Author's Note: Thanks ever so muchly to Maya for giving me her insights on NY real estate.
I can't believe they're kicking Jane out of the hospital so quickly. It hasn't even been two days since she had major surgery on her hand, not four days since she almost died, and they're sending her back to where it all happened?
When Dr. Roberts cleared Jane to be discharged this afternoon, I followed him into the hallway. There, I asked him what the hell he was thinking. Jane could barely walk without help. How could he let her check out so early?
He answered, "Her legs are unharmed. She's just unstable because she's been lying on her back for several days. We'll have her sit up for the rest of the day and try walking a few more times."
"She has healed well from the surgery. There's no sign of complications. I have no reason to keep her here."
When I saw he wasn't going to budge on his opinion, I thanked him and walked back into Jane's room.
"I have to go," I answered. "Liz'll be here soon, and I'll be back. Don't worry."
Now that I'm faced with the reality of Jane returning to the apartment, I have to get it ready. Last I saw it, there was still blood on the floor. Plus, at least one of the guys that hurt Jane's still out there and the cops haven't got a clue who he is. They even think he might be someone who lives in or is familiar with the building. I can't let her return without making certain that our apartment's secure.
When I get there, I've got to talk to the super and get some new locks on our door.
Oh, and on the way home, I have to buy some new locks for the windows. I don't think I'll be able to take off the old ones, but there must be some sort of attachment I can get to secure them better.
And alarm systems. I'll have to check out the cost of alarms. Neither of us has a job, and they can be pricey, but my savings should cover it.
We should get a dog, too. A big guard dog. maybe one of those killer rottweilers.
That reminds me, where'd I put my gun? I bought it years ago. Is it still in my closet? No, wait, Becca didn't like it so I hid it in the cupboard behind the condensed milk. I'll have to buy a box of .38 bullets today and move it back into my room.
The door to our apartment's open when I reach it, and I can hear someone moving around inside. I'm immediately on guard, but when I reach the threshold, I can see Victor, the super. He and another guy are pulling out the nails I'd hammered into Jane's privacy blanket.
Dammit! I'd completely forgotten about him. Of course, he'd want to check out any damage caused during the burglary. Of course, he'd see what I'd done to the wall after Becca left me. I'd been lucky to keep him out of the apartment all this time, but now he knows.
The guy he has with him is a few inches shy of my height, but Victor's shorter and heavier. He's standing on a chair to get at the nails on his side. It's when he grabs onto the chairback to get down that he sees me.
"Alden, how the hell did this happen, and don't tell me the burglars stopped to bash down your wall and cover the hole with a blanket."
"Listen, Victor, I'll fix it."
"The hell you will. This is Dan," he says, indicating the man who'd been helping him. "He's contracted to fix this damage, and guess who's gonna pay him."
I let out a sigh. "Me."
"You're damn well right. You're lucky this isn't a weight-bearing wall."
"Look, Victor. Money's tight right now, what with Jane..."
"It's only because I feel bad for that girl of yours that you aren't getting evicted. Count your blessings, pay Dan the deposit he's asking, and I'll give you your new set of keys."
"You changed the locks?"
"Yep, and got the floors cleaned and Dan'll fix that big dent in the bedroom wall. My insurance'll cover what the burglars did to the apartment, but as for your stuff, I hope you have renter's insurance."
I nod. I've got insurance, just have to find the papers so I can file a claim on what was taken.
"Well, then that's settled." After a pause, he turns to the other man. "Dan?"
Dan hands me an invoice. Two hundred dollars down and who knows how much it'll be once he's done. I guess an alarm system's going to have to wait. I pull out my wallet and write him a check.
"Jane's coming home from the hospital today. When are you going to start working? Will we have to leave?"
Dan shakes his head. "Can't get started today. I'll come back Monday morning. And you shouldn't have to move out, but you might wanna move Jane into your room until I'm done."
He holds out his hand and I give him the check. Then, Victor gives me the keys, and both he and Dan leave.
The blood came out of the couch and ottoman with a lot of soap and scrubbing, but the wood on the entertainment center's cabinets had seemingly soaked the blood into the grain, and the stain wouldn't come off no matter how hard I worked at it.
I sat on the floor in front of the last evidence of my murderous actions, guilty, disgusted, frustrated, but most of all, angry. I was furious at the man who'd tried to take everything from me that night. Who, with the stubbornness of his blood, was still trying to rob me of any illusion of a safe home. I had to get rid of it, but it wouldn't come off.
