Christopher opened his eyes. His body sore and tingly. His face was throbbing and his knuckles hurt. The hospital room came into focus enhanced by the sharp antiseptic smell. He wasn’t going to complain about falling asleep in a chair, not when Stephie was lying unconscious in the bed before him. It was a miracle he had even tracked her down to the hospital.
She hadn’t been gone long. He couldn’t even remember what she was grabbing. He heard the sirens and knew. The rest of the team hadn’t gotten to the bar yet. Stephie had been meticulous about setting everything up herself. She had worked so hard to get The Hatchya Later from sketches in her notebook to a real place where people could go with their friends and throw hatchets at large targets. They officially opened this weekend — Steph had the same level of detail for opening night. When she woke up she would be devastated to know she missed it. Christopher told the cops she went to grab something, but she didn’t come back. A few of the team members texted him from down the street saying that a riot squad was blocking the entrance to the bar’s parking lot.
His stomach had fallen to the ground, the acidic taste of bile rising as it plummeted. What if. . .
He had left the private room and made his way to the side door between the bathrooms and the kitchen. They had asked him why. Too many people had been trying to shove their way outside. This door was rarely used, the EXIT sign above it had been broken for years. Buried in the shadows it was forgotten about.
Christopher had told them about walking through the doors. Hearing a crowd of people off to the right, around the corner where they smokers hung out. Before he made his way over to them he heard a groan and car door open. It was in the spots reserved for the staff. Stephie was propped against one of the bartenders. He looked panicked as Christopher ran up to him. Oh God, he shouted, What did you do?
“Look man, it wasn’t me. I found him here. I was trying to get my cell from the car.”
“Go get help. There are a bunch of squad cars and shit around the corner.”
He held her close to him. Her blood dampening his shirt and cloths, the cool night air chilling him to the core.
An officer and a medic came rushing to them.
“Please, help her!” Christopher had removed her fake stubbly beard she had put on, using it to mop up the blood dripping from her face. His little lumberjack. The wails of the ambulance approached them. The officer radioed, “not the subject. Condition is critical. Will be going to the hospital.”
He hadn’t seen a police officer or the bartender since then. Until Stephie woke up she wouldn’t be a thought to the cops. She hadn’t been the subject they were looking for it, so what did it matter? He dropped his head into his hands. He would have to head over to The Hatchya Later soon. It killed him, but if Stephie woke up and he had let her baby die on the line, it would be his turn in the ER next.
Christopher pushed off the chair and walked over to his beautiful best friend, his business partner, his love. His finger drifted over the back of her hand around her IV. Her skin was still soft and silky like butter. He could see her reaching for the butter, spreading it in an impossibly thin layer across the slices of baguette, the assorted jellies sat next to her. Her eyes soft and glowing, like the aura of light around her, as she looked back at him.
He had tried once to get breakfast at their favorite spot, the waiter placed them at their usual table. Christopher ordered his usual plus Stephie’s coffee order, which included one fancy cappuccino and one personal pot of regular coffee. He hadn’t eaten much of his meal, too often his eyes drifted back to the spot where she should have been but wasn’t. The anger and sadness overpowered the whispering groans of hunger. Over caffeinated he had left the restaurant and went for a walk — their walk — by the time he reached their front door, the dull brass clumsily angling its way into the lock, he had an idea.
Looking down at his unconscious Stephie, her face still swollen and marred, that no matter what vengeance would be served.