"So what exactly did Ray tell you?"
Sylva cast her friend an anxious look, taking a mug of steaming hot coffee and settling herself in the front lounge of the Starlight Mansion. Topaz frowned. After Ray had taken her frightened bandmate to the hospital, she had sent a panicked text out to all of the other Jewels, calling them to the Starlight Mansion. As a result all four girls were gathered in the front room, identical expressions of anxiety on their faces as Topaz related her story.
"Not a lot. He was concerned with getting Sadie to see Alex." She said with a sigh. "And he was rough, really, but she was losing her senses a little. It upset her, well, more than a little. Today's their anniversary, you realise. It couldn't have been a worse time."
"When's a good time to be shot?" Nancy demanded from her corner. "Poor Sadie."
"That's why I called you guys home." Topaz admitted. "And you, Copper. I figure that Sadie might...well, it might be all right, of course, but I got the feeling it was pretty serious. Whatever happens, he's going to be in the hospital tonight, and not celebrating with her. At worst, he might not make it. I wanted us all to be ready, in case we have to, well, deal with something else."
"I think you were right." Copper bit her lip. "I couldn't imagine what it'd be like to get news like that about Aaron. I think I'd need sectioning...God only knows how Sadie's feeling right now. And on their anniversary, too!"
"Exactly." Topaz pursed her lips. "I would've gone with her to the hospital, you guys, but there was noone else home and I had Hollie. I don't like the fact that I let her go with just Ray, considering how much he hates her. But I didn't have much of a choice. Cynthia was still at work."
"Have you been down to the basement to tell Synergy?" Sylva asked. Topaz grimaced.
"I tried, but her mainframe was busy and I couldn't get her to respond to me." She replied. "I guess she's hard at work fixing something and I didn't want to push it too hard, just in case it compromised her hologram. We've been through enough keeping her secret a secret, I didn't like to jeopardise it."
"Probably wise, but she needs to know what's going on." Copper frowned. "She is one of us, after all."
"Who needs to know what, Copper?"
At that moment the subject of their conversation pushed open the door, stopping as she assessed the gathering before her. "What is it? Has something happened?"
"Something has, Cyn." Nancy nodded. "Something not so good."
"Where is Sadie?" Anxiety flickered into the hologram's tired violet eyes, and Copper beckoned for her to come and sit down.
"She's at the hospital." She said softly. "Cyn, Alex and Ray went to arrest some guy this afternoon. Apparently it didn't go so well. Alex was shot and another man was killed. We don't know much more than that, only Ray came by here and took Sadie off to the hospital. We've not heard anything from her since, so we don't know how things are going."
"Poor Sadie." Cynthia's expression become one of distress. "Why did one of you not go with her? Raymond Nicholson is no company for a frightened girl!"
"We weren't home till Topaz texted us, and you were at work." Sylva grimaced. "Topaz was the only one here, but she had Hollie so she couldn't go. We were just about to decide that one of us needed to go to the hospital."
"Topaz, you could have gone." Cynthia frowned. "You could have alerted me. I would have come home."
"Believe me, I tried." Topaz glanced at her hands. "But your mainframe seemed busy and I didn't want the risk of upsetting your projection by pressing anything. I don't know how you work all that well."
"I did not respond to you?" Cynthia looked startled. "I'm sorry. I must have been engrossed indeed in what I was doing."
"Well, you're here now." Copper put a gentle hand on her friend's arm. "And Syl is right. One of us does need to go to the hospital and make sure she's all right. Whatever's happening."
"Ray didn't think they'd let anyone near Alex without his badge." Topaz remembered. "But if the guy who did this got killed in the crossfire too, I don't see why there'd be such a big security blitz. Alex might've been shot in the course of duty, but he's just another patient to the ER staff, surely?"
"Probably, but we're not family." Nancy reminded her. "When Mom was sick, after the fire happened, they were really strict about only family getting to see her."
"Phyllis saw her." Copper objected.
"All right, family and Aunt Phyl." Nancy amended. "You try arguing with her! But they tend to do that, when it's serious."
