Saturday, October 14, 2017

Will Love Prevail - Chapter 15


Chapter 15

It was on a Thursday about a week before Christmas and almost six weeks after Chiara had left Mark when around nine thirty that night Mark was sitting in his wheelchair in front of his computer and his phone beeped announcing a text message.

He pulled his phone over and opened the text message window and saw a number he didn’t recognize. He opened the message and all it read was his name:

Mark?

Mark felt his heart beat in his neck and typed: Yes, who is this

Chiara

He felt his fingers tremble as he typed: Chiara, where are you

It took a moment and a reply came: I’m not all the way sure, I think I’m in Portland

Mark shifted nervously in his TiLite: Where in Portland

I don’t know, outside of Portland. He will kill me if he finds out I contacted you. I’m locked up in a house

Mark hissed through his teeth, “Fuck.”

He typed with quick fingers: Can I call you

No, don’t. They may hear it

I will tell the police to track this number and find you

I’m scared he will kill me

Mark was tempted to just push the call button but he didn’t. He felt his body charged and his nerves running through him ending at the T-4 vertebra but his head was pounding now reading the message from Chiara.

I’ll call the police right now, we’ll come and get you out of there.

I’m so scared Mark.

I’ll come and get you tonight

Nothing else came after this message.

Mark typed again: Chiara, hang in there. I’ll come down there and get you.



There was no reply anymore and Mark quickly dialed Officer Collins’ number.

It took a few rings before the officer answered, “Hello?”
“Officer Collins, this is Mark, Mark Ross. I talked to you a few weeks ago about a missing person, my girlfriend.”
“Mark, yes, I remember. What’s going on?”
“I got a message from her, from Chiara.”
“Really?”

Mark could barely contain his emotions and explained with a trembling voice, “Yes, she texted me that she thinks she’s in Portland but doesn’t know where. Said she was locked up somewhere. She wrote that she was scared that her pimp may kill her. We need to find her.”
Officer Collins tried to calm Mark down, “It’s all right Mark, do you still have the number and messages on your phone?”
Mark felt in overdrive, “Yes, I need to bring it to you right now so you can track where it came from.”
“Mark, I’m actually at home right now. I need to contact the station and find out what they want to do. I’ll call you back. Don’t go anywhere right now and don’t delete the text messages.”

Mark could barely control his anxiety at the situation and while waiting for Officer Collins he changed into regular clothes, jeans and a T-Shirt with a hoodie. He was determined and was planning on being in his car shortly on his way to Portland. Nothing would stop him to try to get to Chiara.

He sat in his wheelchair waiting for the officer to call him back. It seemed like an eternity when his phone played its ringtone and Mark saw Officer Collins on the display.
“Hello?”
“Mark, listen up. We’re coming your way to check your phone. So you need to stay put and don’t go anywhere.”
“Who is we?”
“Just stay at your place right now and wait for us. We should be there in about thirty minutes.”

Mark felt anxious and impatient. He couldn’t wait for the Officer to get there and waited by his door, looking out a few times when he thought he heard a car pull up or people outside.

Finally, in what seemed like an eternity Officer Collins pulled up in the police car and parked right in front of Mark’s apartment.
He wasn’t alone but had another person in civilian clothes with him,

Mark sat by his open door and the two men came walking up, “Mark, hi there.”
Mark nodded a greeting and pushed his wheelchair into the apartment and let the men enter.
Officer Collins closed the door behind him and introduced, “Mark, this is Detective Paxton.”
Mark greeted the detective and introduced himself.
Detective Paxton stretched his hand out, “Hi Mark, nice to meet you.”
Mark didn’t want to waste any time and handed them his phone right away, “There, it’s on there. We need to get down there.”
Officer Collins told Mark, “We contacted the Portland police already. They’re waiting for our information and as soon as we have it, we’ll inform them and they can try to get to where Chiara is.”

He then turned away from Mark and the two men read over the messages on Mark’s phone. Detective Paxton did some things with the phone and a GPS locator to find out where the messages were sent from.

