Trial of Conscience
Without giving away too much, this Chapter contains a scene of an injury with some description of the injury, not too graphically, and yes, the word "blood" is mentioned a couple of times. The scene is necessary to the story, otherwise it would not be in there.
The morning sun glinted brightly off the water. The tall attorney was sprawled on one of the bench seats of an AirRanger fan boat clad in jeans, a t-shirt, and ball cap, her ponytail whipping in the wind as the speed of the boat increased. A tanned hand lifted and reset the heavy industrial ear protectors, muffling the sounds of the prop and the big block Chevy 454 engine. Pale blue eyes, not visible behind the dark sunglasses, focused ahead as the hull vibrations penetrated her body.
She estimated they were traveling at forty miles an hour, skimming over a fairly clear expanse of water in the Atchafalaya Basin Swamp. This part of the swamp had obviously been cleared, the stumps of cypress trees and rusted remnants of old drilling rigs and pipelines dotting the landscape. For the last hour and a half, they had been weaving their way through narrow canals and thick foliage. The progress had been excruciatingly slow and Evin was impatient. It would be at least another half hour, she estimated, to reach the fishing camp that Angela Battiste was supposedly hiding in.
Andrew had called her a little before six this morning, catching her at home before she left for work, with the news that they had a possible location on Angela Battiste. Angela Battiste. Formerly an employee in the bookkeeping department at Hynes. Formerly in possession of three checks from one William Dolese. Currently in possession of the knowledge that Hynes had received Willie's house payments in a timely manner. The key to their case. Blue eyes glinted ferally behind the sunglasses. Fuck you, Hynes. I've got you now.
Andrew learned from the boyfriend's aunt that the young couple had taken off to hide out at a family fishing camp deep in the swamps, accessible only by boat. At least that was the place the aunt thought they went. Both had appeared frightened, pleading with the aunt not to tell anyone she had seen them. They wouldn't tell her where they were going, but she suspected the camp because they were towing a small skiff.
A surge of excitement had run through Evin with the news. Finally, they were getting somewhere. It wasn't until she was in the car, beginning the two-hour trip to Breaux Bridge, that it sank in that she would miss a whole day with Sydney. She had literally ached to see Sydney since she had dropped her off Tuesday night. Hearing her voice over the phone soothed the ache a little, but each time she hung up, the ache intensified, stronger than before. It was possible, but not probable, that she might make it back in time for dinner. The ache quickly overcame the excitement and she sank into a foul mood.
She, Andrew, and Gary had met at Whiskey Landing in Breaux Bridge to board the airboat for the journey to the fishing camp. Andrew inquired whether she had had a chance to ask Sydney about the barbecue on Sunday. He took it as a "no" when Evin had snarled a curse in Italian as she stalked off, ignoring the question. He had learned quite a few colorful curses in several different languages from her, and he was pretty sure that this curse had something to do with some bastard who was having trouble with an erection. He made a mental note to ask her about it later, when she was in a better mood. He thought it was probably a pretty good one, because it had made him cringe. Either that, or the murderous glare that accompanied it.
The noise of the AirRanger assured that there had been no conversation, and she was grateful for that. It gave her time to stay lost in the thoughts that had started on the drive. How did she get past the walls? No one gets past the walls. In a perverse way, Evin was proud of the walls she had built around her heart and soul, sure they could have been used as a design for containment walls in a nuclear reactor. She saw her emotions as a sign of weakness, and there could be no weakness, she had told herself. Law of the jungle. Only the strong survive.
So how exactly did little Sydney Parker get past those walls? She realized that the intense reaction she experienced to Sydney had started the minute the law student had opened the door to Professor Rayburn's office. The moment she looked into those green eyes, she had felt something stir deep within her. Her heart and soul had recognized something her mind had not.
Her heart and soul then became unruly twins, battling her mind and her will. She thought she had been fighting with Sydney, but the evidence proved she had been fighting with herself. The twins had proved mighty adversaries, their alliance with Sydney unbeatable. The final battle, waged at Sydney's on Monday, had resulted in a surrender. Not a particularly gracious surrender on Evin's part as she had desperately tried to retreat, but it was a surrender nonetheless.
As much as it scared her, what would happen between them would happen. Acceptance. It felt good. It felt good to be with Sydney and just let herself be . No more fighting. No more misdirected anger. Words, her stock in trade, failed her when it came to describing the feelings invoked by Sydney. Every descriptor she came up with seemed so inadequate. Surely, her mind had cried, you can do better than that. She had even pulled out a thesaurus, finally putting it down in disgust when it offered no help.
And the case... With the evidence Angela Battiste would provide, there was no doubt that the Doleses would prevail in the case. There was also no doubt in Evin's mind that something else was motivating the foreclosure proceeding. And that something else was a big enough reason to cause someone to take a shot at her and to motivate a break-in at the law clinic. It's not gonna stop when we win the Summary Judgment Motion.
What the hell is motivating this? If I don't figure this out before we win, I may not have the chance to go after them. Her thoughts went to the thick, unfinished pleading that sat in her office. RICO. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. ß ß 1961-1968. She salivated when she thought of it. Two predicate acts. That's all I need.
The Act, when originally passed by Congress in 1970, had been intended to provide federal prosecutors with a strong weapon in the battle against organized crime, a battle they had been losing for some time. It was the equivalent of the nuclear bomb in the prosecutor's arsenal. It provided for both criminal and civil penalties and sanctions. The civil aspect proved to be the most powerful.
Inventive plaintiffs' attorneys had taken one look at the statute and now applied it to everything from deceptive trade practices to health insurance fraud claims. With a well-drafted pleading, an attorney could walk into a federal courtroom and, with a minimal showing of evidence and no defendant present, obtain an order from the judge that could shut down a defendant's business faster than you could say due process. And if you won.... God, it is so sweet.
The only time Evin had ever used a RICO claim was in connection with a case in Ohio several years ago. Her nostrils flared and her heart rate jumped as she thought of it. What a rush that had been. A frantic phone call from an old friend of her father's on a Tuesday afternoon had started it.
She caught the next flight to Pittsburgh, drove the hour to Wheeling, West Virginia, and met with her client. At four thirty in the morning, she was taking a tour of the brake block manufacturing plant across the Ohio River in Riverview, Ohio. By seven, the court reporter had arrived at the plant and Evin started taking statements. Six hours and twenty-one sworn statements later, she was headed back to Pittsburgh for the next flight to New Orleans.
By the time the court reporter finished transcribing the statements, she was back in New Orleans, finishing the final touches on the eighty-seven page complaint and order, the Pro Hac Vice Motion and had found counsel in Ohio to associate. Then she was back on a plane at six a.m., headed for Columbus this time, the location of the nearest federal court that had jurisdiction. Her own version of the nuclear bomb was tucked neatly away in her briefcase.
She met her client and associate counsel at the courthouse. When her client handed her the sworn statements he had picked up, as well as the bond he had acquired, she smiled. It had sent shivers down her client's spine. The Complaint and the bond were filed, then it was show time. It took her less than twenty minutes to convince the judge to sign the Order she had drafted.
A quick stop by the airport was needed to drop off certified copies of the Complaint and Order so it could be put on a plane for Rochester, New York, where a special process server would serve the papers on the New York defendants in Courtland and the banks they did business with. She and her client dropped off the associate counsel, who barely said fifteen words and made ten thousand dollars, and were en route to Riverside, where they would meet with the special process servers there to deliver the documents for service.
That evening, she was back in Columbus, firmly entrenched in her suite at the Hyatt on Capitol Square, waiting for the phone calls that would come from the attorneys for the defendants. Friday morning found Evin, her client, the associate counsel, and fourteen attorneys for the defendants, eight of whom had conferenced in by phone, in front of the judge, entering into a Consent Judgment. In less than four days time she shut down two companies, negotiated a settlement of a little over a million dollars, and handed federal prosecutors evidence for charges against five directors.
A stunned client, now quite a bit richer and with two less competitors in his little business world, had gratefully taken her to lunch at a popular restaurant, 55 On The Boulevard. Standing at the bar, she found herself soaring high on an adrenalin rush, enjoying a bottle of Moet and Chandon and the conversation of a petite blonde who could only be described as appetizing. Three hours and a very rare filet mignon later, Evin had said goodbye to her client and was saying hello, in the proper manner, to the blonde sprawled on her bed in the suite. It had taken her all weekend to properly say hello.
