“Welcome back to the land of the living, Detective Cook.”
Gemma’s eyes open to see that she is in a hospital room, the walls a different color than the one in Heaven’s Nest. At first, she thinks Dawn has merely changed the scenery and created more equipment. It is not until she realizes that Captain Blythe is standing by the door with a large fruit basket from the precinct. Gemma tries to move away when he approaches, but her pain-wracked body is locked in traction. Raising her head, she sees that all of her limbs are elevated and in casts. Her breathing becomes ragged when her boss sets the gift on a nearby table and takes a seat. She calms down slightly when she notices the bags under the man’s eyes and a few days’ worth of beard on his chin. The detective is resistant when Captain Blythe takes the thermos off a tray and offers her the straw, but her thirst gets the best of her. She drains the container within a few minutes, the ice cold water making her stomach twist. Unable to curl up like she wants, Gemma can only squirm until the pain subsides.
“You’ve been in a coma for two weeks,” Captain Blythe explains as he lays out pictures from Max’s funeral on the table. He tries to put them where her good eye can see them with ease, but he finds that there are too many to put in a small area. “Heaven’s Nest collapsed and took nearly everyone with it. Counting you, ten people survived with injuries that most of have recovered from. We’re still trying to figure out how anybody lived through the disaster, especially you. Another survivor claimed they saw you go to the penthouse before the collapse, which means you fell the entire way to the arcade. Took the firefighters two days to get you out of the wreckage. The onsite EMTs almost declared you dead because of your injuries and a very faint pulse that only machines picked up on.”
“When can I talk to the survivors?” Gemma asks in a strained voice. She attempts to wiggle one of her fingers, the joint popping with every movement. “Sorry. Last thing I remember is trying to arrest Dawn Addison and then the building fell out from under me. Having some trouble acknowledging my situation, sir. Probably won’t be back on the job for a couple of months, so I’ll understand if this case passes me by. Still, it would be nice to hear if they recall anything. My mind is rather fuzzy.”
Captain Blythe chuckles and holds out a card for the injured woman to read, the printed message covered by signatures from her coworkers. “Besides you, only one other survivor is local. The others were from other cities, states, and countries. They went home as soon as they were able to travel since they either had loved ones to bury or family that wanted them home. I wouldn’t worry about it, Gemma. You’re right that this case is going on without you, but only because you’re too involved. Are you able to answer a question?”
“I will do my best, sir.”
“Do you know why Dawn Addison destroyed her own hotel?”
Gemma whimpers as she tries to nod, her head only accomplishing a painful jerk that locks her spine. She takes several deep breaths to steady her nerves and stares at the fruit basket to remind herself that she is not dreaming. Watching the face of Captain Blythe, she considers that Dawn is still playing games with her. Struggling to remember the last few minutes before plunging into a waterfall of debris, the detective feels a trickle of warm blood seep from her eye socket. Her boss’s horrified reaction helps to erase the last of her fear since she assumes he would be have a different reaction when under her enemy’s control.
“I have a vague memory of what happened,” Gemma answers, accepting a spoonful of what she hopes is chocolate pudding. The taste is bitter and she fights to swallow, which draws her attention to the rumbling in her stomach. “I was angry about Max’s death, so I went to confront her about it. There was something about her husband and then she had a mental breakdown. The building fell apart soon after she began screaming. How do you know Dawn did anything? We could never pin anything on her.”
“A computer was found intact and without any protection,” Captain Blythe replies, running his hand over his bald head. Nervously licking his lips, he gazes at the window that shows the morning skyline. “There was only one file on it, which was a message from Dawn Addison. She simply said that if she went down, the world goes with her. Residues from a variety of explosives were found in the wreckage, so she must have rigged the whole thing in case we managed to get anything on her. Probably hit a detonator when you were confronting her.”
Gemma feels her strength returning and manages to move her head enough that she can get a better look at her boss. “Let me guess. No trace of her anywhere. Dawn will probably turn up in another state or country after a few months.”
“That’s where things get a little creepy,” the man claims as he pulls a folded article out of his jacket pocket. Putting it on top of the pictures, he points at the one line obituary of Dawn Addison. “She was actually found a few feet from you. Her body was on a bed and looked rather comfortable if you ignored the piece of rebar going through her chest. A lot of dead ravens around her too. None of that is the creepy part. Two days after the body was taken to the morgue, it disappeared. I’m not talking overnight either. Sammy had just finished cleaning the body and went to get a tool to remove the rebar. Then the lights went out, she heard wings flapping all over the place, and the body was gone by the time the power came back on.”
“For some reason that doesn’t surprise me.”
“Why is that?”
“Death feels like it would be too normal for, Dawn.”
“Not sure what you mean by that.”
Feeling drowsy, Gemma unleashes a gaping yawn that pops her jaw. “Sorry, but I need to get some sleep, sir. Please tell Max’s family that I’m sorry for what happened. If I remember anything else, I’ll give you a call.”
Captain Blythe opens the fruit basket and moves it closer even though Gemma is unable to move her arms. He is about to pat her on the leg, but stops out of a fear of hurting her. Tucking his hands into his pockets, the tired man takes in the sight of the injured woman and takes comfort from the glint of defiance in her eyes. Unable to do anything more for her, Captain Blythe says his good-byes and walks away, his footsteps echoing from the hallway that is disturbingly quiet.