Mark was watching them impatiently, “We need to go there tonight! We need to hurry up!”
Officer Collins looked over at Mark with a worried expression, “You won’t be able to go Mark.”
Mark was upset to hear this, “No way, I’m going. I don’t care. I’m going down there tonight. It’s my decision and no one can stop me. I need to go down there.”
Officer Collins recognized Mark’s distress, “Mark, you need to calm down.”

Mark pushed his rims and spun his chair away from facing Officer Collins.

He took a few quick breaths and without looking at the cop, he explained tensely, “I don’t care but I’m going down there. She may be hurt, she’s scared and we need to get her, tonight. The motherfucker may kill her if he finds out that she texted me. I won’t be able to live with myself if something happens to her. I already fucked up by trying to find her and with that getting myself and her into all of this shit. I can’t handle if anything more severe will happen to her. I need to get down there.”

He took another breath and pressed his lips together.
Just at that moment Detective Paxton announced, “So, I have a location.”
Mark spun his chair around, “Where is she?”

Officer Collins walked over to Detective Paxton and the two men looked at the small GPS device.

Mark felt left out and asked again louder, “Where the hell is she?”
Officer Collins nodded at the result and Mark got impatient, “You need to fucking tell me where she is!”
He was taking quick breaths, pressing his lips together and his chest visibly moving up and down.
Officer Collins came over to Mark and said sternly, “Mark, you need to calm down right now. This is an official operation.”

With that Mark squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, taking another deep breath and then looking at Officer Collins he tried to talk as calm as possible but his voice trembled when he spoke, “I’m sorry but I need to make sure she’s getting help. If I can’t drive myself, put me in your car and take me down there with you, I beg you.”

Officer Collins recognized Mark’s obvious distress and anxiety concerning Chiara and the situation and he looked at Detective Paxton.
Detective Paxton said, “I’ve to make some calls outside. Officer Collins?”

With that he nodded at Officer Collins to follow him outside and as the two men walked toward the apartment door Mark pleaded one more time with a trembling voice, “Please, don’t leave me here. I beg you, let me come.”
Officer Collins turned around once more, “Wait here Mark.”

Mark felt like the wait was hours instead of ten minutes when Officer Collins came back in. Mark looked at him expectantly.

Officer Collins explained, “The detective gave his permission for you to come along. You’ll ride with us though.”
Mark nodded obediently, “Yes, no problem.”
Officer Collins then added, “So, we don’t know if we can get there on time but we have contacted the authorities in Portland, they’re on their way to the location where we tracked the phone number to.”
Mark nodded again, “Yeah, they need to get there quick. I’m ready to go.”

Fifteen minutes later Mark was in the back seat of the cop car, his wheelchair stashed next to him as Officer Collins pulled out of the parking lot. As they drove onto the Interstate Mark realized he forgot his medications and only had grabbed his backpack which really didn’t have much in it lately because he had not been out a lot. He did have some catheters with him but now was worried because the last time he had catheterized had been at six o’clock. He didn’t care anymore and only hoped he wouldn’t have an accident in the cop car or anytime soon and could get to a bathroom before.  

His anxiety level was up and he felt his heart race and kept trying to calm himself down. Knowing he didn’t have any of his medications made the anxiety stay with him though. He took some deep breaths and with his eyes closed he tried to calm his breathing and he tried to concentrate on seeing Chiara soon and hopefully alive.

Officer Collins drove on the Interstate with the emergency lights on and probably going at least 100 miles an hour. Cars were pulling out of his way and some of them were probably worried he was there to pull them over but that was not on the agenda. The agenda was to get to Portland as quick as possible to hopefully find a young woman alive.

Mark was battling his anxiety the whole time and it was getting difficult. He kept reminding himself that he would see Chiara soon and focused on the text she had sent him. The detective had kept his phone with him though and so Mark sat in the back seat of the cop car fighting his anxiety and his demons and feeling the crotch of his jeans hoping he wouldn’t pee himself.

