He saw her curled up unconscious and in the fetal position in his driveway as he came home from a night of drinking with a local girl in his car. Scott stepped out of his car and walked up to the young woman lay there, motionless, daring him to approach her. He had a past. An ugly one. One that he wanted to forget. One he tried to drown at Luke’s bar every night, and pretended the girl he took home to him was someone else. But in the morning he always had a hangover and the girl was never enchanting or beautiful as the one from his past had been. But he knew this girl crumpled up and trapped in his headlines. He brushed the hair back from her face. Her eye was blacked out, her cheek was turning purple, and her lower lip was split and bleeding. Alyssa Daniels was in trouble and it was the ultimate irony that she had ended up at his feet and not someone else’s.
He looked back at the car and stared at the woman he had brought home with, she would have to be dealt with, but he had to get Alyssa inside first. Scooping her up he carried up his porch steps and let himself in. He laid her on the couch in the livingroom, scribbled a note and left it with one of his handguns with strict instructions to only trust him until he knew what was going on. He then returned to his sometime lover, Rita and got back in the car and said, “I’m sorry Rita, but not tonight. I’ll give you a ride home.”
“Who was that?”
“People don’t just sweep their acquaintances into the house and take their guest home for the night.”
Rita could turn into a real complication. He knew how to be a charmer when he needed to be but it was late, he was wired, and been turned sober by seeing a relatively innocent woman savagely beaten and collapsed in his driveway. God knew he’d seen much, much worse but he remembered a woman who’d been split down the middle. A cold blooded killer on a mission on the one hand and a tortured conscience on the other. What she did ate her alive and had almost destroyed her. Ariel Stuart was now Ariel Stuart Ramsey and had been for seven years now with two adopted children and one child from Stone Ramsey.
He had to be careful or thoughts of his life with her could consume him. He turned that part of himself off. And turned the part of him on that needed to assist Alyssa Daniels.
“Rita, last time I checked we were a sometime thing. Nothing…permanent. So I need you to act like an adult and deal with the fact I’m taking you home.”
“Frank will kill us both.”
“Would you prefer a Taxi from the bar?”
She sighed. “I suppose. I guess I’ll have to settle for one of the other boys at the bar.”
They pulled to a stop in front of the bar on the edge of town and and he let her out. Rita kissed him and touched her lips.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re never going to seek me out again?”
Rita was always saying shit like that, but this time he had a strange feeling she might be on to something.
“You worry too much. Now go have a good time without me. You do still know how to do that without me don’t you?”
Rita flipped him off and headed on inside Luke’s. He laughed and headed back home. On the way there his thoughts returned to the woman who had haunted him since he’d saved her life. Ariel.
Ariel Stuart was a complicated woman. They had been lovers as teens. Each other’s first loves. But when she had told him what she planned to do with her life it had offended him that he was not enough for her. That she needed to track down these killers. Eventually they had parted ways and he’d moved on to his wife Kendra, and their soon to be born daughter.
But fate intervened, taking them from him, leaving him angry and bitter at having lost everything that had ever mattered to him. Driving him to become was Ariel’s past had down to her, a hired gun, a hitman who cost a lot of money. He had crossed paths with Ariel again, however, and the fact they had survived at all was because he could not kill her as his boss wished, and Stone did not kill him as she had begged Stone not to.
A mess which had driven him into a mental health facility for seven years. He was driven mad for a time by thoughts of Ariel and Stone together and to be honest, the thoughts still nauseated him at times like these.
He sighed as his home came into view. A simple country, brick home with a wrap around porch and tire swing on the large tree in his front yard from the people whom had owned it before him. Now his thoughts turned from Ariel, to the victimized young woman in his livingroom, Alyssa Daniels.
He knew Alyssa as a sweet, kind, soft spoken neighbor who was always willing to help him out when he needed it. She was terrified of dogs but she would dogsit for him. Of his Corgi was positively friendly once you got to know her. Her name was Spunky. She’d been a stray, pregnant pup who’d wandered onto his property. He’d had to have her pregnancy aborted. If she had given birth it would have killed her. But Alyssa would cook him meals when he was sick. Discuss music like someone who knew what she was talking about. She was always reading and every now and again she would be writing. But every now and again she would show up with a malady or injury. It didn’t take a detective to figure out someone close to her was abusing her and that his place was her place to escape to. But she never said who it was, nor she ever elaborate on how she got hurt. He had worried that one day she would end up dead. Now she was unconscious, she had managed to escape, but where was her abuser now? And who were they? He could nurse her back to health but he feared if he sent her back into the fray she would end up dead for sure this time.