"Jetta's life was still in danger though." Sylva pursed her lips. "That Zipper guy and his sidekick were still on the loose and they knew she'd seen them at Misfits Music. There was a good reason for the extra security. I think Topaz has a point. I don't see why they'd stop people getting near Alex if it was to provide support for his girlfriend. After all, Ray's hardly likely to be that."
"Ray Nicholson wouldn't know how to comfort a comforter." Nancy snorted.
"So it's decided, then, that one of us should go." Cynthia put in.
"And it's not going to be you." Copper said softly.
"Why not?" Cynthia stared.
"Because you've obviously been working flat out all day, and you must be exhausted." Copper said simply. "Plus, with recent events, we have to face the fact that Alex might not make it. You're still too close to your own loss to be supportive of someone else directly. I know you care about Sadie, Cyn, but we care about both of you. And it would be no good for you to start remembering some of the feelings you had when Jerrica passed on, now would it?"
"I am perfectly able to control such emotions, Copper."
"Perhaps you are, but Copper is right." Topaz nodded. "We don't want to take that risk. And you look tired, Cyn. If I couldn't get a signal to Synergy, you must've been using a lot of power for whatever you were doing at work. That being the case, you should power down and get some rest for a while."
Cynthia looked mutinous for a moment, then she sighed.
"All right." She said reluctantly. "But I am in no danger of regression. I give you my assurance of that."
"So who is going to go?" Nancy asked. "I would volunteer, guys, but you know that I'm the worst person to have around in those kinds of moments."
"I'd probably say something to make it worse."
"I'll go." Topaz raised a hand. "I wanted to, anyway. If you guys will keep an eye to Hollie, I'll drive up to the hospital and see what's going on. I feel like it's my responsibility to, because I was here when she took the news. And if I'm there and I take my phone, I can call you all and tell you what the situation is."
"Are you sure?" Copper asked. "I mean, it might be a long night."
"I don't mind. I'm used to long nights, with a baby who's almost two." Topaz responded. "I mean it, I want to go."
She paused, then,
"I know Sadie's one of us now, and that you all care about her." She added. "But she was my friend in the beginning and I still feel that responsibility towards her sometimes. It's my job to go and I want to."
"Then we'll keep an eye to Hollie." Sylva promised. "She's no trouble, really."
"And I'll stop here. I'll call Aaron and explain." Copper added. "So then we're all in one place when we hear the news. Whatever...whatever that news will be."
"Then I guess that settles it." Topaz got to her feet. "All right, I'll call you as soon as I know anything. If Hollie asks where I am, tell her I've gone to see Auntie Sadie. Try not to let her know something big has happened."
"Don't worry, we won't." Nancy promised. "Just call us as soon as you can."
"I promise." Topaz nodded. "Bye, all. Speak soon."
With that she had grabbed her jacket, leaving the room. Shortly after there was the sound of the front door, then a car engine, and Sylva let out a sigh.
"Do you think he will die?" She asked hesitantly.
"We don't know enough to really know that." Nancy said sensibly. "All we know was that he was shot, and that he was taken to the hospital."
"Don't FBI officers wear bulletproof vests when they do things like this, though?" Sylva asked.
"I thought so, but they only cover so much of the body." Copper shrugged. "I guess that Alex was just unlucky. It must've hit him someplace that wasn't covered."
"Unlucky." Sylva frowned. "You know, it figures."
"What does?" Cynthia looked confused.
"Bad luck. Right at the moment we all seem to be having a whole lot of it."
"Syl, you are not going to start on that again." Nancy rolled her eyes. "For heaven's sake, will you get a reality grip?"
"Have we missed something?" Copper frowned.
"Syl thinks that all the weird stuff that has happened recently is because of Robin Sheppard." Nancy said wearily. "She thinks he's cursed."
"Because you told me that he was!" Sylva retorted.
"No, I said Dean had heard that rumour." Nancy shook her head. "And I should've known better than to tell you about it, too!"
"Well, look at the facts." Sylva was unmoved. "Since he's been in town, you almost got mugged - and that was because you were showing him back to his hotel, so don't deny it! Then there was that article. You and Dean, the world's longest running couple after Aaron and Copper broke up. And now Sadie's boyfriend is lying in the ER on their anniversary, and he might even die! You tell me all of that stuff is coincidence!"
