First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
Dave had been conscious for about two hours when a small woman with curly, graying hair walked into his hospital room. The sight of her surprised him so much that he cut off mid-sentence in his conversation with Moreen and Harris.
Harris turned around, saw her, and jumped up. “Hey, lady, you can’t be in here.”
He hurried forward to usher her out, but the woman didn’t slow her pace by a single second. She walked straight at Harris and passed through him like a ghost, not stopping until she reached Dave’s beside.
“Oh, David,” she breathed. She usually looked good for her age, but now her face was waxen and every wrinkle seemed to have grown deeper. Guilt hit Dave like a freight train. His capture had been all over the news, and it must have been horrible for her. She reached out a trembling hand and took hold of his.
“We’ll give you two some privacy.” Moreen stood up and grabbed Harris, who was staring down at his body and patting his chest as if to assure himself he was still solid. She muttered something angrily as she pulled him from the room, and Dave caught the words “—his mother, you ninny.”
“I’m fine, Mamá, really. You didn’t have to come all this way.”
“Of course I did. Of course I did.” She squeezed his hand tighter.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
She lowered herself into the chair Moreen had vacated, still not letting go of his hand. Her jewelry jingled. Copper bracelets and painted wooden beads encircled her thin arms, and she wore necklaces of turquoise stones and dangling coins. As long as Dave could remember, she’d covered herself in bangles and had a ring on every finger, making him wonder how she ever snuck up on anyone in her vigilante days when she clinked like a string of bells.
“You’ll let me pay you back for the air fare, at least,” Dave said.
“Don’t even think about that right now. I was so worried, David. I prayed you’d be okay.”
“I am okay.”
He was glad she hadn’t come earlier when he’d been drowsy and disoriented. At least now he was alert and sitting up in his bed, feeling only a small headache the doctor had said was a symptom of minor withdrawal from Madame Morphine’s chemical.
His mother searched him with her brown eyes, making him squirm like she’d caught him slacking off on his homework. “If I ever run into Blueblood, the Black Valentine, or the Fox Woman, they’re dead,” she swore.
“Please don’t,” he said. Then he returned her searching gaze. “That isn’t public knowledge yet, the fact that the three of them are working together.”
“Isn’t it?” she asked mildly.
She finally let go of his hand and leaned back. “Don’t worry yourself. I have my ways.”
“Moreen didn’t tell you.”
“But she’s the one who told you I was here.”
“She’s a good girl.” His mother smiled slyly. “When are you going to ask her out already? It’s been years.”
Dave wanted to roll his eyes, but he didn’t. If teasing made her feel better after the ordeal of the past day, then she could tease him all she wanted. The more the two of them talked, the more she visibly relaxed, until Dave decided it was a good thing that she’d come. Not because he needed her, of course, but because the visit was obviously making her feel better.
It was interrupted when Walter walked in.
“Ma’am.” He gave her a respectful nod. “I need to borrow your son for a moment.”
Dave’s mother leveled Walter with a measuring look then acquiesced. She gave Dave’s hand a parting squeeze and left the room, closing the door behind her.
“Has Madame Morphine given you any leads on where they might be hiding?” Dave asked.
“None that have panned out.” Walter’s tie was loose, and his thinning hair stood up in a way that meant he’d been running his hands through it in frustration. Dave’s mother wasn’t the only one who’d had a stressful past twenty-four hours. “Have you remembered anything else since the last time we talked?”
“No. How soon can I be cleared again for active duty?”
“Once you’re recovered.”
“Recovered from what?” Dave held out his hands. “I’m not injured. I’m just sitting here until the last scan results come in clear. Dr. Ortiz says I should be fine.”
Walter crossed his arms in a familiar bullish way, but he hesitated for a second before speaking, something that wasn’t familiar at all. “I’m not talking physical injuries. You need to see a psychiatrist—”
“Oh, come on, Walter. I don’t need a shrink.” Dave’s voice came out louder than he’d planned, but he didn’t back down. Unfortunately, neither did Walter.
“That judgement isn’t yours to make—for obvious reasons.” Walter’s face softened, and for some reason that made Dave furious. “Look, after what you went through, anyone would—”
“But I don’t. I don’t need psychological help. I need to get back to work and bring in Blueblood and the rest of them.”
The brief trace of softness left Walter’s face, retreating back to wherever he kept it locked up. “I’m not clearing you until you’ve talked to a psychiatrist. End of story.”
Dave wanted to break something. This was ridiculous, and he knew why it was happening. It was all the fault of that stupid plastic cup of water the nurse had brought in with his lunch. He’d drunk from it, but he’d still been drowsy, and some of it had gone down the wrong pipe. For a brief moment—three seconds at the most—he’d been back in that room, choking and drowning. But he’d gotten over it, and the worst thing that happened was that he broke his lunch tray. He wasn’t crazy.
He glared at Walter but didn’t say anything. Childish of him, but he was afraid of what would come out of his mouth if he opened it.
“For what it’s worth, Dr. Ortiz told me the same thing she told you,” Walter said. “You should be out of here by the end of the day. We’ll fly you home, and you and I can continue this discussion later.”
“Looking forward to it,” Dave muttered.
Walter lingered for a moment then walked briskly out. Dave leaned back against the pillow and closed his eyes, feeling the lowest he had since he’d first woken up.
Poor Dave isn’t out of the woods yet. And this is the first official appearance of Dolores Del Toro, former vigilante turned superhero turned mama bear. I just finished writing a scene with her in Almost Invincible, so if you like her here, there’s more to come.
I’m soooo close to being done with Almost Invincible. Then it’s off to beta readers, my editor, and finally all of you. 🙂