Eventually, I just grabbed the cabinet door itself and pulled, grunting and yelling in my rage. The door broke at the hinges, leaving pieces of wood behind. I stood up, ran to the window, and threw the door in the general direction of the dumpster with a roar of triumph.
That felt good, and when I walked back to the entertainment center and looked at my handiwork, well, it had gotten rid of some of the stains. The TV and the top shelves didn't have doors covering them, so why not get rid of the doors covering the bottom shelves, too?
I went and found my tool kit before returning to work, unscrewing the hinges and removing the rest of the doors.
That done, I walked over to Jane's room. Her belongings were still in disarray from the burglary, but they all seemed to be there. I spent the next hour putting everything back into the places I remembered it and tidying up.
Then, I spent the rest of the time I had installing new window locks throughout the apartment, cleaning, and putting everything back as it had been before, or at least as close to it as I could get.
I can't do this. It was hard enough being in the apartment with Jane in the hospital, but now, with her here, I'm terrified something's going to happen to her. I can't help checking the locks every few hours even though I know for a fact I've checked them before and they've always been ok. Still, I can't help thinking that if I stop checking there might be one I've missed and whoever was here before will use it to get in and hurt Jane.
Even then, even if everything's locked up, they got in before, didn't they? The police didn't see any sign of forced entry. Some of the windows were unlocked, and they could've gotten in from the fire escape, but what if they didn't? Also, what if even with everything locked up, they break their way in? We can't afford an alarm system. If I'm not awake, they could come in and kill Jane, and I wouldn't even know about it.
I wish we could move out, but even if I had a job, leaving behind a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan would be insane. I've felt this way before, when Becca left me. I just knocked down the wall, brought home all sorts of nameless one-night stands, maybe drank a little too much while I was in the apartment, but I didn't move.
In fact, I want a drink right now. It's been days since I've had anything stronger than coffee, but I just can't. What if I do and I fall asleep? I'll leave Jane unprotected. In fact, I've barely slept in days, and when I have, it's on the couch in the main room with my gun hidden under a pillow at my side, no further than an arm's length away. I'd rather sleep in a chair in Jane's room, but she says it keeps her from sleeping so this is the best I can do. If someone comes through the door or one of the windows, I'll be ready.
I turn around to see Jane standing in the hallway between our two rooms. I'm on my feet and walking towards her in seconds.
"Jane, you shouldn't be up? What's the matter? What do you need?"
She just stands there and looks me up and down before saying, "How long has it been since you've slept?"
"No," she says, meeting my eyes with a concerned expression. "Really slept. A full eight hours."
I look down and run one hand through my hair. "You know me. Sometimes I just can't sleep."
"Eddie, you look terrible." That's my Jane. We've never been anything but honest to each other. She continues, "I have some sleeping pills. Would you like..."
"No, I'm fine. Really. I was just getting into this book." I look over towards the couch, trying to see what book I'd been leafing through. "And I can't stop until I at least finish the chapter."
"That can wait until tomorrow," Jane says, grabbing hold of my arm with her uninjured hand and turning me towards my room. "Tonight you need a nice, long sleep in your own bed."
"But, Jane, I..."
"Eddie, I am not spending another night listening to you wander around the apartment. If you don't lie down, I'm gonna lock you in there and make you lie down, I swear."
"Ok, ok," I answer, holding up my hands in surrender. "Just let me get my book." She frowns at me and I add, "It'll help me fall asleep."
I walk back to the couch, picking up the book and my gun, using the book to hide it. Then, I walk back towards Jane and turn into my room.
"Goodnight," she says.
"'Night... Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you?"
"I'm fine, Eddie. I'm going back to bed now. You get some sleep, ok?"
I fell asleep. I didn't mean to, but just lying down made all the stress in my body just drain away.
The nightmare returned. One of many that've been bothering me since the attack. Just another reason why I've avoided sleeping. They returned, men surrounded by darkness so I couldn't see who they were. They'd tied me up and now were hurting Jane right in front of me. I struggled, but I couldn't stop them. Couldn't do anything to help her.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and I startled awake, only to see another dark figure hovering over me. I'd stop them this time, wouldn't let them tie me up, wouldn't let them get to Jane. I reached under my pillow, retrieved my gun, and aimed it at the head of the shadowy figure. Then, I pulled the trigger.