"Robin has nothing to do with Sadie, or with Alex doing his job." Nancy shook her head. "Yes, he was there when I was set on, but he chased the guys away and I didn't lose anything. And I told you - he had nothing at all to do with Dean and my break up. That was just the right thing to do for both of us - and we're both happy with it."
"Think what you like." Sylva folded her arms. "I'm telling you, it's too much to be coincidence."
"Syl, I think it's unlikely that anyone is cursed." Copper said thoughtfully. "And whatever your theories, please don't say any of that to Sadie. She's got enough to handle already, without this."
"Oh, give me some credit." Sylva snorted. "But I'm just pointing it out. Seems like all the crap started when Robin came to town."
"And what about all the other things Jewel have been through?" Nancy demanded. "Copper was kidnapped. Cameron and Topaz have had the biggest nightmare of a relationship going. Some idiots set fire to Misfits Music."
"And my sister died." Cynthia interjected.
"Yes, and Jerrica died." Nancy nodded. "All of that was before Robin came here. Are you telling me he did that too, psychically?"
"No, of course not." Sylva shook her head. "I just think it's too creepy, that's all. And that we should definitely stay well away from him, just in case."
"Syl, he's just another guy trying to make himself a name in the city." Nancy said with a shrug. "He can write, but he needs work if he's going to succeed. There's no curse. He's just a little different, that's all. And if he's playing for our music company, we shouldn't see him as the enemy."
"The other day, you were talking about staying ahead of the game." Sylva objected.
"And to do that, you have to keep tabs on the competition within your own team." Nancy returned. "Now, enough about silly curses and crap, all right? Sadie's across town at the hospital and the last thing she needs is your superstitious wailings!"
"Are you sure that you're all right?"
Raymond shot his companion a hesitant glance, taking in her pallor and her shadowy blue eyes. Upon arrival at Alex's bedside, he and his scared companion had been greeted with something of a panic. A problem with temperature in the blood bank had meant that there was no blood to give a man who had clearly lost several cup fulls already, and who desperately needed surgery to stop the bleeding. Whilst anxious doctors were flurrying about, trying to ascertain if their patient would survive a transfer to another hospital, Sadie had made a split-second decision.
Fumbling in her jacket pocket for her purse, she had pulled out her tattered British donor card, begging the doctors to let her donate blood. At first they had refused her, but she had insisted, and after a moment of bemused hesitation, Raymond had produced his badge, giving her his backing. Once a test had proven that she had a compatible blood type, she had been shepherded into a little side room, where a nurse had taken several vials of blood.
Now she and Raymond were alone, as Alex's condition had not stablilised enough for them to put off the necessary surgery, and so he had been wheeled down to theatre ten minutes before.
Raymond had not left his companion's side since they had arrived, and though neither of them had gotten more than a glimpse at the grey-faced patient in the bed, both of them had been able to think of little else.
Sadie cast her companion a faint smile at his question, nodding her head.
"I've been better, but it'll pass." She agreed softly. "I always feel faint when I give blood - that's all. They took a lot, as well. But this is so important - it's all weighing on me. I'll be fine, and I feel better knowing that I've done something to try to help."
She paused, then,
"You don't have to stay with me."
"Alex would want me to." Raymond said brusquely. Sadie pursed her lips.
"Perhaps." She acknowledged. A haunted look touched her face.
"He was so still and quiet." She whispered. "Do you think I did enough to help him, Ray? Or...is it already too late?"
"He's tough. He's trained to be." Raymond said quietly. "It's a bad injury, but now he's down in surgery they'll fix it. He'll pull through, Sadie. And dammit, I'm not going to be the one explaining to Sandy Bray why she's lost another son to gunfire. He wouldn't let that happen. He just wouldn't."
"I wonder if they've managed to reach Sandra yet." Sadie looked pensive. "She only flew out this morning. She might still even be in the air."
"They'll reach them." Raymond said shortly. "My chief was going to see to it personally."
"It's worse for her, I realise that." Sadie glanced at her hands. "And for the wife of the other man...the one who was killed. But...I can't explain it in words, Ray. He means such...such a lot to me. I...don't know how I'd react or...or cope if I lost him now."
