The elevator ride was agony for Carson. It felt like it was going slower than molasses as it crept to the fifth floor where the ICU was located. He had spent the last few minutes listening to Officer Carlisle as he told Carson about the local man who found Nancy on the road outside town. Laura and Hannah stood next to him while the rest of their group was still downstairs in the main waiting room of the hospital. Carson tapped his fingers on the seam of his khakis, willing the elevator to move.
Finally the door opened onto the fifth floor and the five of them stepped off. They were greeted by Dr. Lords who was about to get off duty but wanted to meet them before he left.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Drew," Dr. Lords said shaking hands with him. He introduced Dr. Lawrence Plumb before leading the way down the hall. "We moved your daughter to a private room and we are monitoring her at all times. The next 24 hours are going to be crucial and hopefully we'll know more tomorrow when she wakes up."
"Can you tell us what's going on with Nancy?" Carson asked. "I only got a few things from Sam and Officer Carlisle. I want to hear it from you as to how she's doing."
"I understand, Mr. Drew," he nodded then turned to his colleague. "Dr. Plumb knows more than I do on that. He's the one who did the second surgery."
"Your daughter sustained several injuries," Dr. Plumb explained. "The first surgery was to stop the internal bleeding that was going causing issues. The surgery I was in on started soon after. When she was found, her leg was at an unusual angle. We had to repair damage to the leg by inserting pins to help the bones heal. In a few weeks, your daughter will need another surgery to remove them but we need to make sure that the bones are healing properly before we do anything. She will also need extensive physical therapy to strengthen the leg again once her recovery is over. She also has a few broken and bruised ribs which caused her to have a little bit of breathing problems when she arrived."
"How long of a recovery will Nancy have?" Hannah asked looking aghast.
"She'll be in crutches for at least ten to twelve weeks then, if physical therapy goes well, she can move to a cane for a while. Full recovery though we're looking at twelve to eighteen months."
"Eighteen months?" Carson shook his head with a laugh. "You don't know my daughter very well. Cut that in half. That will be Nancy. She doesn't like staying out of the game for long. She's active and healthy."
"As long as she stays that way, Mr. Drew," Dr. Plumb smiled, "I'd imagine that she'll be back on her feet quicker than the time frame I've given you. That's the norm though, just so you know. The really good thing is there was no spinal cord or neck injury. She should be able to move pretty well after the stiffness goes away. We are concerned though of the bump on the head but as of right now there's no pressure or bleeding on the brain. We're really just waiting to see when she wakes up. We have her pretty sedated at the moment but the meds are being kicked back as we speak so that her recovery can start. I'm thinking that sometime tomorrow she'll be waking up."
"Thank you, Dr. Plumb, Dr. Lords," the relieved father nodded. "I'm glad to know that she's in good hands. May we see her now?"
"Yes, but I don't want too many people in the room," Lords stepped in. "No more than one or two people at a time and for now only relatives."
"Well, that will be easy," Carson smiled. "I'm her only relative and most of the people you see here are the closest things to a relative. But I want to make sure she's secure and that no one else is let in without permission."
"You'd have to work that out with the authorities, Mr. Drew," Plumb stated. "We don't have the manpower to protect anyone though I do understand your concern."
"There was something odd as well that we found," Dr. Lords chimed in. "We take blood tests of those who arrive unconscious. Your daughter was no exception. We found a trace amount of Rohypnol in her system."
"Rohypnol?" Sam asked. "The date rape drug?"
"There wasn't…" Carson asked, his face white.
"No, we checked," Lords shook his head.
"I'm not surprised," Sam replied. "The Bridal Killer never raped any of his victims."
"If there's anything else you need, please let us or the nurses know," Dr. Plumb replied. He pointed toward the nurses' station not far from them. "Her room is just outside the nurses' station and again, please limit it to only one or two people at a time."
"Thank you." Carson said. As the doctors walked away, he turned back to Hannah and wrapped his arms around the woman. She broke down in tears though it was mostly thankful tears that Nancy was still alive.