His legs started to spasm and knowing he didn’t even have his spasm medication with him, he held his legs down with sweaty hands. He couldn’t let the officer and detective see his anxiety. They wouldn’t let him come any further with them and probably drop him off at the next best hospital and leave him there.

The drive seemed to take forever even though Officer Collins made it to Portland in record time and they arrived at the downtown Portland precinct at eleven that night. When the two men got out of the car, they told Mark to stay put so he just sat there. He felt the crotch in his jeans with his hands. Everything was still dry but he knew he would have to cath soon. He leaned his head back in despair but he knew he couldn’t get out right at this time and just had to sit there in the car.

He squeezed his eyes shut and mumbled to himself, “Fucking shit…pull yourself together man. You can’t lose it right now.”

Officer Collins and Detective Paxton came back out and got into the car without saying anything but instead took off with flashing lights.
Mark shifted and dared to ask, “What’s going on?”
He didn’t get an answer and knew they wouldn’t tell him anything.
He just watched the city of Portland race by outside, cars getting out of the way, pulling over, and letting the police get by.

He could barely control himself anymore. He wanted to know what was going on. He wanted to know where Chiara was and if she was alive.
They sped out of downtown and to a part of town with old houses and apartment buildings. Mark looked at everything outside trying to see where he was at. He didn’t know Portland very well and had no idea where he was.

They arrived at an old house in a debilitated neighborhood. There were several other cop cars parked around with flashing lights. Lots of people were walking around, cops with their hands on their guns and wearing bullet proof vests. An ambulance was parked over on the side outside the immediate danger zone and had its lights flashing as well.

Mark felt his head pound at the sight of the situation.
Officer Collins and Detective Paxton stopped their car close to the ambulance and got out.
Mark barely got his question in, “For God’s sake would you tell me what’s going on. Did they find her?”
Detective Paxton leaned into the car again and said sternly, “You are not to get out of this car by any means! Do you understand?”
Mark didn’t like hearing this order, “Did they get her out of there? Please just tell me.”
Detective Paxton repeated harshly once again, “Do not get out of this car! Do you understand?”

Mark nodded and with that the detective slammed the door shut and Mark could feel himself go into hyperventilation. He was trying to breathe normal but it was difficult as his breaths came out in gasps. He saw Officer Collins and Detective Paxton join their Portland colleagues in the operation.

Mark had no idea what was going on and if they had already found Chiara. It was difficult for him to just sit there. He tried to see everything going on outside but couldn’t make out anything specific. His eyes were fixed on the ambulance, but the door was closed and the lights inside the back of the vehicle were on. He wondered if Chiara was in it. The urge to get out of the car was almost overbearing and for a few seconds Mark debated what the police could do to him if he wouldn’t follow Detective Paxton’s order. Even if they would arrest him or anything, he felt he needed to at least make sure that Chiara was safe.

For a few more minutes he stayed seated in the car. He looked up again and he saw a gurney with a person on it being pushed from around the back of the old house. Mark couldn’t stand it anymore. He opened the door of the police car and as quietly as possible he set his wheelchair up next to the car, and quickly he transferred into it. He barely closed the door so no one could hear it and then he pushed his rims and wheeled around the back of the car. He saw the gurney quickly getting pushed to the ambulance and one of the EMT’s opened the back door. Now Mark could make out the long red hair falling over the side of the gurney. He needed to let Chiara know that he was there for her.

He quickly wheeled over the rough terrain toward the ambulance hoping no one take notice of him but that didn’t happen.
Two police officers spotted him and asked tensely, “Sir, why are you here? Who are you? This is an active ongoing operation. You cannot be in here. You need to leave right now!”
Mark tried to explain, “I’m the boyfriend of the girl from inside the house. I need to see her.”

The police officer put his hands on the handles of Mark’s TiLite and stopped him from wheeling any further toward the ambulance. Mark panicked as saw the EMT’s preparing the gurney to be pushed into the ambulance. The body on it didn’t move. He felt sheer terror that they had come too late for Chiara.
He demanded loudly, “Let me get over there please!”

