"What?!" Did he just say what I think he...
"He's dead." He sighs and wipes his hand across his mouth. "You put a few nice-sized dents in his skull. C'mon, you had to know you killed him."
I *killed* him? When I saw him, what he was doing to Jane, I just exploded. I wanted him off of her. I wanted him gone, but I didn't... I've never really hurt anyone in my life. Well, except when I was a kid, but those were just playground fights. Now, I'm a murderer?
No. I had to do it to help Jane. She was... I can't bear to think about what he did to her. The blood. The pain. The fear. I should've been there. I could've stopped him.
The guy deserved to die... No, he deserved a whole lot worse.
"Hey, you ok?"
I stop. I've been pacing back in forth without really realizing it, and my hands are clenched so tight they're starting to hurt. I close my eyes, forcing myself to release my fists while taking a deep breath.
"Yeah," I answer once I think I can speak without my voice shaking. "I... I killed him in defense." So much for a steady voice.
"From your statement, that's what it sounds like, but we have to be thorough. I should warn you. The crime scene investigators are going through your apartment inch by inch. If there's anything else you need to tell me, something to change about your story, you should say it now."
"That's what happened!" I yell in frustration.
How dare he? I told him the truth. In fact, I must've told him the same story at least ten times before he told me about the dead guy. I've been more than patient. I mean, that guy was in *my* apartment, I'm not the criminal here. He was probably trying to steal my stuff while Jane and I were at work, or maybe, he was waiting for us. Could he have been after Jane? They were both clothed when I came in, but that doesn't mean he didn't try something. What if...
I should have been there! It was damn stupid to go for that champagne.
One thing's for sure. I won't be letting Jane out of my sight for a long time. Of course, that's only if she survives. She still wasn't breathing when they pushed me out of the trauma room.
How long have I been out here with this cop? Has a nurse or someone come looking for me while we've been talking? I have to get back in there and check.
"Eddie!" a frantic voice calls to me, and I turn to see Liz stumbling out of a cab. She throws bills at the driver and runs towards me.
"Where is she? What happened? Is she gonna be all right?"
When she reaches me, I put a hand around her shoulder and say, "C'mon, let's check."
I walk her towards the emergency room entrance, cocking my head around to see Officer Miller. "We're done, right?"
"For now," he answers.
Liz and I didn't find out very much when we went inside, just that Jane had been taken for a CT scan and that we should go to the waiting room. Liz said that a few of Jane's other friends are on their way, but her sister is still in the hospital across town. She and her husband asked Liz for regular updates.
Finally, after at least another two hours, we finally see a doctor. She looks like she just got into high school, but she's wearing a white coat and she's got information about Jane, so I'm will to overlook her age and the nose ring for now.
"Ms. Goodale has three broken ribs and a bruised lung on the right side. five breaks in the left wrist and arm, and a grade three concussion from a head trauma. We've stitched the head wound and the CT scan doesn't show any skull fractures or bleeding, but we will need to monitor her closely for at least 24 hours, The wrist fracture will require surgery, but we've splinted it for now. We don't want to risk any anesthesia until we've given her some time to recover from the concussion. Now, are there any questions I can answer for you?"
"How's her throat? Can she breathe?" I ask, while Liz asks at the same time, "What's a grade three concussion?" Jane's other friends ask more general questions about how she's doing or when they can see her.
The doctor starts with my questions and works her way down the line.
"She is breathing on her own now, but she'll have to keep the trach for another few days. The swelling and bruising is extensive. We're administering anti-inflammation medication that have opened up her throat a little, but it will take some time before it's sufficiently healed and we can remove the tracheotomy. Until then, she won't be able to speak."
At least she's breathing. She's not in a coma. She's not a vegetable. She'll be ok.
"As for her concussion, a grade three just means that she lost consciousness. It took a while before she opened her eyes, but..."
"She's awake?" I interrupt.
"She's resting," the doctor corrects. "We have to wake her up every hour over the course of the next 24 hours at least to ensure the damage isn't more severe."