"I agree with you about getting protection for your daughter, Mr. Drew," Officer Carlisle replied. "I can talk it over with my superiors to see if we can get someone on the door but it might not be until tomorrow depending on what's going on."
"I'd appreciate that, Officer Carlisle." Carson was just about to walk away when the elevator doors opened and Frank stepped off looking around with determination.
"Frank? Where's Joe?" Laura asked. She then noticed his demeanor. "What's wrong, honey?"
"He's on his way up. Did any of you happen to see anyone who looked out of place?" he said vaguely looking at the group.
"Why, no," she answered shaking her head. "But we've only been here for about a half hour or so and just got done speaking with the doctors about Nancy. Frank, you're scaring me. What…what's going on?"
"Parker said he saw Dad downstairs," Frank stated taking a few steps down the hall.
"So?" Sam shrugged. "He said he was going to get you and Joe then come here afterwards."
"That's the thing, Sam," the young man shook his head. "We left Dad at the Stanton's. He stayed behind to help with the investigation. There's no way he could have beaten us here. Not even Charlie and Whitney are here yet and they were with the paramedics."
Carson's eyes went wide when he realized what Frank was saying. He led the way down the hall with Frank and the others hot on his heels. A nurse saw them coming and the worried looks on their faces. She stopped them in the hall before they reached the nurses' station.
"Is there something wrong?" she asked.
"Has there been anyone up here to see Nancy just now?" Carson demanded.
"Why, yes," the nurse nodded. "There was someone here maybe five minutes ago. He was standing at the door but I'm not sure if he went in or not. When I told him he had to leave, he got upset but didn't do anything because he saw you all talking to the doctors. Then he started acting strange so I told him to leave or I would call security."
"Where did he go?" Frank asked looking around.
"Down the hall towards the second elevator bank," she stated pointing away from them. "It's only supposed to be used by staff and for patient transport."
Frank turned to leave but Sam stopped him.
"Uh, uh," he shook his head. "You stay here with them. Officer Carlisle and I will handle this. Make sure everyone is safe here."
"But, I can help!" Frank protested but Sam and Carlisle were already rushing down the hall.
"Frank, please," Laura pleaded gently putting a hand on his arm. "Stay here. Let them take care of it. I know your father doesn't want either you or Joe on this case anymore. It's becoming too dangerous."
He looked at his mother and pursed his lips. Frank knew he needed to find the guy but he also knew the danger. Instead, he got out his phone and dialed Joe who answered on the first ring. "Where are you, Joe?"
"I went back downstairs after searching one of the stairwells," he announced. "I didn't want to leave Vanessa even though she was with Parker. I didn't run into anyone on the stairwell. Has the guy been up there?"
"A nurse just saw him in the ICU. She thinks he was trying to get into Nancy's room but he got away before we arrived."
"Okay, now what?" Joe huffed.
"Stay with Vanessa and Parker for now," Frank ordered. Laura nodded in agreement as she listened in. He watched as Carson spoke with the nurse before the two went into Nancy's room. Frank sighed before continuing. "Did you call Dad about what happened?"
"No, Vanessa did," his brother answered. "She said Dad and Durham are on their way here. Whitney and Charlie arrived just now as well but I'm not sure how they're doing. Is anyone searching for the killer?"
"Yeah, Sam and an officer went to go search but I don't think he's going to be found. He's probably long gone by now."
"Be optimistic, big bro. How's Nancy doing?"
"I…I don't know," he mumbled looking at the ground. "I haven't had the chance to ask."
"Then what the hell are you talking to me for?" Joe laughed. "Make sure she's okay and then worry about everything else. I'll talk to you later. Let me know if anything happens."
"I will." Frank ended the call then looked to his mother. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek before telling him what the doctor told them moments before. When she was done, Frank blew out a breath of relief though he was still worried. Nancy wasn't through it all yet. He was about to say something when Sam and Carlisle returned looking haggard. "Did you find him?"
"We took the elevator to the lobby," Sam announced. "He completely avoided the waiting room where Bess and George were but he was seen by Daniel. The man really did look like Fenton from a distance and Daniel called out to him but the man sped up. By the time we got downstairs he had already walked out the front door. Who is this guy that he can look like any of us?"
