In the quiet hospital sideward only the hiss of the ventilator and the
ticking of the clock broke the silence.
It was three hours now, since the fire. Three hours since his whole world
had been turned on its head, and still he did not know how things would
She was stable now, that was something at least. He sighed, gently taking
her still hand in his, and squeezing it slightly. It was more than had
seemed possible at the scene, it was true, but Mary's brave efforts and
the efficiency of the paramedics had maintained his wife's fragile grip
on life and, despite a few terrifying moments upon arrival at the hospital
when her breathing had once more gone down, the doctors had managed to stabilise
her condition. She was now in a sideward off Intensive Care, her breathing
controlled by a machine and her face pale. The nurse had told him that she
was sleeping, but she didn't look asleep to him.
She looked dead.
He sighed again, glancing up at the clock. Minutes had turned into hours
and yet he had no impulse to leave, or return home. Their marriage had
always been founded on witty banter and sarcastic teasing, but beneath
it all there was a depth of emotion few realised existed, and Justin was
not ready to let his wife go yet. Somehow, subconsciously, he almost felt
that by staying in the hospital with her, maybe he could protect her, keep
her going just that little bit more.
"Dad? Aunt Phyllis is here...she wants to see Mom." That was Aaron's
voice, and Justin met his son's gaze with a sad one of his own.
"I suppose there's no reason why she shouldn't." He agreed.
"She's kicking up a fuss with the nurses, they won't let her. Shall I
tell them it's all right with us?"
"Yes...you might as well." Justin nodded his head. Aaron frowned, biting
his lip as he glanced at the figure on the bed, then he was gone. He loved
his mother dearly, but he also knew that someone in his family had to be
strong. His father was still in a daze, his younger sister hysterical with
grief...so the mantle had fallen on him to pull things together.
"But whether or not I can keep it up is beyond me." He added to himself
as he retraced his steps to the nurse's desk.
"Dad and I are fine with Miss Gabor paying Mom a visit." He told the
sister on duty, not meeting the executive's gaze. "Since they work so closely
together and are such good friends, Dad reckons it's only right."
"Well...for a little while." The sister agreed cautiously. "But only
if you're quiet!"
"Oh, go stuff yourself." Phyllis snapped. "If you want to keep your job
here, you'll butt out." She turned to Aaron, and for the first time the young
man saw the emotion in the executive's green eyes. "Where is she?"
"Follow me." Aaron told her quietly. "Aunt Phyl, listen...I don't know
what you've been told, but Mom ain't really up to much right now. She's
not woken up and she's hooked up to breathing apparatus. We don't know quite
yet what's going to happen."
"Yes...Cynthia told me enough to realise that." Phyllis said, rather
abruptly. "Your Dad's here?"
"Been here since she came - I drove over about half an hour ago."
"At home. She's cried herself sick."
"Hm." Phyllis fell silent, as they weaved their way through the bustling
hospital staff members to the sideward. Aaron pushed open the door, allowing
his companion inside. Phyllis entered, stopping dead at the sight of her,
and muttering a curse.
"I know. It's how we all feel right now." Justin turned to greet her,
his brown eyes sombre. "You got the news then."
"Yes." Phyllis paused, then, "Hell, this shouldn't have happened."
"I think we can echo that sentiment too, Aunt Phyl." Aaron said gravely.
"Whoever did this is damn gonna pay with their neck if I catch them."
"It doesn't have to be arson." Justin said softly. "Accidents happen."
"No-o-o. Accidents don't happen like this." Phyllis shook her head. "Accidents
don't send threatening notes."
"You had a note?" Aaron looked startled. Phyllis nodded.
"This morning. I ignored it." She responded. "Dammit, if I'd taken notice...but
it ain't the first threatening letter I've had in my life. They usually
come to nothing, there wasn't any reason I should think this one was different.
And then I got called out to San Francisco...so I had other things on my
"Mom was in your office, you know, when we found her." Aaron remembered
slowly. "The door was locked, and the fire door was jammed. You don't think..."
"I don't think anything. I know this was on purpose and I know it was
meant for me." Phyllis interrupted. "And dammit, I'm going to get to the
bottom of it, too! I know there's foul play involved, Jetta was about to
tell me when I phoned her that she'd seen someone she didn't expect to have
seen on the premises, then the alarm went off and distracted her attention."