Officer Collins and Detective Paxton had noticed the commotion and came rushing over.
Officer Collins held Mark back from pushing his rims, “Mark, you need to get back into the car.”
Mark was angry, “Let me see her.”
Mark looked over to the ambulance and he tore himself away from Officer Collins’ grip, “Let me get the fuck over there.”
Now Detective Paxton ordered strictly, “Mark, you need to calm down right now and get back into the car immediately!”

Mark didn’t care about any of it, he ripped his rims into motion and quickly wheeled over to the ambulance. The EMT’s now also noticed the quarrel with the young man in a wheelchair and looked over toward Mark.

Mark now called out as loud as he could, “Chiara, is that you? Can you hear me? It’s Mark. I’m here for you.”
The panic inside him overtook his voice and body as he saw them push her in.
He shouted as loud as he could, “Chiara, it’s Mark. I came down here for you.”

Two other officers came rushing over and held Mark back.
He gasped, “Just let me see her.”
He kept his eyes on the gurney as it got pushed in and one more time with the officers holding him back, he actually screamed now, “Chiara, it’s Mark. Can you hear me?”

At that he saw the head of the person on the gurney lift up slightly and he saw her look into his direction but she didn’t speak and quickly her head fell back onto the pillow of the gurney.
The doors closed and Mark couldn’t help his break down anymore and he gasped in the grip of the officers, “Just tell me she’s okay.”

His voice trembled as emotions took over but there was not much time as all the sudden there were gun shots and Mark didn’t even know what was happening as he heard someone scream, “Get him out of here!”
More gunshots were fired, people ducked down and Mark was pulled from his wheelchair by two officers who then dragged him from the scene and behind a police car. His wheelchair was left standing in the middle of the area. Mark didn’t know what was going on but he saw the ambulance speed away with sirens and flashing lights. He heard the gunshots and all the sudden spasms took over his legs. It seemed like the gunshots were fired right next to his ears. He felt his hands and arms trembling. Pain in his neck and chest from having been dragged away from his wheelchair intensified and he took gasping breaths as he was hyperventilating. He was pushing with his back against the car, trying to sit upright as his legs lay scrambled in front of him. He squeezed his eyes shut, and images from the fateful night in Afghanistan flashed in his mind. Someone then pushed him down violently and rough and he felt dirt and gravel on his face as he was covered by police officers fending off the shooter, who was Trey. 

He heard screams, loud calling of orders and demands and he felt the weight of a person’s body on him. A police officer was protecting him but at the same time he was crushing him. This whole ordeal took about ten minutes and then it got quiet around Mark as he passed out under the officer.

He came to when he loudly heard Officer Collins over him, “Mark, hey! Can you hear me?”
Mark barely opened his eyes and blinked at the silhouette of a man hovering over him.
He saw red and blue flashes and Officer Collins called to him, “Mark, talk to me.”
Mark opened his mouth, “I hear you.”
His throat felt parched and he could barely speak.
Officer Collins helped Mark sit up then, “Are you okay?”

Mark really didn’t know if he was okay. He felt pain in his chest and his head was pounding with the echo of the gun shots, his legs were shaking violently.
He focused on Officer Collins, “Is she alive?”
“Yes, she’s alive but she’s hurt.”

Mark was relieved to hear this but at the same time he was worried about Chiara.
He could barely talk though and only managed, “My wheelchair.”
“We got it, it’s okay. I’m going to call an ambulance for you. I’m not sure what’s going on with you right now.”
Mark didn’t want to go into an ambulance and tried to pull himself together, “No, I don’t need to….”
He had to take a breath before he could keep talking, “I don’t need to…to go to…the hospital. Please don’t.”
Officer Collins said, “Mark, your legs are shaking, you are not breathing good, your jeans are wet.”
Mark looked down on himself and saw the dark shadow in his crotch and inside his thighs on his jeans.
Mark begged again, “I’m good…I just need to…”

He really didn’t know what he wanted to say. He couldn’t just go home, he was over two hours from his home, he didn’t have his medication and his body obviously had a reaction to the stress.