"That's the scary part," Frank shook his head. They had no idea who the killer was and it felt like they were back to square one.
"I'm going to get my boss on the line and get some officers here ASAP," announced Officer Carlisle.
"Good idea," Sam nodded. "I'm sure Chief Durham will want some people here too."
Carlisle nodded then walked away with a radio in his hand. Frank had no idea who the officer was but he was grateful for the man being there to help. Carson came out of the room followed by the nurse. He walked over to the group, relief on his face.
"How is she?" Hannah asked anxiously.
"She's fine," he smiled tiredly. "The killer didn't get inside the room so everything looked good. I'm going to stay here tonight. It's the only I can think to do. I want to be here when she wakes up. Hannah, I want you to go back to the house with Laura when Fenton gets here."
"I'd like to see her before we go though, Carson," the woman replied. "You know what she means to me."
"I know," Carson nodded. He hugged her then let her pass to go into the room. Carlisle returned looking perplexed.
"The Chief is going to talk it over with Durham," he announced. "From what I gather, the FBI is taking over but Milford Point is still working with them on the case. I'm to stay here for the time being until my relief comes. Hopefully it won't be too long. I've been on duty since seven this morning. The hit-and-run was my first call of the day."
"And you've done a good job, Officer Carlisle," Laura smiled. "I think I may speak for all of us when I say that we appreciate everything that you have done today. You've gone above and beyond what you normally do."
"Thanks, Mrs. Hardy," he smiled beaming with pride. "It's humbling to hear that coming from you."
"You're not the only one we owe a debt of gratitude toward," Carson stated. "Is the man who found Nancy still here? I'd like to meet him."
"Darby Gillis is his name," Carlisle nodded. "I think he's still here. He was with his wife earlier. I know them from town. They're good people. Last time I checked they were in the waiting area down the hall."
"Then lead the way," the lawyer gestured.
"Sure," the officer smiled. "I can introduce you but I shouldn't leave my post here."
"I can stay here then," Frank announced. "You know Mr. Gillis so it would be best if you went, Officer. Besides I don't want to leave Hannah or Nancy alone."
"I'll stay too," Sam nodded. "I think we need to maintain a presence out here until the relief comes."
As Officer Carlisle led Carson and Laura down the hall, Frank went to the door leading to Nancy's room. He couldn't see much but he heard the machines beeping. He also heard Hannah's soft voice speaking. She sounded like she was saying a prayer so Frank walked away in order not to intrude.
Plopping himself down in a chair outside the room, Frank propped his head on his hand, his elbow on the armrest. Thoughts roamed through his mind. One thought went back to the ring Parker had given him years ago. He knew it was too gaudy for Nancy's taste but it brought something else to mind. Even though he knew he wasn't ready to settle down, Frank felt that Nancy was the one he wanted to marry eventually. Her infectious smile always lit up a room and when she was excited, her bright blue eyes sparkled with mischief. Everything about her was wonderful. They had only been officially dating for six months but in that time Frank had grown to love her more each day.
Frank bowed his head. It was hard for him to fathom that he came so close to losing her before he could say "I love you." He didn't want to go down the path Joe had gone when Iola died. He remembered the agony on his brother's face when the car exploded. It was meant for them not an innocent girl. Joe held so much guilt in him that he holed up in his room for days before running away right after Iola's funeral. He nearly killed himself over it but it was Frank who brought him back. It took months but Joe eventually came around again, almost to his usual self but the ordeal had changed him. Joe didn't want a girl to get close to him like Iola did. That is until he met Vanessa. She was the best thing to happen to Joe and he'd changed for the better.
But what would Frank do if he lost Nancy? She was always in danger. It was a part of the career they chose to be in and Frank had no intention of stopping her from being who she was. But he also wanted to protect her every chance he had. He wanted to be with her no matter what.
"Frank?" replied a soft voice. He blinked then looked up to see Hannah smiling down at him. Sam was further down the hall though he kept an eye on the area. "You look a little lost. Are you okay?"
Frank sighed and looked at the ground again. "I guess I'm fine. I have a lot on my mind, that's all."