A rueful smile crossed her face as she thought of that. Back then, Moran, you were bulletproof and invincible. You still got any of that left? If you're going to do it, ya gotta do it right. You're only going to get one shot. Swift. Sure. Deadly. That's what it will need to be. She thought of Hynes. I will nail those motherfuckers to the cross. And then Sydney and I will celebrate.
Evin sat up straight as the boat started to slow. Glancing at her watch, she figured they were five minutes away. As the boat glided to a stop, she impulsively unclipped her cell phone from her waist and checked the signal indicator. Well, I'll be damned. There's service out here. The ache to at least talk to Sydney welled inside her. I'll try to call before I go in.
They each removed their hearing protectors as the guide started to speak in a thick Cajun accent. "The camp, it's just a little ways around the bend in this here channel."
"Boss, how do you want to do this?" Andrew looked at Evin, waiting for instructions.
"What's the camp look like? Is there a pier? Do you know how many entrances?" Evin's questions peppered the guide.
"It's your typical camp, cher. Square, porch around the sides. Front pier's 'bout a hundred feet long. It goes to the channel. She's sitting on pilings in the water. Me, I don't know if there's no back door. Usually these camps don't have but a front door." He shrugged. "I never had much reason to pay attention."
She turned to look at Andrew. "I'd really like to talk her into coming back for a deposition, but at the very least, I need that affidavit. If they think somebody's after them, a bunch of men showing up in the middle of nowhere is going to really make 'em lose it. They'll probably be less scared if I went in first."
Andrew snorted. "A water moccasin is less scary than you." Why did I say that with the mood she's in? No sooner had the words left his mouth than he found himself to be the recipient of a glacier-melting glare.
"Do you have a better idea?" She waited for a response. When none was forthcoming, she continued. "I want y'all to stay in the boat and be ready in case they try and run. I do not want to chase these people anymore."
"One of us should go with you," Andrew argued. "What if they have a gun? Scared kids with a gun aren't very predictable."
"Neither am I." This is absurd. It's not a commando raid. All we're talking about here are scared nineteen year olds. "I don't need a babysitter. Let's go." She put her hearing protector back on.
Andrew started to say something, but then stopped. It's no use. She won't listen.
The boat's engine started and they were off again. Evin idly wondered how much she could pay the guide to get him to throw caution to the wind on the return trip. She recalled that AirRangers had top speeds on water close to seventy-five. Then maybe she could keep that dinner date with Sydney. That thought brought a smile to her face.
Andrew looked at his boss as a soft smile crossed her face. Ah, my friend. I haven't seen that in so long. God bless Sydney for bringing that back.
The boat started to slow again as they came around a bend in the channel, the camp coming into view. The only boat tied to the pier was a small skiff. The camp itself looked as old as the swamp. All wood, peeling paint, rusty tin roof. Crab traps stacked in the corner of the front porch. An old rusty refrigerator in the other corner. The pier extended out about a hundred feet, the end reaching to the deeper water of the channel. The guide cut the engine and expertly maneuvered the craft to a near perfect landing at the end of the pier. Gary moved to the front and grabbed a line, tying the boat off to a piling.
Evin stood and removed her hearing protector. She could hear the whine of a generator providing power to the place. She reached for her cell phone and dialed the office number, keeping her eyes on the front door. She grabbed her briefcase and stepped up onto the pier.
"I'll come get you when I'm ready," she said to Andrew as she listened to the phone ring. You gotta love technology . Evin started walking slowly up the pier towards the front door.
"Evin Moran's office." Jeffrey's voice came through loud and clear.
"Hey, Jeffrey, it's Evin. I need a favor. Will you call Sydney and apologize for me and tell her I might not be able to make it for dinner?"
"I don't need to call her. She's still in your office, looking at those reports." He smiled, unseen. "I already explained to her what happened. You want to talk to her?"
"Yeah." A huge grin crossed her face and she felt her heart leap. The hold music came on briefly.
A bright voice came through the phone. "Hey! Where are you?"
"In the middle of a swamp."
"Any excuse to run out on me, huh?" The tone was light and playful.
"Actually, I...uh...was wishing I was back there...with you."
"I wish you were, too. How long are you going to be gone?"
Evin was about twenty-five feet away from the door and stopped.
"I should be back tonight, but I don't know if I'll make it back in time for dinner. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay, I understand. I'm just so glad Andrew found her. Should make our jobs a little easier."
"Yeah...." Her voice trailed off. So much more I want to say. She heard the engine of an airboat start. The noise was coming from her left, not behind her where it should be. What the hell? She started to turn back to look at the boat.
"What is that noise?"
"Hang on a sec, Sydney." Evin had to shout as the engine gunned. Then she heard a deafening noise accompanied almost instantaneously with a fiery sensation and weightlessness. Her world went black.
Andrew smiled to himself as he heard Evin ask for Sydney. Truth be told, he would have jumped up and down in glee if he were by himself. He wasn't much of a religious man, but he prayed nightly for Evin. He felt a deep friendship and love for the tall lawyer and wanted happiness for her. More than he thought she wanted it. And now, it seemed that happiness for Evin Moran had appeared in the form of a fiery little package named Sydney Parker.
The sound of an engine starting surprised him. He and Gary stood up in the boat and looked in the direction of the noise. He couldn't see anything. The engine's whine got louder. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Evin turn. Then a deafening explosion ripped through the quiet swamp. He and Gary were knocked down and as he landed on the bottom of the boat, he screamed for Evin. Bits of wood and glass and tin rained down on them. He felt like a sadistic acupuncturist was treating him as the small missiles pierced his clothing and skin. The acrid smell of smoke reached his nostrils as he heard the sound of flames devouring wood.
His only thought was to get to Evin. She was so close. Oh God, please, please let her be okay. A flaming piece of wood landed next to him. He ignored it as he rose and started to step up to the pier. He stopped for an instant, his mind trying to comprehend what he saw.
There was nothing left of the camp but a pile of burning wood and tin. Half of the pier was missing. The half that Evin had been standing on. The cell phone lay on the pier, having been propelled backwards a good fifty feet. His mind registered that it was the only sign he saw that Evin had been standing on the now missing pier just five seconds ago.
"Noooooo!" He didn't even know he was screaming.
He sprinted to the jagged end of the pier and looked down into the water, Gary close behind him.
"There!" Gary screamed and pointed. "Oh my God...is she dead?"
Evin floated in the water, unmoving. Andrew and Gary jumped into the swamp. Andrew felt himself hit bottom, the mud cushioning his landing. He stood in water up to mid-chest and felt himself sink further into the mud, making forward movement almost impossible. He started swimming instead. Gary matched him stroke for stroke. They covered the thirty feet in milliseconds and both stood up next to Evin.
"She's breathing." Andrew murmured as he watched the very shallow rise and fall of her chest. She wasn't awake and the entire right side of her face was scraped raw. Small bits of wood were lodged under the skin and it was already starting to bruise and swell. It looked like someone had used a two by four and her head for batting practice.
"Bleeding bad from somewhere." Gary looked at the brown water around her. On her right side, the water was taking on a rusty hue.
"We gotta get her out of this water." Besides the injuries to her face, Andrew couldn't tell what other injuries she had suffered. The dark brown water made it impossible for him to see anything but the very top of her.
"Is it safe to move her?" Gary asked.
"Do you think it's going to make any difference if we're eaten by alligators or bitten by snakes?" He snapped. He didn't want to move her, but he didn't see what choice they had. She was obviously bleeding from somewhere and he couldn't very well turn her over in the water. He screamed to the guide. "Get that God damned boat over here."
The boat started and slid up next to them. He signaled "cut" to the guide and the engine stopped. "Get her legs and lower back. I'll take her head and neck and shoulders. Let's do it on three." They counted together and lifted her up onto the airboat.
When her body came out of the water, he almost dropped her at the shock of what he saw. A piece of wood that looked like a thin stake went through her right arm and into the right side of her chest. Blood bubbled around it. A fifteen inch long piece of pipe protruded from her right thigh. Blood poured out of the wound and dripped down the pipe.
His mind was racing. We need to get her to a hospital. And we're at least two hours away by airboat. He hoisted himself into the boat. "Give me your shirt!" he told Gary as he ripped his off. "Gotta stop the blood."
He tied the shirt in a tourniquet around her leg and used the other shirt to pack the wound to her chest and arm as best he could. He prayed to God as he worked.
He pulled his cell phone off his belt and pushed the power button. Nothing. God damn it. I jumped in the water without thinking about it.
"Need the cell phone," he said to Gary. Gary splashed over the side and swam to the pier to get the cell phone. He directed his next statement to the guide. "Please tell me you have a GPS on this thing."
"Can you tell the Coast Guard how to get here?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Hang in there, Evin. Help is on the way." He grasped her shoulder gently and fought back tears, hoping she could hear his words.
"Evin?... Evin?....Evin?......Evin?" Sydney's voice got louder with each call of Evin's name.
A cacophony of noise came through the receiver. An engine, then a deafening boom. Next, it sounded like it was hailing, only louder, competing with a roaring and crackling noise that reminded Sydney of the bonfire on the river she had gone to last year around Christmas. Then came a blood curdling scream of "no" that seemed to go on forever. It wasn't Evin's voice. She screamed into the phone for Evin.
Jeffrey and Rachel heard the scream and ran into the office. Sydney sat in Evin's chair, her face ashen, the receiver in a white-knuckled grip against her ear.
"Something's happened," she whispered in a shaky voice, feeling a terrifying chill envelop her heart.
Rachel moved to Sydney's side and took the receiver from her and switched the phone to speaker. A dull roar and crackling and muffled shouts were all they could hear in the background for several minutes. Then the sound of an engine drowned out everything for a few seconds. The dull roar and crackling returned. All eyes were glued to the telephone.
Jeffrey looked at Rachel, then at Sydney. "What happened?"
"I don't know." It was a struggle to speak. "We were talking.... It sounded like an explosion and then...she wasn't there anymore."
"Do you know where she was?" Rachel asked.
"Somewhere in the middle of a swamp," she whispered.
Gary handed Andrew the cell phone. "She gonna be alright?" Evin scared the hell out of him, but he didn't like to see anybody hurt. Besides, if Andrew liked her, she had to be all right. The man had an uncanny ability to tell good people from bad.
"Let's hope so." He looked at the display. The phone's still connected. He put it up to his ear. "Hello?"
Jeffrey's frantic voice greeted him. "Andrew? Andrew? Is that you? What the hell's going on?"
Unbelievable. "Jeffrey, I need you to patch me through to the Coast Guard's rescue unit. There's been an accident. Evin's hurt pretty bad."
Rachel moved to the other phone in Evin's office and dialed 911. "I need the Coast Guard Search and Rescue now."
"What happened?" Jeffrey asked as Sydney stared at the speaker.
"The camp blew up."
"I've got them on the line. Hang on, sir, I'm putting the call through right now. Jeffrey, put that line on hold." As soon as she saw it blinking, she conferenced the other line in and turned the speaker on so they all could hear.
"Hello?" It was Andrew.
A crisp, professional voice asked, "Sir, what is your emergency?"
He took a deep breath to calm himself. Be strong. She needs you right now . He spoke rapidly. "My name is Andrew Thomas. I am somewhere in the Atchafalaya Basin swamp. There's been an explosion. I've got a woman here who is hurt very badly. She needs immediate evacuation."
"What's the nature of her injuries?"
"She's unconscious. There's a piece of wood..." His voice cracked. "That's gone through her arm and into her chest. A piece of one inch pipe is in her right thigh."
"Sir, can you tell me exactly where you are?"
"No, but I'll give you to our guide. He knows."
"Sir, this is the Coast Guard. Can you tell me your location?"
The guide detailed the area they were in. The Coast Guard officer breathed an inaudible sigh of relief as he realized that, as the crow flies, and the helicopter, he could have help there in under fifteen minutes from Lafayette, provided the chopper could spot them.
"AirMed, LGMC, sir." The Coast Guard officer nodded to his commander, who activated the emergency procedures. In five minutes, a chopper would be airborne.
"Put Mr. Thomas back on the phone, sir."
"Mr. Thomas, I've got an AirMed chopper warming up right now. It's going to be on its way in under five minutes. I'm going to patch you through to AirMed. Please hold on."
Andrew held on for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only a few seconds.
"Mr. Thomas, my name is Mark and I'm a paramedic with AirMed. I need you to tell me what's going on with the patient."
"Her name is Evin." The strain in his voice was evident.
"Okay. Evin. I'm going to ask you some questions about Evin. Is she conscious?"
"How is her breathing?"
"It's really shallow."
"Is she bleeding from anywhere?"
"Her chest and her thigh are the worst. I used a shirt and put a tourniquet on her leg. It's not bleeding anymore. I'm holding pressure on her arm and chest. It's not bleeding as bad as it was."
"Do you have anything you can use to put a tourniquet on her arm?"
"It's okay, Mr. Thomas. You can do it. I know this is stressful..."
"I mean I literally can't." He snapped. "There's a piece of wood going through her arm and into her chest. I'm not pulling it out!"
"Okay, okay. I need you to stay calm. The patient needs you to stay calm."
Andrew's voice rose. "Her name is Evin!"
"Okay...okay. Evin needs you to stay calm."
Andrew took a deep breath. "Okay."
"Is she bleeding from anywhere else?"
"Small cuts. Doesn't appear to be too bad."
"The chopper's in the air. They're approximately five minutes from you. Listen for the sound of the helicopter. When you can hear it, tell me. Are you out in the open or under trees?"
"We're in the open. In a boat." The words choked in Andrew's throat.
"Sir, y'all hang on tight. Help is on its way."
Sydney, Jeffrey and Rachel sat paralyzed throughout the conversation. This is like a bad dream, Sydney thought. When am I going to wake up? Silent tears coursed down her face.
"Andrew?" Rachel's voice came through the phone. "Andrew, it's going to be okay. She's tough. She's going to make it. You tell her to hang in there for us, okay?"
"Tell her we love her and care about her." Jeffrey almost smiled, thinking of the look Evin would give him if she heard him say that.
"Andrew, it's Sydney." Sydney was amazed at how calm her voice sounded. "Tell her she can't get out of a date with me this easily." What do I say over the phone? That I want her with all my heart and soul. That I think, no, I know I'm falling in love with her? "Are you hurt Andrew?"
"No, not really, we're just a little cut up, but...she's... she was a lot closer than we were. If she hadn't been talking to you...." He couldn't finish. She would have been on the front porch, knocking on the front door. She'd be dead.
"I'm glad you're not hurt too bad. Please call us and tell us what hospital you go to."
"Ma'am," the paramedic's voice broke into the conversation. "They'll be going to Lafayette General Medical Center. Mr. Thomas, how's her breathing?"
"The same...I hear the helicopter."
"Good, hold on." Mark radioed the helicopter and informed them that they could hear it. "Are you by a fire? They say they see smoke."
Andrew had to look around. His eyes had been glued on Evin the entire time. He didn't even remember that a fire had been raging seventy-five feet away from him. "Yeah. And you'd better inform the police. There were supposed to be some people in the camp that blew up."
"Okay, I'll take care of that. The chopper just radioed that they've spotted you. I'm going to hang up now. You'll be in good hands."
The whir of the helicopter rotors grew louder in the background. "Andrew, we'll be up there as soon as we can. Do you need anything?" Sydney asked.
"I can't hear you. I'm hanging up." Andrew shouted.
They listened as the line went dead.
Sydney stood rapidly. "How do I get to Lafayette?"
Sydney was kneeling, holding her throbbing head in her hands, not quite sure how she had found her way to the small hospital chapel. It was so quiet and peaceful, unlike the last several hours, and she found her headache subsiding somewhat.
The drive to Lafayette had been virtually silent and nearly unbearable. She rode with Jeffrey. Neither of them wanted to acknowledge their fears. They had heard the panic and fear in Andrew's voice as he had talked to the paramedics. Images of Evin, bloody and broken, kept invading Sydney's mind. She felt close to panic herself.
She had instead forced herself to chant a silent mantra, ' She'll be alright, she'll be alright. ' Interspersed with prayers to every deity she could think of, she managed to make it through the trip without breaking down.
Trauma has a way of stripping off the veneer and leaving nothing but clarity. About what's truly important in life. About what people mean to you when you're faced with the prospect of losing them. And Sydney had, with startling clarity, realized the depth and breadth of feelings she had for this woman she hardly knew. She didn't know where they had come from or why she had them. But she was determined she wasn't going to lose them.
When they had finally found Andrew in the surgery waiting room, the reality of it all hit Sydney. He had on a scrub shirt one of the nurses had gotten for him. His jeans were bloody and his exposed skin was marked by cuts and abrasions. When he got up and walked towards them, Sydney could hear his waterlogged tennis shoes squish.
He had said simply, "She made it to surgery. She's been in there for almost two hours."
His eyes moved between Jeffrey and Sydney, the anguish and fear as plain as the bloodstains on his jeans.
