“Where am I?” Gemma asks, her eyes opening to a bright light and mottled ceiling. As she regains her senses, she can hear people talking and rushing around on the other side of a black curtain. “Smells like a hospital. Is anybody here?”
“Good to see you’re awake and alive, kitty,” Dawn replies, leaning into the other woman’s line of vision. Wearing a nurse outfit, the hotelier holds up a mirror to reveal that one of Gemma’s eyes is bandaged. “Now we’re mirror images of each other. Good thing the people below you were awake. I guess you drank too much and stumbled. The curtain wrapped around your leg was the only thing to stop you from falling. You’re welcome for putting in the very long ones that people argued are a fire hazard. By the way, thank you for checking in on my husband two days ago. We really appreciate it.”
“He wasn’t in the penthouse,” the detective replies while sitting up. Her fingers numb, she touches a tender bump on her head and a few nearly healed wounds on her face. “Something exploded and I was hit by the shrapnel. Then I got thrown through the open doors. I should call my partner and boss to check in.”
With cold hands, Dawn eases Gemma back onto the bed and delivers a playful kiss on the bandages. A throbbing ache runs down the right side of the detective’s body and causes her leg to jerk. Ignoring the pain, she wrestles away from her enemy and gets as far away as she can without freeing herself from the patient monitor. Her entire body feels like it is on fire from the sudden movement, so she grips a chair to avoid collapsing to the floor. Tasting blood in her mouth, Gemma runs her tongue around her teeth to find that one of her incisors is missing and the wound has reopened.
“I already called your precinct and they agreed to put your case on hold until you were well enough to participate. Max had to be put on an easy burglary case, but he hasn’t continued without you,” Dawn explains as she goes about making the bed. Pulling a perfume bottle out of her bottle, she sprays it around the sheets instead of getting new ones from a nearby cart. “So I think I know what happened. We had a power surge that night and it must have made your computer go boom. The sudden pain made you stumble through the open balcony doors and you fell after getting tangled in the curtains. You hit your head on the railing of your neighbors and they pulled you in to safety.”
“Then you brought me to the hospital,” Gemma says to finish the story. She pulls the window curtain back and is surprised to see the same view from Heaven’s Nest. “We’re still in your hotel? This equipment and all of the sounds I hear make me think of a hospital. What is going on?”
“I had a floor that wasn’t being used, so I made it an on-site medical facility.”
“You’re our first real patient, so please fill out the survey when you leave.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“I’m a visionary genius in a world full of mundane fools.”
The bluntness of Dawn’s statement and a flash of anger in her face makes Gemma’s mouth go dry. Removing the wires and needles from her body, the detective checks the drawers for her clothes. She finds a set that she assumes the grinning woman brought down and struggles to change without removing her gown. A wave of dizziness forces her to slow down and lean against the bed, her eyes never straying from the curtain. Gemma tries to decipher what a muffled voice is saying over an intercom, but the noise is drowned out by a stampede of feet and single, squeaky wheelchair. Wiggling her fingers, she frowns at the sight of blood dripping from where a needle once was and onto the floor. Seeing some gauze, she grabs a piece and presses it to the small wound, which begins to burn.
The detective is ready to make another attempt to leave when Dawn flips a postcard at her chest. Ignoring the piece of paper, Gemma stands and heads for the curtain, but her hand is struck by another postcard. Two more hit her in the head before she catches the next and tosses it back at the hotelier. Dawn easily snatches it out of the air and lunges forward to show off the picture of a tropical island. There is a bonfire in the center of several palms and a shadowy ship looming in from the side. Flipping the postcard to the back, she shows a photo of a treasure chest filled with cocktails and gold coins. Smirking like a child, Dawn repeatedly switches the pictures until Gemma grabs her wrist.
“Come parghty with us at the lagoon,” the detective reads, her eyes rolling at the horrible pun. Twisting the other woman’s arm, she sees that her name is written on a shell next to the chest. “Please tell me that you’re not throwing a party for me. Do you understand how being enemies works? I don’t like you and I’d shoot you dead if I could. We aren’t friends, you maniac. Once I get evidence on you, I’m dragging you to jail. Why can’t you understand that and act normal?”
“Ugh, how many times do I have to tell people this? There’s never any fun in normal!” the brown-haired woman replies in exasperation. She slides the postcard into Gemma’s shirt and pulls the curtain back to reveal a busy hospital wing. “This is a welcome back to the game celebration. I’ve been so worried that my husband killed you and I’d lose you, kitty. Everyone is invited and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. Might be a mystery or two that requires a skilled detective.”
“What are you planning, Dawn?”
“Don’t forget to come in costume. Though you can get away with that eye patch as long as you color it black.”
Wincing at the sensation of a papercut, Gemma removes the invitation from her cleavage and tucks it into her back pocket. She watches Dawn playfully sashay into the busy hallway and dance around the obstacles to reach the central desk. The detective moves to the door, but refuses to leave as she continues to stare at her enemy. Several nurses and doctors nod to her, none of them stopping long enough to speak. Gemma’s hand falls to her hip and she is surprised to find her firearm is there. Checking her other side, she finds her badge, which has been polished to a glistening shine. Unhooking the gun holster and holding it up, she can see the faint mark of lipstick on the black leather.