He unlocked the door and walked into a gunfire situation. She just kept pulling the trigger and bullets were pinging off of everything, except, somehow, him.
“Hey!” he shouted, “Hey! Hold your fire! It’s me, it’s Scott. I found you collapsed outside in my yard.”
The bullets stopped and she kept pulling the trigger until the gun jammed and she dropped it to the floor intermentedly wheezing and and shuddering soft sobs. Her lungs. He would have to get her to a hospital, but not in Grant, KY. Her father was the sheriff. And whether it was his past experiences or a gut instinct telling him not to he would never know.
“This is going to hurt like hell, and I’m sorry for it, but I’ve got to get you help.”
“Don’t take me to the hospital. He’ll find me there.”
“Who’ll find you there?”
She coughed and blood sprayed out of her mouth. There wasn’t time, he would rush her to Littleton, Indiana. It wasn’t as far away as one might think. He just prayed there was a cut in her mouth and that wasn’t from her lungs.
He picked her up and carried him to his car and sat her in the passenger’s seat, buckling her up. Hopping in the driver’s seat of his 2011 Dodge Charger, he revved the engine and pealed out of his driveway.
Alyssa continued to cry. “Thank you,” she said coughing into her hand, when she pulled it back there was a fine mist of blood on it. He saw the fear on her face, and even though it wasn’t in his nature to he took her hand and gave her a comforting smile.
“It’s going to be okay.”
She gripped his hand tightly. He knew if he got to the hospital too late she might be in for a rougher night than she already had been. He hoped though, that that would not be the case.
He’d sat up all night waiting for Alyssa to come out of surgery. He’d nursed four tall cups of horrible hospital coffee. He never once complained. He never once asked to see her and he never once bothered the nurses although several of them had come up to him asking for his number while slipping him there’s. Ah, had this been a different night, a different situation, a different person struggling to breathe and live he might have taken one or two of them up on their offers. But it was Alyssa in there and she needed someone on her side. And for some reason, the daughter of the town sheriff had come to him and not her dad. Then finally, the surgeon emerged and came towards him with a stern look on his face.
“Mr. Daniels, I don’t know who or what caused those injuries but it always pisses me off when I see them. You could have killed that girl and instead of taking her to the hospital in Grant you brought her here, risking her life--,” the surgeon stopped cold when Scott took his hand and balled the doctor’s shirt in it.
“Now you, listen to me. I am of no relation to that girl other than she is a very dear friend whom I found collapsed in my driveway tonight when I got home. Her father is a powerful man, and I suspect she’s more afraid of him than she is of anyone else. And it angers me for more than you could possibly imagine to know someone laid their hands on her. All I want to know is how she is, and can I see her?”
The doctor was a little older than him, Scott could tell that by the look on his face and the lines around his mouth. He was a smoker too. Doctors who smoked, the ultimate in hypocrisy. Then he himself smoked so who was he to judge on that front?
“Let go of me or I will be forced to call security.”
“How is she?”
“Let go of me, or I will be forced to call her father.”
He released the surgeon and eyed him suspiciously. “Have you already called him?”
The surgeon stood there grim faced and stony in expression. “Against my better judgment no. She’s begged me not to. But given her injuries, two broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, a sprained wrist, a fractured tailbone, a fractured cheekbone, internal bleeding, contusions, bruises, cuts, and scrapes, I should have you thrown from the premises.”
“And why aren’t you?”
“Because she’s asking for you as if you’re some sort of hero who can protect her.”
“Then why don’t you believe her?”
“Because I like her father and don’t think he would ever harm his daughter this way. She’s in room 655. It’s the most private and secure room in the hospital. Just give me an excuse Mr. Jackson and I’ll make you sorry you ever messed with her or me.”
“Right. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” Scott was sure that doctor was heading to call Sheriff Daniels now. He rushed to room 655 as fast as he could.