"Justin, I came by here for a reason. Misfit Music takes care of it's
employees...if Jetta's insurance doesn't cover everything, then don't worry.
The costs will be covered...tell them to do whatever they need to to help
"Thanks, Pizzazz. I appreciate it, and I'm sure Jetta does too." Justin
told her quietly, recognising only too well that Phyllis' offer stemmed from
her own friendship for the stricken executive, and not business protocol
"Well, if someone could keep me updated..." Phyllis made a move back
towards the door, for hospitals had always unnerved her.
"We will." Aaron assured her. "Thank you, Aunt Phyl." He managed a small
smile. "Mom would have been glad you came."
"Well, whatever." Phyllis muttered, looking uncomfortable. "I...I have
things to do."
With that she was gone, and father and son exchanged looks.
"I think she's feeling it like we are." Aaron said finally. Justin pursed
"Your mother and Pizzazz have been friends longer than I've known either
of them. Of course she is." He responded. "I know she isn't one to show
how she feels, Aaron...but she does feel it." He frowned. "Jetta can't die...there
are too many people who care about her. She has to make it through."
"I hope." Aaron murmured softly. "I really hope..."
"Mom, are you all right?"
Sylva knocked gently on the door of her mother's bedroom, pushing it open
and poking her head hesitantly into the room. She had called by the apartment
which her mother called home to make sure the sensitive song-writer was okay
after the chaos of that afternoon, and had had to let herself in, for Mary
had not answered the door. She turned now, casting her elder daughter a
"I'm sorry, Sylvie, I didn't hear you knock." She murmured softly. "In
answer to your question, yes, I'm all right. I'm alive and I'm healthy, and
that's all that matters at the end of the day."
"You did a great thing, Mom." Sylva came to hug her mother. "If Jetta
makes it through, it'll be thanks to you."
"No, it'll be thanks to the doctors." Mary shook her head. "I'm not a
miracle worker, Sylvie, don't read too much into what I did this afternoon.
I just did what any friend would do, that's all. I've known Jetta too long
to turn my back on her when she needed me, and there seems little use in
knowing the procedure if I'm not game to use it."
"I wish I'd kept on with girl scouts, in a way, and had learnt the whole
course." She said regretfully. "They kicked me out for messing around too
many times - for the first time I wish I'd bothered to listen...maybe I could
"From what I hear, you did." Mary told her softly. "I overheard a conversation
between your friends as Jetta was put in the ambulance - I understand Sadie
fainted, and you helped her."
"Yeah, true." Sylva nodded. "But Sadie was just shook up. Jetta..." She
trailed off, and Mary sighed.
"Jetta might still die." She intoned sadly.
It was all too clear that her soft blue eyes were full of unshed
tears, and gently Sylva hugged her companion.
"Topaz said where there's life there's hope, and that's what we're going
to try and believe in." She said quietly. "Mom, whatever the outcome, you
did something very special this afternoon, something that Nancy and Aaron
and Justin will be grateful for once the initial shock has worn off and they
can think it through."
"I don't want their thanks...I want her to live." Stormer murmured. She
got to her feet, pacing the room restlessly. "I wish I could have done more,
she was so still and limp! It's going to haunt me always, I think...how still
she was this afternoon. How helpless. That's not Jetta...I've never known
her that way."
"Where there's life, there's hope." Sylva repeated. "Things are a mess
at the moment, but the word from the hospital is that she's stable, so that's
something at least. I know she's on a lot of support machines right now,
but it's better than the alternative. And whatever you say, Mom, if Jetta
survives this it's as much down to you as the doctors. If you hadn't taken
a hand it would've been too late by the time the medics got there, and I'm
damn proud of you, whatever happens."
"Thanks, Sylvie." Mary offered a small smile. "It makes you realise how
important family is, when something like this happens."
"It does indeed." Sylva looked troubled. "I don't always like Nancy, Mom,
but I wouldn't have ever wished for this. Let's just hope Jetta is stronger
than everyone thinks...and that somehow she can survive this!"