"I'm not surprised," she chuckled. He looked up at her confused. "You're a Hardy. What's to expect? I'm sure you have thoughts on what to do next, how to catch this guy, plus make sure Nancy is safe. Am I right?"
"That and among other things," he blushed turning his head so she wouldn't see him. But Hannah knew better.
"When were you going to tell her?"
"That you love her."
"How…how did you know?"
"I've had my fair share of men fawning over me as a young lady," Hannah rolled her eyes mischievously. Frank snickered. "You laugh but believe me, I had them. I knew some as more of puppy love than real love. Infatuation and lust but I see how you look at Nancy. You've loved her for a while. Why haven't you said anything?"
Frank licked his lips trying to find the right words. He knew why he didn't tell Nancy yet. He didn't think she would return the love. Frank stared at his hands. "I…I guess I just wasn't ready to say it."
"Maybe you were afraid she didn't share the same thoughts?" Hannah sighed. "I've known Nancy since she was a little girl. She's almost a daughter to me. I know what she's feeling half the time before she even knows it. I can tell that she knows what she wants when it comes to love. She knew Parker wasn't right for her after the Renaissance Faire but when she came home after being in New York with you I saw a change. Nancy was different, almost giddy at times. She was happy and that had everything to do with you. Don't think for one second that she has no love for you, Frank Hardy. She does. Just give her time to realize and express it. Now, go on. Go see her. I'm sure she'll like that."
"Thanks, Hannah," Frank smiled at the woman.
He rose and went over to the door. Placing his hand on the knob, Frank entered the hospital room and closed the door behind him. The room was semi-dark with only a few lights on including one over the bed giving the bed a soft glow. Nancy was asleep, her hands resting gently on her stomach as she took in breaths slowly. A bandage was over her left eye along with a few scratches here and there. Her left leg was propped up on pillows, a removable cast encasing it from her thigh to just above her ankle.
Frank sat down next to her and took her hand. The monitor increased in speed and he smiled. She knew he was there. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly before returning it to the bed.
"Hey, Nan," he said softly. Nancy took in a deep breath and for a brief moment, Frank thought she was going to wake up but she continued to slumber. "I…I've been wanting to say this for a long time. I know I have the worst sense of timing but I think you should know this. I love you. I love you more than anything in this world and I want to be with you as we go through life together. You will get through this and I will be right there beside you along the way."
Frank poured his heart out to her though he felt she couldn't hear him. He didn't care at the moment. He just wanted to tell her everything. He knew she couldn't reciprocate the sentiments just yet but he wanted her to know. Frank continued to hold her hand as he spoke, his voice soft and sincere. The moment he was done, he sighed and smiled as he watched her.
Suddenly, her hand tightened around his startling him. Frank looked up expecting her eyes to be open but she continued to sleep. It was just Nancy's way of telling him she was there and she heard him. Frank smiled as her hand slacked once more. In that moment, he knew she was going to be okay and it was just a matter of time before the beautiful blue eyes settled on him once again.
I wanted to get this chapter out earlier than today but the cards just weren't there. Thanksgiving was nice here in our household. Had a few people over for a nice dinner and good company. My husband and I took advantage of Black Friday and got new phones (our Christmas presents) and I went down to Gettysburg for a little bit of ghost hunting with my brother and daughter. That was interesting. We heard some strange things and got a few good photos. I have never been down to Gettysburg at night but I tell you, it was creepy but fun at the same time. The monuments made it all the more creepy. Our Christmas tree went up yesterday so our weekend has been busy. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a good weekend as well! Anyway, thank you to everyone who read the previous chapter and to those who left reviews! If this chapter somewhat doesn't make sense, please let me know. I really didn't edit much going from the screen to the website (if at all) and I'm not sure if it's okay or not. I just ran out of time and really wanted it posted. Hopefully it makes sense! Lol! It might be just me and my self confidence in my writing that's coming out. We will get back to our killer in the coming chapters and the end is coming. I hope you enjoyed the chapter and if you will, please leave a review to let me know what you think! Have a great rest of the weekend and God bless!