Raymond eyed her keenly, taking in the expressive blue eyes so near tears. He frowned.
"This is what it's like, though." He said, his tone uncharacteristically gentle. "Dating someone who does the kind of job Alex and I do. There's a lot of pride in it, of course. Dave Batten will get a state funeral, flags and all, for a man killed in service to his country. But it's more than that. There's a constant sense of not knowing what the next day will bring. Heather always says that when I walk in the door she thanks God for another day. I don't like to think in those terms, but it's not easy, loving someone who puts their life in danger every day."
He shrugs. "Police, FBI, Firemen...we all do it. We're all proud to do it, and we wouldn't do anything else. But it asks a lot of those we care about. I think that's partly why Alex never let himself stray from his work. He knew exactly what it meant to lose someone close to you in that way."
"But then he met me." Sadie sighed, leaning up against the pillows. Raymond nodded.
"Yes. Then he met you." He agreed. "He and I have worked together a hell of a long time now, and I never saw him crazy over a chick before. You must've done something pretty spectacular to get his attention."
"I was just scared of him." Sadie remembered, a wistful expression touching her eyes. "He was there on the step with his badge, wanting to ask me questions about a fire I was so afraid my cigarettes could have started. And he put me at my ease. I don't know. There was something in him that I'd not seen in any other lawman - and trust me, I've seen my fair share of those. He had something else. Something I liked. I guess it was just the same for him when he met me."
"You wreak hell with our statistics, you know." Raymond observed. "People who repeat offend once usually make a lifetime of it. Throw drugs into that equation, well, you got an even worse problem. Can you blame me for thinking the way I did about you, once I knew exactly what you were?"
" I suppose with my record, you're trained to think that way." Sadie offered a wry smile. "I know you know everything that I've done, Ray. But you have to make some allowance for human nature in there too. I wanted it to stop, so I made it stop. Since I was nineteen I've been a different Sadie Monahue - no drugs, no stealing, nothing like that. I've recreated myself...and Alex is a part of that me. Can you believe me?"
"I think I do." Raymond said thoughtfully. "You're right - there ain't many times that someone like you crosses my path. People do go straight - it happens - but once someone offends twice, well, it's almost a given there'll be a third."
"I went down three times. Twice to juvenile detention and once to prison." Sadie remembered. "Sometimes I wanted to just die in there. Just...just to get out of it all. I couldn't see how to escape what I'd got wrapped up in."
"So what changed?"
"My sister came to see me." Sadie replied. "I was up for review and part of my sentence had been conditional - I had the option of early release if I went into a drug program. At first I didn't want to know - the whole idea scared me too much. But she kept on and on at me, and in the end she won. I don't say it was an easy choice or path and I hated it just as much. But because of it I'm here now, and I don't need heroin any more. So I'm glad I did it."
"You were lucky." Raymond mused. "It's a hard drug to kick. I've dealt with enough dealers, addicts, you name it. They never seem to clean up. I never thought I'd say this, Sadie, but I respect you for that. It must've taken some focus."
"It did." Sadie nodded. "But then, I wanted to live."
She sighed, closing her eyes and sitting back against the wall.
"And I want Alex to live." She murmured. "I'm trying not to think of him, but I can't help it."
"You've gone white again." Raymond realised. "Do you want me to grab a doctor?"
"No...I told you. It'll wear off." Sadie shook her head, opening her eyes. "That's why I'm in here - it's quiet and I have a bed to lie down on if I get too woozy. They took a lot, that's all, and I'm out of practice. I used to do this more regularly - every six months, back in England."
"Can I get you a drink of water or something?"
"That'd be good, if you don't mind." Sadie nodded, offering another faint smile. "Thanks."
Raymond returned the smile with a slight one of his own, then he was gone. Sadie took a deep breath, glancing down at the cotton wool taped to her arm. Gently she ran a finger over it.
"They did take a lot." She murmured. "I hope it'll damn well be enough. I told Sandra I'd do anything for you and I meant it...but I don't know that there's a lot more in me I can give. If they come back needing more, I don't know whether I can do it."
A fresh voice startled her and she glanced up, surprise and relief flooding her features.
