I followed Jane all the way to the doors leading to the operating rooms before I had to turn back. They told me not to worry, that Jane should be fine, but that was after they made me sign the release form. How can they expect me to believe nothing bad will happen after making me read through and sign off on all sorts of possible complications that could result from this surgery? Jane could lose all feeling in her hand or lose her hand all together. She could hemorrhage, throw a blood clot, and have a stroke. She could have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Hell, she could go into a coma and die.
It was so hard to walk back to the empty hospital room without Jane. I can't help feeling that something's going to go wrong. Fear and dread's building up in my chest with every step I take away from her until it's a palpable ache.
When I finally get back to the empty room, I don't know what to do. The surgery'll take hours, but I can't just sit still and wait. After the attack, I swore I wouldn't let Jane out of my sight again, but here I am putting her life in the hands of strangers less than two days later.
For a short time, I busy myself by cleaning up the room. I make the pull-out bed I'd slept on for the night and fold it back into the couch. When that's done, I rummage through the things Liz had brought for me and Jane, putting some of Jane's pictures up on the walls and pulling out her favorite quilt for when she comes back.
After the room was clean and our things were unpacked, I went into the bathroom and cleaned myself up some, too. I hadn't really done anything about my appearance since all this happened. I haven't cared what I looked or smelled like, I was too worried about Jane, but right now, it just gives me something to do. Besides, washing up, a shave, and a change of clothes can't hurt.
When I finish, I walk back into the empty hospital room, but I can't think of anything else to keep me distracted. I sit down on the small couch and my mind invariably drifts back to Jane in surgery. My imagination provides all sorts of images of what her left arm might look like now, bone and muscle exposed to the air as they drive pins and screws in to stabilize the bone, and I can't help shuddering. They described the procedure to me in detail when they had me sign those legal release forms and now it's coming back to haunt me.
In an attempt to get my mind off it, I turn on the TV and start cycling through the channels. I don't bother to stop and watch any of the shows, I just keeping clicking past them. Nothing can hold my attention right now.
I don't know how many times I've circled the channels when the men walk into the room. They're both dressed in suits, but the cheaper variety, so it doesn't surprise me when they introduce themselves as detectives instead of doctors.
The older one says, "I'm Lieutenant Spenser, this is my partner, Lieutenant Hawkins. Are you Edward Alden?"
"Eddie," he corrects himself, "we have a few questions for you."
"Look, I told that other cop everything that happened. I didn't mean to kill him, I just had to stop him from hurting Jane."
"We have your statement, Mr. Alden, but we still gotta do our investigation."
"Ok, ask away," I say, settling back into the couch.
"It's not that easy, Mr. Alden. You haveta come back with us to your apartment."
"For one thing, it looks like your girlfriend interrupted a burglary in progress, but we didn't find any car or truck outside belonging to the perpetrator We need you to check out the place and tell us what's missing."
I shake my head. "Jane's in surgery."
The younger detective jumps into the conversation for the first time, asking, "How long until she's out?"
Sighing, I close my eyes and then answer, "They said it'd take five or six hours if everything went ok."
"Then you have time."
"I can't leave her when she's in surgery!"
"What are you going to do, sit and watch cartoons until she gets out?" the younger guy says, arching his head towards the T.V. It appears my channel surfing stopped on the Cartoon Network when they came in.
"Look," the older one, Lt. Spenser, says, sitting down next to me on the couch. "It's really important that we do this as soon as possible. You can use my cell phone. We'll get one of the nurses to call you with any updates, and if there's a problem, we'll race you back here with sirens and all."
"No. We'll do it later, when I know she's ok."
"We can compel you to come with us," the younger detective said, the threat plain in his voice.
"John," Spenser snaps before I can say anything. "Give us a minute, ok?"
John shakes his head and leaves the room.
"Ok," he says, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "We believe you. All the physical evidence so far shows you just defended your girlfriend. You're not on trial here."
"That's not the problem. She's... something could happen to her in the operation and..."
"I know, just lemme finish ok? The physical evidence clears you, but it looks like... well, there might've been more than one burglar."
"What?!" I exclaim, standing up.
"We're not sure. That's why we need you to come check out the place with us."
"There's someone else out there. What if Jane saw him? What if he comes after her?"
"Calm down. Like I said, we're not sure. We need your help."
Needless to say, I went with them. Lt. Spenser gave his cell phone number to the surgical nurse, and I made her swear on everything holy that she'd update me every hour.
I'm so scared, terrified that something'll happen to Jane when I'm gone and I won't be able to get back to her in time. Still, what good was I doing her slowly going crazy in that empty hospital room? At least here, I'm doing something. If there's someone out there that's a threat to Jane, I'll make sure he's captured.
There's police tape on the front door, but Spenser cuts through it quickly enough and then we're inside. I've had this apartment's for years. Becca and I picked it out together when we were just starting to get serious. Even when she left me, and I couldn't stand to look at the walls, I didn't leave. Sure, I knocked a huge hole through one of the walls, but that was it.
I told myself that I'd be crazy to leave a rent-controlled apartment this spacious, but that wasn't the reason I stayed. On my few hopeful days, I reasoned that I couldn't leave just in case Becca came back to me. On all the other days, I figured it was a good reminder of what would happen if I ever let someone close to me again. Every woman I dated eventually ended up here, and I'd prove to myself that I'd learned Becca's lesson well as I spent a night of meaningless sex with her.
Somehow, Jane got under my shields. She's the only woman that I've ever really gotten to know, the only one I've lived with. since Becca. Along the way, the apartment stopped being a Becca reminder and just became Jane and Eddie's home. A home that has now been violated.
When I walk in, I'm transported back to two days ago. A man straddling Jane, choking the life out of her. The crack of a champagne bottle striking a skull. Jane slowly dying in front of me as I wait for the paramedics.
"Eddie," Lt. Spenser says gently. "Could you just walk us through what happened. What you saw. What you did when you first entered."
I tell them about how I walked in, not knowing what was going on, confused as to what the guy was doing in my apartment until I saw Jane. I lead them over to the couch and then I stop.
Someone's made a half-hearted attempt to clean up all the blood, but the stains are still clear. I'm not surprised to see Jane's blood stains on the hardwood floor, although the sight makes my chest clench up. No, what catches my attention is the blood stains further past the couch, beyond where the coffee table'd been pushed in the struggle, all the way up to the entertainment center.
The stain is huge, and when I look closer, I can see little bits of something stuck in the textured door of the entertainment center. Crouching down next to it, I realize what it is. Grey matter. I beat that guy's head in so hard that his brains oozed out, and...
Clenching my jaw shut and half-stumbling, half-running, I make it to the bathroom just in time to be reintroduced to the breakfast bagel I'd gotten in the hospital cafeteria this morning.