Chapter Fifteen

The police took over arresting the men at Hartman's home. Three of them needed their own ambulance. They didn't keep Agent Maxwell long, given that he had been shot in the head, even though he had recovered from the shock and was standing around arguing about the best burger joint in Malibu with one of the Detectives. All the cops at some point came over to him, patting him on the back and offering sincere congratulations on surviving. None of them could avoid jesting with him regarding his having such a thick head it could stop a bullet.

The attention embarrassed, annoyed and greatly pleased Bill.

By 7 a.m. Bill, Pam and Ralph were in the ER of a hospital. While Bill was getting X-Ray'd and evaluated, Ralph and Pam coincidentally met one of Bill's coworkers they knew, there for his son's attack of appendicitis, and told him about Bill having been shot. The coworker's brow lifted several inches higher than its usual position and he dashed off to make a phone call to the FBI.

It was not too surprising that Bill came out of his exam room at 7:45 a.m., a doctor and nurse tailing behind him. Bill rolled his eyes at his friends. The bullet hole had been covered with gauze and a two inch line of tape ran around his head keeping it in place. Blood had been cleaned off his face, neck and ear.

"Mr. Maxwell, we really think you should stay here until the neurologist can examine you," the doctor said.

Bill wriggled all his fingers. "Look. I'm wriggling my toes, too. I'm fine. You said the bullet doesn't need to be removed right away. That it's solidly stuck in there and won't pop into my brain. Right?"

The doctor and nurse looked to Ralph and Pam for support but the Hinkleys collectively shrugged their shoulders indicating they had none to give.

"Yes, that's correct, but still—" the doctor implored.

"—Still nothing. I've got to get to a meeting at 8 am."

Further pleading availed the medicos nothing except a promise from Bill to return within two days to have the bullet removed. Bill pulled his team over. "Listen, kids, I've got to get to the office. Carlisle will have my garbanzos if I'm not there as Chief Cain ordered."

"Don't you think some qualification would be made for you having been shot?"

"With Carlisle? Not likely. You two are going to have to take a cab home." Once home, Ralph you can drive the Counselor back to Palmdale to pick up her Big Wheel."

"It's a perfectly valid car, Bill," Pam complained.

"For a sixteen year girl, true. Listen, no time to chitchat. I gotta go." He tapped his skull above his bandage. "Boy, those pain meds really work. My head doesn't throb at all." He took out a bottle of pills from his pocket. "They should add these to the city water."

"Are you sure you should drive on medication?" Ralph asked, trying to read the label.

Reinserting the bottle into his jacket, Bill said, "Gimme a break. Double vision just means you see two red lights. Did you fix the car's ignition?"

"I tried. Let's see if it works with the key, now."

They walked to the Diplomat and climbed in. Bill put the key in the ignition, looked at Ralph who crossed his fingers, and with a quick turn the car started right up.

"Good," Bill said. "Alright you two, vamoose. I'm on a tight schedule here." He yawned widely. Immediately Ralph and Pam yawned, too. "Long day," Bill said.

"Twenty-four hour day," Ralph answered. "Look, give us a call later and let us know how you're doing."

Bill yawned again and nodded, waving them out of the car.

Pam spoke quietly to Ralph as they exited. "Honey, are you sure he should drive?"

"Do you want to try to convince him otherwise?"

She saw Bill take his gun out, check the bullets left in the cartridge and then slam it back in his holster. "No…"

"Let's go home. I've gotta sleep and you need to get to work. We'll get your car when we can. You can drive mine today."

"I wonder what they're going to say when he arrives at his office."

"I wonder how he's going to explain everything to Carlisle."

They watched Bill drive away and when he didn't crash into any other car in the parking lot, and he made a safe left turn, they went back into the hospital to call a cab.