Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chapters 72 & 73

Chapter 72
   This time my first thought when I regained consciousness was that I was cozily tucked under my warm quilts at home, and I smiled, eyes still shut. But something was wrong ... this wasn’t my bedroom ... the smell wasn’t right. I smelled flowers and ... and  antiseptic.
     I slowly opened my eyes to a roomful of bouquets and worried faces. And Colin. I reached my hand toward him and he was immediately by my side, brow furrowed, green eyes ringed from exhaustion, stroking my cheek.
   “Maggie, Love, how do you feel? You’re in University Medical Center. Doctor says you have a concussion, but once you woke up, you’d be just fine ... and now you’re awake!” he said, eyes wide with obvious relief. 
   “Hi, honey,” Sharon was now holding my other hand and smiling at me. 
   “What happened?” I whispered, voice hoarse and more fatigued than I realized. 
   “We found you in the bell tower, unconscious,” Colin said. “Boyle...”
      I shut my eyes again as I remembered Bennett Boyle, covered in blood. “Oh, God, Colin. He’s dead! They killed him and hit me and locked us in the tower. Oh, God, Colin.”
    “I know, Love. We found him. Don’t cry, Love. Who, Maggie? Who did this?”
      “I don’t know ... I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone ... only Boyle ... and then I had to ring the bell. I was so cold ... You heard the bell?”
      “Yes, we did, Love. Good thinking or we might not have found you for a while.”  
     Sharon let go of my hand and moved to allow a nurse to take my vitals. I looked up questioningly through tears at the familiar face. The nurse smiled and said, “Yes, I’m Steven’s better half. He told me to take good care of you, and that’s just what we’re doing. Be still for me, now.”
   Suddenly Ben’s head popped up behind the nurse’s, cell phone to his ear.
   “Hi, Mom, I brought the nurse!” he said, looking at me with love, concern and relief. Then holding the phone up a second, he said, “Calling Michael. He insisted I call him the minute you woke up.”  Then into the phone he said, “She’s awake. Nurse is checking her now, but she’s talking and ... what? No, she looks good considering she’s got a bandaged head ...”   
      I reached up to find a wide bandage wrapped around my head. Underneath, it hurt. 
     “She also looks very unlike our fashionable mother in this incredibly ugly Medical Center gown that’s just not her color. Yeah. I will. I gotta go call Amanda. Later, Bro.” Then to me, “Michael sends his love. He wanted to come, but Portland’s airport is snowed in. I told him he could pray just as well from there and to stay by the phone. Karen sends her love, too. One of these huge flower bunches is from them. I don’t remember which one. I gotta call Amanda. She and the girls are beside themselves with worry.”
      Nurse Jackson turned to Ben with her version of “the look,” thinking there was entirely too much talking and she didn’t like cell phones in her patients’ rooms. Patients needed rest. Ben got the message and said, “I’ll just call her out in the hallway, Mom. Be right back!” 
      The nurse smiled and continued taking vitals. “Looks pretty good, considering, Mrs. Grant. You’ve got 15 stitches in your head, but you’re doing fine. The doctor will be along on rounds in another hour, but I think you’ll be staying with us at least another night.”
     “Another night?” I whispered. “What day is it?What time is it?”
   “It’s early Sunday afternoon, Love.” Colin said. “You’ve been sleeping for quite some time. Doctor said it was normal, though, from the blow to your head and the cold. Don’t worry. Do you feel up to talking to Chief Callahan? He wanted to see you as soon as possible.”
     “I don’t know much, but I can talk to him. Is that all right, Nurse Jackson?” 
      Nurse Jackson said yes, but told Colin not to let me get too tired. Too late, I thought. I was already exhausted. “I’ll order a dinner tray to be brought up,” she said before leaving. I realized how hungry I was and hoped it wasn’t just broth and Jell-O.
      The door opened again and Carol came in, rushing to my side, saying, “Ben said you were awake. I went to get coffee. Oh, Maggie, you had us all so scared!”
      “Carol! What are you doing here!?”
   “When Sharon called Friday night, I wanted to come right then, but I waited a day for further reports. When the doctors said you’d be fine but needed lots of rest, I just packed everything up and came two weeks earlier than planned for the wedding! I’m now your new roommate and am at your service to get everything done at home in time for you to walk beautifully down the aisle with this handsome man of yours!”
      “Oh, Carol,” was all I could say through more tears — but tears of gratitude. 
 Chapter 73  
      Chief Callahan arrived shortly after the doctor’s rounds and the broth, Jell-O and weak tea. I gulped it all down hungrily as I tried to recreate the night. And I asked a lot of questions as well. Once again, I was both interviewee and interviewer. 
      Colin had arrived as scheduled Friday night and was puzzled to see my office light out. Thinking I must have seen him driving up and was on my way down, he waited. When I didn’t appear within ten minutes, he called my cell. No answer. He got out, but found the building locked tight. 
      Thinking maybe I’d forgotten our date and walked home, he drove my normal route, but my house was dark, my Volvo parked in the driveway, and there was no sign of me on the streets. He called Sharon, who hadn’t seen or heard from me all day. 
      Going back to campus, he checked the library, the SUB and all places in between. Knowing this just wasn’t like me, he finally called campus security. An officer met him back at the Administration Building, and they went inside, but found my office the same as all others in the building, dark, quiet and locked. He called my cell again and again, but no answer. 
      Completely baffled, he called Sean, who checked the church and the small chapel, which also turned up empty. 
      By now, Sharon was worried as well, and she and Doug donned heavy coats and joined Colin at the Double T bench in the courtyard with the campus police officer. Sean arrived soon after.   
      Sharon asked if they had gone into my office? They hadn’t, so the officer and Colin headed that way to look for a possible appointment book entry. Sharon and Sean went to wait at my house and call the local hospitals while Doug went back to the Nest in case I called its landline.  
      Opening my office, Colin and the officer found nothing on my calendar but were alarmed to see my briefcase sitting next to the desk, keys and wallet inside. My cell phone, sitting on top of the desk, had been turned off. 
      They quickly walked the halls of the building again, all three floors, and found nothing and no one. All offices were locked and all lights were off. The officer called in for assistance, but still nothing after another hour or so of searching and waiting. It was as if I’d just vanished.  
      Colin confirmed the only car in the parking lot was not mine. Where else should they look?
      By midnight, Colin was frantic and called Chief Callahan at home — he’d given Colin his private number after the January fire. Then Colin called Elaine, who hadn’t seen her boss since her own departure at five. Elaine told him I had been wearing a dark wool suit that day. Colin promised to call Elaine again as soon as they found me.
      An obviously concerned Callahan joined them in the courtyard about twenty minutes later, directing two of his men to retrace my usual route through campus and to look in all the bushes and dark doorways. He called the Lubbock Police for assistance in searching around my home and nearby park. Then he checked on the one parked car, finding it belonged to the chief of staff. Boyle didn’t answer his cell either, and a second check of his dark office turned up nothing unusual. Had I actually been the target all along? Was Boyle the arsonist?
      They were baffled. Both Maggie and Bennett Boyle missing? Callahan sent an officer to Boyle’s condo to check on him, but Colin could not, would not believe we were somewhere together — at least not willingly. He knew I still avoided the man like the plague. 
      Deciding it was too cold to stay outside much longer, Chief Callahan moved them inside to the president’s suite on the first floor to continue coordination of the search. President Parker was notified and asked to be kept updated. 
      “We don’t have surveillance cameras on this building,” Callahan said. “It’s in next year’s budget. But we can pull the footage from the few we do have on surrounding buildings to see if she, or Boyle, might have crossed their line of sight. Normally, though, most of the cameras are focused on entrances, not on the grounds. We can get them in the morn ...” He stopped and turned his head slightly. “Listen,” he whispered. 
      A bell rang, and then rang again and again. 
      “The tower! Someone’s in the tower!” Colin shouted as he rushed out the heavy oak doors heading for the east stairs, closely followed by two young officers and Chief Callahan. By the time they reached the third floor landing, Colin was frantic trying to imagine why in the world I might be in the bell tower. Finding the door locked, he pounded on it and called my name, cursing Boyle for taking his key. He stepped aside anxiously as one of the officers pulled out a master key and slowly opened the door, peering inside the darkness with his flashlight.
   “Go!” Callahan said to his officers. “Professor, they go first.” Colin stayed back, but not by choice.  He and the chief followed behind the officers who had their weapons drawn and were proceeding cautiously but quickly up the stairs, flashlights leading the way. The bell had stopped ringing. Colin thought he was much too far behind, and he wished desperately for his gun.
      “There’s a body up here!” one of the officers shouted down.     
           Colin blanched, leaning against the wall. “No, God, no. Maggie ...,” he prayed aloud.
      Then he heard, “Get an ambulance. One of ’em’s alive!” Chief Callahan called it in as Colin raced up the remaining stairs, two at a time. The young officers had found Boyle. Then seeing a woman’s shoe next to him, and feeling the cold night air coming in, shined their flashlights up toward the ceiling. My bare feet hung out over the opening of the trap door, and one of the officers scrambled up to me. Finding a pulse and no injuries except the bump on my head, he slung me over his shoulder, fireman-rescue style, and carried me down to the platform.    
      Colin was up there in a flash, helping the officers get me down, then cradling me in his arms as he sat on the frigid tiled Double T. He said I was so cold! He took off his jacket and wrapped it around me. The two officers put their coats over me, too, and all three rubbed my hands and feet, trying to get my circulation moving. When the paramedics arrived, they took over, assessing my head wound and starting an IV. 
      Colin had been standing at the edge of the platform watching the medical team work when Chief Callahan asked him to take a look at the body. Reluctantly taking his eyes off a still unconscious me, Colin obliged, just then realizing the dead man was Boyle. He hadn’t noticed or cared as he had stepped over him to get to me.
   Shifting his mind to investigative mode, he assessed the scene, noting the placement of the body, the strewn papers, the amount of blood. Boyle had been stabbed in the chest, but no weapon had been found as yet. 
      After giving his professional opinions, Colin left it to Callahan’s CSI team, riding with me in the ambulance to UMC. He was joined at the hospital by Doug, Sharon and Father Sean, who was immensely relieved he wouldn’t need to perform Last Rites for his future sister-in-law. I was alive, and although unconscious, the doctors thought it was exposure that was my immediate, but not life-threatening problem.
      Sharon then called Ben and Michael and Carol. Ben arrived on the first flight from Dallas, calling in hourly reports to Michael who couldn’t get out of Portland. Carol had arrived early Sunday, moving into my guest bedroom and taking care of Miss Priss and everything else that needed to be taken care of. 
   I am a lucky woman, with such incredible friends and family. More next week.

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