The first police officer to arrive on scene, is James, Frank’s good friend. He helps Rochelle sneak into the facility through a back door that not even Frank knows about. They arrive at Frank and Marka’s room, finding the two of them there. James senses that Marka needs his help.
James took off his utility belt and set it aside. He put his cuffs in his pocket. He checked the rest of his uniform, removing anything that could be used as a weapon—including his badge. This, he handed to Rochelle. She put it in her pocket. Dressed only in his socks, shirt and pants, James walked boldly through the open door of the apartment.
“What the hell!” Frank yelled. “Jimmy?”
“Hi, Frank. Marka, everything cool?”
Her expression told him how desperate she was.
“What’s up, buddy? You look like hell, Frankie. Don’t you wanna sit down? Marka, maybe some coffee?”
“Yeah, sure.” She spoke so quietly, he could hardly hear her. She moved toward the kitchen.
James led Frank to the loveseat and sat beside him. His friend looked terrible. Dark circles blackened the area around his eyes. His skin was drawn over the bones, making him look hollow cheeked. A heavy growth of beard shaded his strong chin. Bruises and cuts from Liz’s torture covered his body. He was dressed in scrubs he must have stolen from the hospital. His feet were covered in the bedsocks they issued as part of standard patient garb. He looked haggard, driven and cold. An afghan lay over the back of the loveseat. James pulled it around Frank’s shoulders.
“Talk to me, buddy.”
“I need them, Jimmy. I have to find them.”
“Find what, Frankie?”
“The—” He grasped at the air as if trying to pluck the words from it. Taking handfuls of hair, he tugged desperately. “I don’t know! I don’t remember.” His voice shook as sobs wracked his body. “I just know they were here. And they’re gone.”
Marka came in with coffee as if nothing was strange. She set the cups down in front of the men. The pot and spoons were in the kitchen. She’d already added sugar and cream. The hot coffee attracted Frank’s attention. He picked up the cup and drank deeply, not minding the scorching heat. James didn’t miss the fact that Marka had used Styrofoam travel cups instead of ceramic mugs.
“What brings you here, Jimmy?” Marka asked.
“A friend dropped me off,” he replied with a grin. “Maybe yo
u know her. Rochelle?”
Relief flooded her face. “Anyone else?”
“No, but there was quite a flurry of activity when we left the house. But I think your friends will take care of that.”
“No one else with you?”
“Didn’t see a soul.”
“What are you talking about?” Frank sounded dangerously paranoid.
“Making conversation, buddy. You should take a nap, Frank. You look beat, kid.”
“I am kind of tired,” Frank admitted, yawning.
“I’ll help you to bed. Marka, I’d like to stick around awhile with Frank. Would you be a doll and get me a newspaper? I like to read the sports section.”
“Sure. I’ll be back soon, honey.” She kissed Frank desperately. “I love you,” she said. “I love you so much and I want you to rest.”
“Yeah. I’m sleepy.”
With James’ help, he stumbled to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. James pulled the blankets over him. Closing the door, he followed Marka to the front door. They stepped out in the hallway, pulling the door shut behind them. Rochelle met them a few feet away.
“What’d you give him?” James asked.
“Don’t ask. I just hope I haven’t killed him. We have no idea what Liz gave him. Thank God you came when you did! He was wild and disoriented. I have no idea if he even knew who I was. But he knew you.” She hugged James.
“Me and Frank go a long way back.” James patted her on the back. “He’ll sleep a little while. I’ll stay here with him.”
“I want to stay.”
“No,” James and Rochelle said in unison.
“He’ll know me,” James said. “He might not recognize you, the state he’s in. You wouldn’t be safe.”
“Have they found Liz?”
“I don’t know,” Rochelle replied. “I turned off the radio when we came in. Did you cause the lock down?”
“Yes. It was the only thing I could think of. The only way to keep people safe.”
“Where did you leave the journals?” Rochelle asked.
Marka shook her head. “It’s best if I’m the only one who knows that.”
“I’ll go check on Frank. You two go somewhere else and I’ll call if I need you. Get a Liz update,” James said.
Marka couldn’t think where to go, so she followed Rochelle back to the hidden stair. The lock down was still in place. No one stirred, too afraid to go out until an all clear sounded. With luck, the residents would think it was an extended drill.
Once in the stairwell, Rochelle made Marka sit. The younger woman was shaking. Rochelle put her arms around Marka and let her cry.
© Dellani Oakes