Mark heard Detective Paxton, “Get an ambulance for the kid and have them take him to the nearest hospital.”
Officer Collins replied, “Yes, sir. I’ll take care of him.”
With that Mark pulled all his strength together, “Officer Collins, please listen to me.”
The cop nodded keeping his eyes on Mark, “Yes.”
Mark took a few breaths and then tried to sound strong, “I forgot to bring my meds, that’s all. I have stuff in my back bag though, like catheters. I’ll be all right. I can’t be going to the hospital and I beg you not to let them take me. Please!”
He leaned his head back on the car and took some breaths, swallowing, “Please, I beg you.”
Officer Collins then said, “Okay, I’ll try to figure something out. I’ll be right back.”

He left Mark sitting there, leaning on the car door of a cop car and a few minutes later he came back with Mark’s wheelchair.
“Here, I’ll help you get in.”
Mark was relieved to see his wheelchair intact. He pushed himself up on his hands and right away felt dizzy but he wanted to be strong.

He couldn’t get into his chair from the ground, it was impossible in his current condition. Officer Collins grabbed Mark under his arms and locked his hands in the front, then pulled him up. He helped Mark and he finally sat in his wheelchair, a stinging pain in his neck almost getting the better of him.

Officer Collins actually helped push Mark over toward his police car. He made Mark get in the back and with his lips pressed together Mark more likely fell into the backseat than actually having a smooth transfer.
The cop helped stash his wheelchair in and closed the door.

Mark was glad to be in the car and Officer Collins got in on the driver’s side and turned around to Mark, “I worked it to where the detective let me take you with me but with the intention of taking you to the nearest Emergency Room. I will do that Mark. You need to be looked at if at least get out of the wet jeans.”
Mark didn’t have the strength to fight him anymore and just let it happen then.

They arrived at the ER of a hospital close by and soon Mark was on a bed in the Emergency Room with Officer Collins sitting next to him on a chair in the room.
Mark’s legs were shaking, his jeans were wet, and his anxiety level was high.  
A nurse took all his vitals, his blood pressure was high, his heart rate was fast and she typed her notes into the computer and ended with, “So the doctor will be in soon.”
Officer Collins stood up and asked tensely, “He’s not doing well. Someone needs to see him quicker than soon.”
The nurse seemed slightly intimidated, “Yes sir, I’ll let the doctor know.”

Officer Collins’ presence seemed to help because it didn’t take but ten minutes and a doctor came in.
He introduced himself as Doctor Cryer and started asking Mark questions. Mark was now more alert again and he convinced the doctor that he only needed some meds for his spasms, a toilet to catheterize and maybe a change of clothes.

Doctor Cryer reluctantly decided not to admit Mark and instead ordered Baclofen for him so it would help with the spasms. Mark also got some medication to help with his anxiety. In a hospital wheelchair they wheeled him into the restroom and he was allowed to catheterize himself. Back in the room a Nurses’ assistant helped him get out of his clothes, cleaned him up, and at Mark’s request actually put some briefs on him and he was supplied with a simple pair of grey sweat pants. He was able to freshen up his face and brush through his hair.

The whole time Officer Collins was waiting for Mark and finally he came wheeling out to the waiting area and looking a lot better again even though tired.
“You’re ready to go back home?”
Mark was far from ready to go back home. The only thing occupying his mind was Chiara.
Before he got into the car he said, “Officer Collins?”
Officer Collins stopped in opening the door and turned around to Mark, “Yes?”
Mark stated “I can’t go home yet.”
“What do you mean?”
Mark took a breath, “Everything that happened here tonight…I can’t just go home right now. I need to know what’s going on with her and….and everything that happened back there.”
Officer Collins sighed, “Well, three people were arrested. Chiara was taken to a hospital. I don’t know how severe her injuries are.”
Mark looked intensely at the cop, “What about her pimp?”
Officer Collins took a deep breath, “He got away with two other people who were in the house.”
Mark didn’t like hearing about this at all, “He got away?”
Officer Collins nodded, “Yes, but Portland police is on his trail.”
“I have to see Chiara. I can’t just go home.”

Officer Collins took another deep breath, “Mark, this was a serious thing tonight. Detective Paxton is pissed at you. He could charge you for interfering with an operation. You could’ve got yourself killed tonight. You need to let the girl go for right now. She’ll be okay and you’ll see her again sometime.”
Mark shook his head in spite of the dull pain in his neck, “I won’t leave here without seeing her. After that I don’t care if you want to arrest me right then. But I need to see her.”
Officer Collins seemed irritated but thought about the situation, “I don’t know if you could even see her.”
“I need to know.”

Officer Collins opened the door and ordered somewhat tense, “Get in the car!”
Mark pushed his wheelchair up to the car and with difficulties transferred into the backseat. Officer Collins stashed the wheelchair in on the opposite side of Mark.

They drove off and Mark didn’t ask anymore but he realized that they were not going to go home just yet.
Officer Collins mumbled grumpily, “You know, I’m off duty right now. This is happening off duty for me. I should be going home to my family right now. I’m not working anymore. I should be going home.”
He sounded frustrated but with a slight tone of understanding in his words Mark realized that they followed the signs to Providence Medical Center in Portland.

Soon they pulled into the parking lot of the large hospital and without words the two men got out.
Mark positioned himself in his wheelchair and looked up at the hospital, “Is she here?”
“Yes, as far as I know.”
They made their way to the entrance and Mark said softly, “Thank you for bringing me here and for not getting me admitted at the other hospital.”

Mark only got another low grumpy mumble from Officer Collins. As they reached the entrance, they realized the automatic doors didn’t open for them. It was now in the middle of the night, almost two o’clock in the morning. On the door the hours were posted and apparently the main entrance was closed from nine at night until six in the morning. Visitors outside those times were asked to go to the main Emergency Room entrance and sign in there.

Mark and Officer Collins went back to the police car and drove around to the ER entrance.
At the parking lot Mark once again got his wheelchair set up next to him and he could feel the exhaustion and the pain of the whole ordeal when he transferred but he was determined to see Chiara.

At the check-in desk in the ER, Officer Collins took the word, showing his badge, “Hi, I’m Officer Collins from the Burien Police Department in Washington. I’m here to see a patient who was brought here tonight.”
The young man behind the counter asked, “Who is the patient?”
“Name is Chiara Pearson.”

This was the first time Mark heard Chiara’s apparent last name. The receptionist named Brandon typed into his computer and then turned to Officer Collins, “If you could please wait in the room over there. They’re sending the house supervisor.”
Mark got nervous at the wait but followed Officer Collins to the small private waiting room Brandon had pointed to.

A few minutes later a man in hospital scrubs walked in, “Hi, Officer Collins?”
“Yes, hi.”
“I’m John McKay, the house supervisor. I understand you’re here to see someone who was brought in tonight?”
John McKay reached his hand out to Officer Collins and the officer shook his hand, “Nice to meet you. Yes, I had some questions for the patient.”
John McKay looked curiously from Officer Collins to Mark. Officer Collins was in uniform but still pulled out his badge again.
Mark thought for a second what to say, “I’m her boyfriend.”

Mark felt Officer Collins’ quick glance from the side but John McKay kept talking, “I’m afraid you won’t be able to see the patient. I haven’t received any release forms from the police yet so I can’t let you see her. The patient also has not given consent for any information to be released.”

Officer Collins nodded and even though he had figured that there wasn’t any appropriate release forms yet he tried to sound professional and friendly, “Oh, I see. I thought the Portland police colleagues had already taken care of that but I understand.”

Mark didn’t like one bit where this was going. He wanted to see Chiara and it seemed at the moment Officer Collins was not going to fight this.
John McKay smiled coldly, “You may call tomorrow or get the department to fax in the release papers for investigation and questioning of the patient. It’s in the patient’s best interest. Depending on the patient’s preference there may be consent forms tomorrow.”

Officer Collins knew he wouldn’t get anything else but Mark asked desperately, “Is she going to be all right?”
John McKay stuck with protocol, “I’m sorry but without the appropriate paperwork I can’t give you any information at this time.”
Mark felt the disappointment come up inside of him and pondered if he should give it another try but Officer Collins prevented that and took the word again, “No, perfectly understandable. Thank you so much for seeing us. I’ll get the paperwork that’s necessary and we’ll just wait until tomorrow to call.”

Mark felt a knot in his throat.
They headed back to the car and when he sat in the car Officer Collins said, “She has to give permission if she wants to talk to you or see you. You have to call them tomorrow and ask them to get her consent if she’s okay to see you. Portland police also has to basically give consent and release that she can have visitors.”

Mark didn’t feel like talking anymore, the disappointment was too much and he was only filled with worry about Chiara.
Officer Collins asked when Mark didn’t respond, “Are you all right Mark?”
“Yes.”
The officer added, trying to sound reassuring, “I’m positive she’ll give them consent and you’ll be able to see her then. For now, she’s alive and safe in the hospital Mark. You helped with that.”

Mark didn’t speak anymore and was quiet the whole way back. He got to his apartment at almost four in the morning and Officer Collins helped him get his wheelchair out and watched as Mark quietly transferred into it.

“Mark, listen to me.”
Mark stopped in the process and looked at Officer Collins.
“You helped get the girl out of there. You did something good. I want you to get some rest now and then call them when you wake up and see what the situation is. I’ll get with the Portland team and see where we’re at with the situation. I’ll update you later on today.”

With that Officer Collins opened the passenger side door in front, “Which reminds me…”
He pulled something out of the car and then stood there handing Mark his cell phone, “Here is your phone. I almost forgot. Let me give you my private number.”
Mark took the phone, “Thanks.” 
He touched his phone buttons and Officer Collins told him his personal number, “My name is Dan by the way.”
Mark looked at him, “Thanks Dan.”

He then wheeled up to his apartment door and went in without looking back. Officer Collins made sure he was inside his apartment and then left to go home to a much-needed day off.

Mark barely slept that night. The only thing on his mind was Chiara and it drove him crazy that he couldn’t see her yet. He felt weak though and his neck hurt him from the take down during the shoot-out. He was exhausted and tired but his mind was in overdrive. He worried so much about Chiara.
He only found sleep for about four hours and the first thing he did when he woke up at nine o’clock was make a phone call.

“Providence Medical Center Portland, how can I assist you?”
Mark asked to talk to Chiara Pearson and wanted to see what they would do. It took a few moments and the operator came back on, “I will transfer you to our house supervisor.”

Mark was curious if it was going to be John McKay again but another person answered now, “House Supervisor, this is Tammy, how can I help you?”
Mark asked carefully, “My name is Mark Ross. I’m the boyfriend of a Chiara Pearson who was admitted to your hospital last night. I wanted to talk to her.”
“Hold on.”

It took a few moments until Tammy came back on, “So sir, I need you to email or fax two forms of ID and your full address and phone numbers.”
Mark agreed, “Okay, no problem. What’s the email address?”
He was given the email address and eventually hung up falling back onto his pillow, “Fuck.”

He wasn’t moving very fast that day, his body felt like it had been in an attack. His chest was hurting, his neck had a stinging pain, and his legs were still spastic. He made it into the bathroom and adhered to his morning routine as good as possible.

Before he ate anything, he turned on his computer and printer and scanned in the requested two forms of ID and also his address and phone numbers. He then emailed all of it to the hospital. He ate something but wasn’t very hungry.
He was really planning to drive down to Portland as soon as Chiara would give her consent.

At almost four o’clock that afternoon his phone rang and he saw it was the hospital, “Hello?”
“May I talk to Mark Ross?”
“This is he.”
“Oh good, so Mark, this is Tammy, the house supervisor from Providence Medical Center. We talked earlier about a patient’s consent?”
“Yes.” Mark was nervous.
 “So, we received your ID’s and information and ran it through our consent process and Ms. Pearson has given her permission for you to come see her or talk to her.”
Mark felt his heart drop at the news, “Good, can I actually talk to her right now then?”
“Yes, I’ll have to transfer you to her unit. If you could hold for a moment.”
“Okay, I’ll wait.”

A few moments later the phone was answered, “Sixth floor, this is Amy, how may I assist you?”
“Hi, may talk to a patient named Chiara Pearson.”
“Hold on please.”
It took a few moments and Mark expected Amy to come back on but instead a soft voice answered, “Hello?”
Mark sat up in his wheelchair, “Chiara, is this you?”
“Yes.”
He was nervous, “Chiara, it’s Mark.”
“Mark, Hi.”
He didn’t know for a moment what to say, “I…”
He swallowed and tried again, “I’m glad to have you on the phone.”
“Yes, I’m glad to.”

Nothing else came and Mark pondered at what else to say, “I..I called this morning but…they…I had to...”
He was lost for words and cleared his throat.
Chiara now spoke, “I had to give my consent for letting you talk to me. I had to sign paperwork.”
Mark took a breath, “And I’m glad you did. I was…I was worried you may…you may not want to talk to me.”
Then Chiara said softly, “You were there last night, I saw you.”
“You did?”
“Yes, I was very worried about you.”
Mark nodded to himself, “I’m okay.”
He cleared his throat again, “What about you?”
There was a pause, then she stuttered, “I’m…I’ll be all right…I think.”

Mark wanted to know more but he was hesitant to ask more.
Instead he said, “Chiara, listen.”
“Yes.”
“I want to see you. I couldn’t last night. I came to the hospital after all of that…all of it but they weren’t allowed to tell me anything. I’m at home again right now but I want to come down there to see you if you would be okay with it.”

A few moments pause and Mark asked, “Chiara, are you there?”
Her voice was soft, “Yes, I’m here.”
Mark asked carefully, “Can I see you?”
“I don’t know. I…there’s…he did stuff…to me.”
Mark took a deep breath, “I want to see you.”
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea right now.”
Mark took another deep breath, “Listen, I want…I want to be there for you. Please let me see you. That’s the least I can do.”

The guilt for the situation kept gnawing on Mark and he debated if he should tell her.
Chiara added, “I look hideous. I’m a mess.”
Mark didn’t want to give up, “I don’t care how you look. I just really want to be there for you, that’s all. Please let me see you Chiara.”
A few moments passed again until she agreed, “All right.”
He heard the tremble in her voice but he was relieved, “I’ll leave in the next hour or so and I can be there by six hopefully.”
“Maybe you should wait until tomorrow.”

Just at that moment Ranger meowed next to Mark almost as to remind him that he was there.
He heard Chiara’s voice, “Is that Ranger?”
“Yes, it is.”
Chiara seemed to laugh softly, “Tell him I said Hi and give him a hug from me.”
Mark smiled, “I will.”
Chiara added, “Is Ranger still with Maddie?”
Mark laughed softly, “Yes, they're together.”
Mark could hear the smile in her voice, “I’m glad he learned to like her.”
Mark added, “He did, they’re happy.”
Chiara then said, “Ranger needs you and I’m sure he wants you to stay. Why don’t you come down tomorrow?”

Mark had to give in. Chiara was right, and in his mind, he also thought about the situation being somewhat stressful.
“Okay, I’ll leave in the morning then right after breakfast.”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
They were quiet for a moment, then Chiara said, “Mark?”
“Yes?
She then asked, “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay now. I just want to see you as soon as I can.”
Now Chiara said softly, “Trey got away.”
Mark replied softly, “I heard.”

He really didn’t know where this was going and he didn’t know what to say but Chiara finished, “Well, I will see you tomorrow then?”
“Yes, you will. I’ll be there around ten probably.”

They finished and even though the conversation had been very reserved and insecure he was just glad he would see her face to face soon.

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