And then there were his legs. Both in casts, one elevated like the third side of a trigonometry problem. Also, his arm and shoulder were wrapped . . . and he’d been intubated at some point, a bandage at the soft juncture in the front of his throat between his collar bones.
She went over and sat on the edge of the bed because the floor was suddenly going whitecap storm surge on her. She tried to breathe. Failed.
Now she cried again, and fuck it. Danny wasn’t going to know.
Taking his battered hand, she dropped her head and let the tears fall from her eyes to wherever they landed.
She had done this to him.
The loss of her hand she could live with as payment for her impulsive decision and rash behavior on scene. But this? This . . . catastrophic . . . injury to him? Even if he came through, she was never going to forgive herself and he was never going to be the same.
She thought of him saying that they were going to be back at the stationhouse, playing pong, before ten.
How wrong. How terribly . . . terribly wrong.
“Why didn’t you just leave me?”
As soon as she said it, she regretted the words as they seemed to put the burden on him, and this really was all her fault—
There was a clicking sound.
Looking up, she recoiled. His eyes were open, the white around the left one blood red, the pupils unmatched and glowing as he stared at her and tried to speak.
“Shh,” she said as he struggled. “No, please . . . don’t talk . . .”
Things started to beep faster, and then alarms went off, and she shook her head. “Don’t . . . it’s okay—”
He could barely speak, but she heard the haunting words loud and clear: “Couldn’t. Leave. You.”
Medical personnel flooded into the room, and they didn’t hesitate to get her out of there, passing her shuffling, trembling body off to Moose, who held her up off the floor in the hall.
On the far side of the glass door they shut, she rose up on her tiptoes to see around the crowd to Danny. His face was turned toward her, and through the chaos of the staff, he still stared at her, his puffy eyelids and all the bruises making it a miracle he could focus even a little.
And then the doctors and nurses blocked her view of him.
Deep in her soul, she knew that was the last time she would see him. That it was the last memory she was going to have . . .
. . . of the only man she had ever loved.
Ten Months Later
Harbor Street and Twenty-Second Avenue
Old Downtown, New Brunswick
As Anne turned onto Harbor Street, the tires of her municipal sedan crackled over the broken pavement and she winced at the blinding September morning sun. Putting the visor down didn’t help, but there wasn’t much to worry about hitting. There was no traffic, no pedestrians, and the commercial buildings in the neighborhood had been abandoned years ago.
Two hundred yards later, she hit the brakes and stopped across from the singed ruins of what had been a warehouse.
At least up until the two-alarm fire the night before.
There wasn’t much left of the structure, the mostly collapsed shell of the place painted black and gray from the blaze’s soot and smoke. Wafting over on the autumn breeze, the complex, crappy bouquet of extinguished fire was so familiar, she actually took a deep breath and felt the sting of nostalgia—