"I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner. I called the others home and told them what had happened." Topaz came to sit beside her. "They're watching Hollie, so I came out to make sure you were holding up."
She paused, eying her friend cautiously.
"Are you? You look pretty grey."
"I'm doing better than I was." Sadie nodded. "The blood bank was closed when he got here, Topaz, and he lost a hell of a lot of blood. They were talking about transferring him to another hospital but the time and the journey might have finished him off. So I made them let me give blood. They didn't want to, but Ray used his badge to back me up...I don't know how. They seemed to take it from him, though, and so now Alex is in surgery. If they can stop the bleeding and fix him up, well, he has a good chance. But he's lost so much blood already...it all depends on whether or not I've given enough and whether he's lost too much."
"That was brave of you." Topaz hugged her friend gently. Sadie shook her head.
"No, it wasn't." She responded. "I didn't even think. When I was in England, I'd do this every six months. It's been a long time since I did it, but I'm going to start doing it regularly again, I think. Alex might yet die, Topaz, but if he hadn't had blood, he would have...almost for sure. It's reminded me what a difference giving blood can make. And, well, this time it's on a much more personal level."
"They haven't told you anything since he went down?"
"No, and it might be a while till we know." Sadie shook her head. "Ray's stayed with me. He's just gone to get me a drink."
"How's that been?" Topaz raised an eyebrow.
"Surprisingly, not too bad." Sadie admitted. "We do have something in common today, after all. Alex's well being."
"True." Topaz nodded. "I promised the others I'd call home when I knew something, but I guess till he comes out of theatre we don't really know anything. Did they tell you where he was shot?"
"It hit an artery just above his collar-bone." Sadie indicated on her own body. "In some ways he was lucky. It could have hit a lot of things that it didn't. It just all depends on the blood loss - and the risk of infection. Apparently his blood pressure was really low when he was admitted."
She glanced down at the tape on her arm.
"Hopefully I've done something to help that." She added. She swallowed hard.
"I'm trying to be brave about it." She added. "Ray said that it's one of the toughest things about loving someone in this job, and he's right. I love Alex so much and even if he makes it through this time, there might be other times. I want to know I'm strong enough to handle that possibility."
"And are you?"
"I think so." Sadie bit her lip. "What I have realised is that, whatever happens tonight, I've had the happiest year of my life with this man. Nothing is going to change that. Losing him would be the worst thing on this earth, Topaz...but I'd still rather have had the year I've had than not have met him."
"Then I think you are strong enough." Topaz said thoughtfully. "And you're not on your own, Sade. We're all with you on this, and I'm stopping here with you as long as you need me. Like I said, my daughter's in good hands and Copper's sleeping the night at the Starlight so that I can keep everyone updated as soon as we know anything to tell them."
"That means a lot." Sadie agreed. "But I'm hoping I kinda won't need that support. I mean...not just yet. It might have been a happy year, Topaz, but it's damn well not enough. I want more."
"Well, you've done everything you can to give him a good chance of giving you that." Topaz said gently.
Before Sadie could respond, Raymond returned to the little room, a plastic cup in his hand. He stopped dead at the sight of Topaz.
"Where did you spring from?" He demanded.
"The nurses told me where to find you both." Topaz responded. "I have a sitter for my daughter now, so I came as soon as I could. You don't have to hang around Sadie, Ray, if you don't want to. I know you're probably worried about your partner."
"I am, but I'm staying here." Raymond retook his seat, handing the cup to Sadie, who took it gratefully. "Alex wouldn't leave Heather in this situation and I won't leave Sadie. Besides, when he comes out of theatre, I want to be on hand. I need to talk to him, man to man, about what happened today."
"He'd probably rather leave that till he's feeling stronger." Topaz chided. Raymond shook his head.
"That's not what I meant." He replied simply. "But I do need to speak to him. So, I guess we'll just wait together till we hear anything."
Topaz glanced at Sadie, who shrugged.
"I don't mind." She admitted, taking a sip of water then setting the cup down beside the bed. "To be honest, the worst thing right now would be to be alone."
"All right, then." Topaz spread her hands. "Then I guess now we just wait."
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed