He thought she was safe, but something went wrong.
March 17, 2014
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A VG Serial: ToxiCity
It took Matt less than thirty minutes to get to Northwestern Memorial, but it felt longer. He turned east past the white Christmas tree lights flanking Michigan Avenue, wishing he could turn the corner and head in any other direction; north, south, anyplace he wouldn’t have to face reality. But he found a spot just opposite the ER and pushed through the sliding door. Inside he flashed his shield at the intake nurse, who beeped the admitting physician. A woman, somewhere in her thirties with dark smudges under her eyes and yellow stains on her coat came out.
“You family?” She asked.
“You know how to get to her family?”
Matt swallowed hard. “It’s that bad?”
“There’s a lot of internal bleeding, and her lungs are filling up. She’s in surgery.”
“Was she conscious when they found her?”
“They say she wrapped herself around a concrete barrier on Halsted. The car’s totaled.” She gestured to a couple of uniformed cops in the waiting room. “They brought her in.” She hurried away through a door.
Matt introduced himself to the uniforms, young cops on the graveyard shift cutting their teeth on the violence and danger of the city. At one forty, one of them said, Nine-one-one took an anonymous call from someone’s cell. They got there by one fifty, the paramedics soon after. She was in the ER fifteen minutes later.
“Best we can tell,” one of them said, “she was going like a bat out of hell under the viaduct, tried to stop, but couldn’t.”
“No witnesses?” Matt asked.
“Only the cell call. And that was after it happened.”
“You write up a report?”
The cop nodded. “You want a copy, call over to the Twelfth District.”
He slumped in a molded plastic chair next to a shabby Christmas tree. Why had Georgia driven downtown in the first place? What drew her into the city? He flashed back to the apparition in his apartment earlier. It seemed so long ago. He was wondering whether that had been a warning when his cell phone beeped. It was the officer who’d come to Lake Forest
“Everything okay up there?”
“No, Singer, it isn’t. Ricki isn’t here.”
“What are you talking about? Of course she is.”
“I searched the house. She’s not here.”
Matt felt his head buzz. “Her car was in the driveway. The lights were on.”
“Her car’s here, but—hold on, Singer. You mean you weren’t inside with her?”
Matt felt a cold fear pass over him. The buzz in his head intensified. “No.”
“I see.” The officer cleared his throat. “I called over to the hospital. She’s not there, either. Hospital security says no one’s been in to see Feldman all night.”
The stark blue white light of the fluorescent overheads hummed. Matt’s head grew light and spongy, as if it might disconnect and float away from his body.
“Singer…” The officer’s voice came at him from a distance, scratchy and raw. “What do you want me to do?”
“I’ll get back to you.”
He punched in Stone’s home number. A groggy voice picked up. “Yeah?”
“Ricki’s gone.” Matt explained. “I’m heading back north now.”
Stone’s voice was instantly awake. “No. Stay where you are. I’ll call you back.”
Matt started pacing the ER. He’d tried to do the right thing. He wanted to respect Ricki’s feelings, give her some space. He thought she was safe. But something went wrong. And he’d been outside her house while it was happening. If anything happened to Ricki, while Georgia was struggling to stay alive—
“She’s out of surgery.”
Matt whipped around, saw Robby Parker coming toward him. He blew out a breath, grateful to see a familiar face, but Robby’s expression was ice.
“They’ve got her in the ICU.” His voice was flat. “You coming?”
Parker didn’t wait for an answer. Matt followed him through a serpentine path of linoleum-tiled corridors with blue stripes on the floor. Everything in this hospital was blue. Blue light, blue walls, blue lines.
On the way his cell phone buzzed. Stone.
“Where are you?” Matt asked.
“On my way to the station. Brewster and Nelson went to the house. She wasn’t there.” Stone’s voice was grim. “But something else was.”
“The mail, Matt. Piled on the hall table. There was an envelope with her name on it. Inside was a picture of the goddamned field.”
Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.