Story: Give Me One Reason (chapter 5)

Authors: A Markov

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Chapter 5

Title: Learning to Fly, One: Tongue Tied


To understand my motivation and why I asked you to meet me in this manner, we have to go back to a day about three weeks after my accident. It was a Wednesday. It was early evening. I had been poring over field reports with my top agents for nearly seven hours. The nurses were interrupting more and more often and their looks were becoming more baleful with each intrusion. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me but I was still feeling quite weak from the accident and my eye was itching with fatigue. The lighting in a hospital room, while excellent for patient care, is unsuited to long stints of paperwork. And, though I had only been out of action for less than two weeks, there was still quite a bit of back-log to catch up on. I rubbed my temple, trying to stave off the eye-strain headache I could feel coming on and glanced over at my top field agent. “Let’s call it a day, Will.” He schooled his expression quickly but I could tell he was somewhat startled. My normal days are close to eighteen hours and I can, if the occasion requires it, go as long as seventy hours without sleep and still be performing at a high level. Unless, of course, I’ve recently been hit by an out of control truck. That seems to take a little of the wind from my sails. “I’m sorry, Will.” I said, trying to reassure him. “I’m still feeling the affects of the accident and I…”


“Any last minute instructions?” he interrupted me, standing abruptly. He had completely recovered his stoic demeanor.


I thought about it for a moment and told him, “Let Harrison know about the increased activity in Oman and get with Johnson over at the Bureau about the situation in Carlsbad. His people should be able to handle that without our help. Let’s pick this up at seven tomorrow morning.”


He consulted his PDA which is a sign that he was worried about offending me. Will never has to consult his PDA; the man has an impeccable memory. He had probably told me about an appointment he had the next day and was now trying to spare my feelings by acting like he needed to consult his schedule. “I have a meeting with the security chief at the space center tomorrow morning, Ma’am. The new delta wing is coming in Thursday.”


Even as he tried to spare my feelings, his disapproval of my memory lapse came through loud and clear. I couldn’t help myself and the phrase “pompous ass” crossed my mind briefly. “Right…” I said, a bit more brusquely than I intended. “…send Ken Triplicate over first thing. He and I will go through the daily minutia then you and I can pick this up in the afternoon.” He twitched. It wasn’t much of am twitch, but I saw the papers he was holding jump a little. I decided to let him off the hook. “Come by after lunch. I might have to order you to face certain death on a mission, but I’m not so cruel that I’d make you eat hospital food.” He started to respond but whatever he was going to say was lost when my doctor swept into the room.


“Mrs. Smith, I’ve told you several times this week. You need to rest your body or you’ll never heal.” The doctor said sternly as he began poking me and prodding me in what I’m sure was a deliberately painful manner. I opened my mouth to protest but as soon as I did, he shoved a thermometer in it and grabbed my wrist to take my pulse. The whole time, he muttered about arrogant patients who refuse to follow his advice and then have the temerity to complain about how long their recovery takes. Will waited patiently throughout this whole ordeal but the doctor pointedly ignored him and showed no sign of allowing him to get a word in edgewise. Finally, I just shrugged and nodded toward the door. No sense in antagonizing the doctor and anything that needed to be said could be included in the ten PM report. Will slipped out with what passed for an amused expression on his face.


I’m unsure of how you’re supposed to get any rest in a hospital. It seems as though as soon as you fall asleep or even get comfortable, at least two people barge in and start asking nosey questions and demanding bodily fluids. Occasionally, you hit the jackpot and every member of the medical staff on your floor comes into your room at the same time. As Will slipped out, I got mobbed. In addition to the doctor, there were three nurses and a member of the custodial staff all busy with some kind of equipment or routine test in a sort of controlled chaos that is more tiring than any number of hours spent poring over reports. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to block it all out when she walked in. I noticed her immediately, which is odd, given how much activity was going on in the room. But as soon as she cleared the door, I knew she was there. I briefly considered calling my security detail, but I knew she wasn’t a threat to me. It did puzzle me that I was so attuned to her and I tried to figure out what it was, exactly, that gave her away. It took me a minute, but I got it. Noise. She wasn’t making any. Everyone else was stomping around like a bunch of elephants. With my eye closed I could place everyone in the room to within a couple of inches. I doubt I would have had difficulty shooting any one of them without even looking. But she wasn’t making any noise at all and it immediately marked her. I placed her in the room by listening for the sounds of the blood pressure machine she was pushing. It gave her away on two levels. First, it made noise as she moved it around, even if she didn’t, and secondly, there was already one hooked up to my left arm.


As suddenly as everyone had crowded into my room, they all headed for the door. I lost her briefly in the chaos, but I was positive she hadn’t left. I looked around the room and picked out the two most likely hiding spots before I spoke up. “Hi, Elly.” I didn’t expect her to answer and she didn’t. “I’m not just guessing, you know.” I continued, staring intently at the place where I was certain she was hiding. “You came in with the extra blood pressure machine that’s against the wall between the bathroom and the main door…” Still nothing. I gave her about thirty seconds before I played my ace. “You’re behind the chair next to the window, Elly. Come on out.” I counted to thirty slowly. The background sounds of monitoring equipment seemed amplified. “Fine.” I said shortly, when she failed to show herself. “You’ve got ten seconds to come out or I’m going to signal the agents standing right outside the door.” I counted down silently in my mind until I reached; “Five… Four… Three… Two…”


“You’ve got to give me more than ten seconds, Bets. It’s kind of tight under here.” I was so surprised when her voice came from under the bed that I forgot to admonish her about using the short form of my name. She knows I don’t like being called “Bets.” I’m quite sure she does it just to get my goat.


“I… I didn’t think you could get under there without me noticing.” I managed to choke out.


“There isn’t a lot of room, but I couldn’t be sure they were going to dim the lights when I left so I…” Her voice trailed off and I was left wondering what she was going to say. I waited a moment but nothing else seemed to be forthcoming and there was no indication that she was even coming out.


“So you… what…?” Just as the words left my mouth, the door to my room opened and one of the interns walked in. I was kind of flustered and his name momentarily escaped me.


“Ma’am?” He was confused, looking around. “I thought I heard you say something.”


“Never mind that, what do you need?” I snapped. His name was Greg.


“Sorry to disturb you, Ma’am, but Agent Du asked me to give you this.” He held up a manila envelope.


I pointed to the desk and told him to leave it there. He hesitated after setting it down, still glancing around uneasily. “Is there anything else we can do for you?”


He needed reassurance “You can tell Lisa and the kids I said ‘Hi.’ And you can let me get some rest.” I gave him a big grin to soften the words.


A few seconds after the door closed the voice continued from under the bed. “So I figured I’d play it safe.”


“Come on out where I can see you, Elly.” She wasn’t the only one who could use a name to get under someone else’s skin.


“I wish you wouldn’t call me that.” Her words were accompanied by small scraping sounds as she moved out from under the bed.


“’Shego’ just seems so… childish.”


“And ‘Elly’ isn’t?”


“Well, I could use your full name…” I teased.


“’Elly’ will be just fine.” She hastily amended.


“I don’t understand why you don’t like your name. I think it suits you.”


“That’s part of the problem.” She pulled up the chair and turned it around so she could cross her arms on the back. “It’s absolutely perfect for me. I wonder how I’d have turned out if my name had been something normal like ‘Susan’ or ‘Laura.’”


“We’ll never know. I’d like to think we are more than just the culmination of our names, but that’s a discussion for another time, when I don’t have a splitting headache and I can concentrate on putting you in your place with my razor wit and spurious degree in pop psychology. What took you so long?”


She raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “I only got your message yesterday.”


“That’s not what I’m talking about. As they were loading me into the ambulance, you said… I remember it quite clearly… You said ‘I’ll visit you as soon as I can.’”




“It’s been three weeks.”


“You’re not an easy person to get in to see.” She said indifferently.


“You managed it just fine today.”


“Is that a little temper showing there Ms. Director? Could it be that you miss me?” Her voice was teasing, but there was a hint of tension in it.


“I’ve had a while to think about the accident…”


She interrupted me, “Besides, I’ve visited you twice already. You just don’t’ remember it.”




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