Jeffrey put a hand on his shoulder. "P.I," he said softly, using Andrew's nickname. "You know she's going to make it through this. This is Evin we're talking about. You could put the woman in a pit of rattlesnakes. They'd come out fangless and she'd be drinking the venom and grinning."
A short bark of laughter escaped from Sydney as the image of Evin doing exactly that popped into her mind. Andrew smiled as well. Jeffrey's comment seemed to relieve a small amount of the tension.
"Here, I brought these." Jeffrey handed Andrew a file folder. "Figured you might need them."
"Oh, okay, thanks." He took the folder and looked at it, tears welling in his eyes, the papers it contained a stark reminder of how much trust and faith the tall woman had placed in him. He couldn't believe that he would have ever had to use these.
Sydney's questioning glance at the folder prompted him to explain. "Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and Living Will. She doesn't have any immediate family and she didn't want some distant relative making any decisions for her."
Sydney nodded her head. "Andrew, what did the doctors say?"
"Not a whole lot. When we got here, they took her straight into surgery. One nurse came out a little while ago and told me that they had given her a lot of blood and she was stabilized. They were putting some kind of pin in her leg from where the pipe broke it and fixing her arm and chest."
Sydney put a hand gently on his arm. "You haven't let them look at you yet, have you? Why don't we go down to the ER, okay?" She watched as his eyes looked towards the entrance to the operating room. "Look, I'll go find out how much longer they expect to be. There's not much we can do right now, except wait. Evin's going to need you to be okay."
"It's not me she's going to need." He looked at her and said sincerely, "It's you. Thank you for bringing back her smile." He enveloped Sydney in a bear hug.
She tucked that into the back of her mind to think about later and returned his hug. "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry you had to go through this," she whispered then released him. "You wait here. I'm going to see what I can find out."
The pleurovac unit bubbled quietly where it hung from the side of the bed. The chest tube, catheter, nasogastric tube, EKG leads and an IV were the only things that remained from the incredible technological display that Evin had been hooked up to in the ICU. She had been moved last night to a private room on the Step-Down floor.
Sydney sat in a chair at the side of the bed and held Evin's hand, her thumb stroking the back of it rhythmically. It's been four days and she hasn't woken up yet. Time to try again.
Sydney stood and moved near Evin's head, leaning over and kissing her gently on the forehead. "Hey, you. It's time to wake up. It's Sunday afternoon and you're missing the Saints game. Not that it's really any big deal. They're losing, as always. LSU won last night. That ought to make you happy. They beat Mississippi State. Come on, you need to wake up."
She stroked the left side of Evin's head and held her hand with the other. She had learned a lot about Evin from Andrew the last few days as they had held vigil together outside the ICU. Like the fact that the woman absolutely loved all sports. Still played rugby and softball to name a couple. And was a football fanatic.
Looking at the tall lawyer, Sydney found it almost absurd that she would be in a hospital bed. If you looked at her left side, nothing was wrong. She had taken the full brunt of the blast on her right side. Angry purple bruises, turning yellow and green around the edges, still covered a good portion of her right cheek. The punctures where splinters of wood had been pulled out were healing nicely. The doctor said there should be no scarring, at least on her face.
She would definitely have a scar from the chest tube and from the surgery on her leg and arm. Miraculously, her bicep wasn't damaged, but the wooden stake had broken two ribs when it buried itself three inches deep in her chest. Her femur was shattered from the impact of the pipe. The orthopedic surgeon had inserted a dynamic compression screw bolt to hold the femur together.
"You're going to have to teach me about football. I don't know a thing about it. My biggest question is why do all those big macho guys pat each other on the ass...and look really comfortable doing it? And what's with that guy who gets the ball first? He gets to put his hands between that other guy's legs all the time. You think the other guys get jealous?" She chuckled and kissed Evin's forehead again.
"I bet you know the answers. I've seen plenty of women's softball games and they don't pat each other on the ass like these guys do. Maybe if they did, I would have played. Now golf, that's a sport I can play. No wonder I wanted to become a lawyer. Wow, I just realized...it's so I can play golf and write it off as a business expense!"
Sydney looked down at the unconscious form in the hospital bed. I'd give my soul for any response. Doctor Landry, the neurologist, said it had been a miracle that she hadn't suffered a serious head injury. Whatever piece of wood had come into contact with the right side of Evin's head hit at an angle that caused scraping and bruising, but didn't actually impact directly. He said she'd wake up when her body was ready for her to wake up. Sydney liked the man. He reminded her of her grandfather. He had patiently answered all their questions and been in to check on Evin at least three times a day.