"But she's awake right now? Can I see her?"
That's got everyone asking the same question.
"You can see her, but no more than two people for no longer than 5 minutes at a time."
No one's interested in asking the doctor any more questions. We all want to see Jane.
Liz and I get to go in first, but as soon as I see her, I know that hospital rules and all her other friends be damned, I'm not leaving her alone in here.
She looks so tiny and weak, the paleness of her skin so close in hue to the white sheets she's wrapped in and so starkly contrasting the deep blue and purple bruises wrapped completely around her neck. It looks so raw, and I can just make out the outline of the hands that caused this damage in her skin.
"Oh, Jane," Liz says through hitched breaths as she spreads her arms and lurches towards Jane's prone form. I stop her before she can give Jane the hug she'd been attempting.
"Eddie," she says with irritation.
"Gentle," I remind her.
I want to touch Jane, too, but I don't want to hurt her when I do it. Her hands aren't an option. The left one is wrapped up and swollen to twice it's size and the right one has an IV and sensors hooked to it. I think about putting a hand on her arm or shoulder, but that might upset her ribs. I could stroke her hair, but her head might be hurting. I decide to hold her like I had in the ambulance and reach out for a sheet-covered ankle, motioning to Liz that she should take the other one.
Jane's been watching us as we clumsily jockeyed for position around the bed, but her expression hasn't changed. It seems distant, like she's only half here, and there's something wrong with her eyes.
Releasing my hold on her ankle for just a moment, I lean closer, whispering, "Jane?" as I get a better look at her eyes. Now I can see what was troubling me. The whites of her eyes are red.
I turn to the doctor, who escorted us into the room, and whisper, "Why are her eyes red?"
"Pinpoint hemorrhages," she answers in a low voice. "From the strangulation."
I've never considered myself to be a violent man, but right now, I want to bring that guy back to life just so I can kill him again, slower this time. He did this. He hurt the sweetest, kindest person I know, and he deserves to suffer.
A weak hand brushes against my arm, and when I look down, I can see Jane's bloodshot eyes focusing a little on mine. She starts moving her hand, like she's writing, and I turn back to the doctor.
"She wants to write. Can we get paper and a pen?"
Doctor Langley, her name tag shows, shakes her head. "I don't want to wear her out. You only have a few more minutes anyway."
Of course, while she was turning us down, Liz pulled out a pen and pad of paper from her purse, handing it to me.
"Here you go, babe," I say as I put the pen in her grasp and position the pad under her hand on the bed.
Jane scribbles out a distorted, *What happnd?*
Oh hell. What should I say? Should I tell her everything? What if she never remembers? Would it be better for her not to know?
I decide to be truthful, but vague. "There was a guy in our apartment. He hurt you, but you're in the hospital now. You're going to be ok."
"Yeah," Liz backs me up. "You're just fine, Jane. We're here now."
Jane writes *Hurts* over her first question, and I turn to Dr. Langley.
"She's in pain. Can't you give her something?"
The doctor shakes her head. "We can't give her too much until we're sure the head trauma is ok."
"Why not?" I demand, louder now.
The doctor drops her voice even quieter as she leans towards me and, emphasizing every word, whispers. "Because she could go into a coma."
Jane taps her pen down on the pad to get our attention, and I see there's a new question there, *Wher?*
"St. Vincent's Hospital," I respond. "They're taking real good care of you here."
"Ok, that's it, time's up," the doctor says, putting out her hands to escort me and Liz out.
The doctor just shakes her head. "No, you're not. We agreed on five minutes."
"And two people. I'll stay. Let someone else replace Liz." My voice leaves no room for compromise. Dr. Langley doesn't answer, but she also doesn't force me out.
As we wait for the next person, Jane closes her eyes to rest.
After several seconds, she opens her eyes and gives me a surprised expression. She moves her hand around and, feeling the pen in her grip, her expression changes to confusion.
She then writes on the pad, *What happend?*