It didn’t go well.” Her gaze darted to the floor before returning to him. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to back you up.”
“Same to you. We should have never split up.” Dave’s eyes closed briefly as he thought of everything he should have done differently. “How’s Puebla?”
“Safe. The Gold Guardian’s on his detail now. They only need to hold out a couple more days until the trial.”
Good, Dave thought. Then it hadn’t been for nothing. He waited for that knowledge to make him feel better, but the vague nausea lurking in the bottom of his stomach remained.
He turned his attention back to Moreen and Harris to see them looking at him expectantly. “Sorry, what?”
“Madame Morphine’s giving up everything about Blueblood,” Harris repeated. “We ever catch the guy, and we’ll have a rock-solid case against him.”
Blueblood. Dave remembered the sound of his voice more than anything. Jovial and mocking, it had danced around the edges of Dave’s consciousness as he lay on the floor.
“We’ll catch him,” Moreen said darkly.
Dave moved his facial muscles into something he hoped was a smile. “I don’t doubt it.”
A soft knock on the door interrupted them, and Dave’s usual physician, Dr. Ortiz, walked in. They must have flown her in from Washington. Or had they flown him to Washington? Dave realized he had no idea where he was, other than the obvious fact it was a hospital.
“I see you’re awake,” she said.
“For better or for worse,” he replied.
“Harris, Moreen, could you give us a few minutes? I need to talk to him about some tests.”
The two of them shuffled out with promises to return, and Dave found his attention drifting. On the opposite side of the bed from where Moreen and Harris had been sitting, a bouquet of white roses rested on the small wooden nightstand. He frowned at it. Harris definitely hadn’t brought them, and Moreen wasn’t the flower type, either. Then he noticed the small notecard hanging from them that read, “From a fan.” Except that didn’t make sense. His location shouldn’t have been released to the public, and if it had, the hospital wouldn’t allow tokens from random admirers. He’d be drowning in flowers if that was the case.
Val. Dave realized it the moment he saw the small heart drawn in the corner of the card. It was colored black. Somehow, she’d gotten him flowers, probably by mind-controlling one of the nurses into bringing them to his room. Horribly immoral, yet absurdly touching. It made him smile for real for the first time since he’d woken up.
He wondered where she was and if she was alright.
I’m back from vacation! I had a wonderful time hiking in the Great Smokey Mountains and got some writing done in the hotel room in the evenings. I’m finally making some good progress on Almost Invincible and can’t wait to share it with you guys. Do you have any vacation plans this summer? Where do you think Dave and Val should go to get away?
An awful lot of this serial takes place in hospital rooms, huh? Pro tip: I actually have a “hospital scenes” tag if you want to go back and revisit your favorite character recovering from a terrible injury. 😉
And so begins our next episode, “Everything is Perfectly Fine.” (Everything is not fine. Everything is so far away from fine you’d need a GPS to get there.)