The lights were off in the room and the heavy drapes were closed. The steady low beep of the heart monitor offered solace to Sydney, tangible evidence that Evin was alive. "You know, you didn't have to go to such extremes to get out of a date with me. Or that barbecue Andrew told me about. When you get better, we're going to have a real good fight about that."
"No...fight." Evin barely managed to get the words out. Her throat was raw and dry and the words wouldn't come easily.
Sydney's breath caught in her throat. A murmured "thank you, God" slipped from her lips. She squeezed Evin's hand harder and felt a slight return pressure as she bent to kiss her forehead.
"Must...be...bad...you're...praying." Evin felt soft lips press against her forehead, followed by the splash of hot tears. "Don't...cry...please." She felt the lips leave her skin. Her eyes fluttered open and looked into the most beautiful green she had ever seen.
"I've missed those baby blues." Sydney clutched Evin's hand to her chest. "How do you feel?"
"You're in the hospital. There was an explosion and you got hurt." Sydney blinked back the tears threatening to spill again. Don't lose it now, Sydney. Go get the nurse so you can regain your composure.
"Evin," she said softly, "I need to get the nurse. I don't know if you can have any water. And they need to know you woke up. I'll tell you what happened when I come back, okay?"
A soft grunt answered her.
"If I leave for a minute, will you promise not to cause any trouble? Andrew's told me stories." That'll give her something to think about until I get back.
Sydney kissed her on the lips. "I'll be right back."
Evin's eyes fluttered shut against her will and she nodded slightly. Did a train hit me? Fuck, this hurts. What'd they do, filet me like a fish? She heard the door shut quietly as Sydney left the room. What happened? We were on the boat, stopped, talking about what to do. Did we get the affidavit? The girl? Where the hell am I? Hospital...but where? I wish Sydney would come back. I'm so tired.
The sound of her name penetrated through the fog. "Hmmm...ow!"
"Evin, don't try moving around."
"Can you open your eyes for me? I've got some ice chips."
One blue eye opened. "Ice...cubes...kinky."
Sydney blushed as the nurse looked at her. Oh God.
The nurse checked the IV pump. "She just got a dose of pain med."
She's high. "You thirsty?"
Sydney felt the blush intensify. Great. She was half dead. Now she's high and horny. Talk about your extremes. Does this woman do anything halfway? "Pretty cocky for someone who's in no position to do anything about it. Now quit talking and let me get some of these ice chips in your mouth."
Sydney watched as the other blue eye opened and then the pair looked around the room. Evin's eyes widened slightly when she spotted the nurse. "Nurse...drag...kinkier."
"Excuse me, Lisa." Sydney watched the nurse eye Evin warily. She looks like she wants to bolt out of the room. "Do you think you could come back later?"
"I'm just about finished. I can take the NG tube out, unless you'd like me to leave it in." The nurse looked at Evin.
A dark brow lifted, sort of. "Sure, you can take it out." The nurse approached the bed and Evin whispered conspiratorially, jerking a thumb at Sydney. "Can she borrow your nurse's uniform?"
The nurse stopped and looked at Sydney. "She's kidding, right?"
Sydney looked at the nurse. "Of course she's kidding." Not. "Evin, let her take the tube out of your nose. You'll feel better."
"But...." Evin looked startled as the nurse swiftly removed the NG tube.
"There. That ought to do it." The nurse hastily wrote down something on the chart and left the room.
"Evin, honey, you're high on pain medication and I think you just scared that nice little nurse." She is so out of it.
Oh no. She's doing the evil chuckle. "You are so bad."
That comment earned Sydney a smile. Evin patted the bed with her left hand and looked up at Sydney with puppy dog eyes and a hopeful look.
Good thing she didn't use that look last Tuesday night. "I am not getting into bed with you."
Evin's lower lip stuck out a tiny bit in the most adorable pout Sydney thought she had ever seen. "Hold...me."
Sydney felt herself fall that last little bit as she realized she really was in love with Evin Moran. She lowered the railing and climbed into the bed without hesitation, wrapping her arms around the tall woman as best she could, and held her all night long.