Book: The First - Part: Two - Chapter: 6 - Installment: iii

        Despite his best intentions to get some shut-eye, morbid, self-indulgent curiosity got the best of him, and Scott turned on the television before he lay down to get some sleep. He wanted to get some more perspective – to see what the news was saying about the incident at the hospital.
        The Canadian News Network was carrying non-stop coverage. It was getting solid play on the American channels as well. Scott wasn’t surprised that such a bizarre and grisly event was the news story of the day. Add to the bloodshed that a disease was involved and he was actually a bit surprised that it wasn’t getting non-stop coverage everywhere, but it fit what he had become used to from the Americans when it came to insularity.
        Then again I could be exaggerating the gravity. I am pretty close to the story.
        That was a laugh. He practically was the story at this point. He’d been at the forefront of the investigation of the elder Meyers, and he had personally saved Carly from her mother. His ‘partner’ was the virus victim responsible for the rampage and Scott had been witness to much of it, and now he’d kidnapped Carly and was on the run, feared to be infected on the rampage himself and spreading the hideous disease throughout the city.
        Can News Net wasn’t declaring his escape with Carly a ‘kidnapping.’ But his face was front and centre – they must not have yet found a photo of the girl. The recommendation was to be watchful for him and stay distant – preferably in the sunlight, better behind locked doors.
        At least there’s no need to convince anyone of the danger anymore.
        Footage of the hospital was impressive. The entire building was barricaded by police and military reserve. Soldiers armed with automatic rifles were stationed in a line spaced less than twenty yards apart. Beverly herself made a report from outside the police lines.
        “Concerned loved ones ring the facility, all awaiting news of who is alive, who is dead and who may have been infected by Detective Francis Shale during his rabid twenty minute massacre. But the men ringed outside the building are here for a more disturbing reason than to keep desperate family members out, they are here to keep the infected and the potentially infected in. CDC officials are working as I speak to try and establish a protocol for separating the potentially infected from the healthy until such time as symptoms become apparent, but for now everyone inside the hospital is considered a biological hazard. The military outside has been instructed to shoot anyone trying to leave the premises.”
        The anchor cut into her report.
        “Thank you, Beverly. Is there any indication how long this vetting process could take?”
        “Not as of yet. Reports from the early cases suggest that the infected become symptomatic relatively quickly, with the escalation to the rabid-stage coming in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. We know so little about the disease at this time that there is no indication as to what the cause of the varied timeline is.”
        “And what of the escaped CDC patients? Any news of them?”
        Okay Bev, moment of truth.
        “No word at this time, but last report had them both reporting as asymptomatic.”
        Good girl.
        “But could they have been infected by Detective Shale? They were both in the same ward as him.”
        Bev paused before answering at a measured pace.
        “It seems that in Shale’s final minutes he wasn’t leaving anyone he attacked alive. If he had passed on the disease via a wound he would have been just as likely to have killed them outright and we simply haven’t found the bodies yet.”
        Nice. Excellent cover.
        She continued. “If Detective Shale got to them they would have been amongst the first victims of his rampage. He would have had time to finish any job he started, unlike later when the heroic orderly, Bishop, was attacking him.”
        “This is all new information. Where is it coming from?” 
        Come on, make it good.
        “This is all speculation, Peter. It wouldn’t be fair to my source to put them on the line. For now we should just chalk it up to good logic, but the public had best stay on the alert.”
        The next segment moved on to profile Bishop. He was rightly being identified as the hero of the day. Scott tuned out the teary interviews with Bishop’s widow and parents and the capsule of the dead orderly’s life. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel compassion, but seeing the fallout of the last few days of his life on national broadcast set Scott to introspection.
        What the hell is going on?
        It was the second time his life had been turned upside down by his job. The last time it had cost Elisabeth Lancaster her life. He had been lucky to keep his job back then. And then, living in the haunting umbra of his culpability in Elisabeth’s death he forced his family away. He drove Franti to the point where Janne was better off without a father. What kind of human-monster was he?
        What am I doing? Elisabeth is dead and Janne is… God knows where Franti took her. And now I expect I can be responsible for another little girl’s life?
        Bev was absolutely right. This was kidnapping. No matter how you looked at it, he had no right to take Carly under his care. Even if she herself had requested it. She was a ward of the state until the chain of custody could be worked out according to her parents’ wishes. An Aunt, Uncle or Grandparent was most likely the expected guardian for her now. It had probably already been established, but there was no reason for him to be in the loop, so he wasn’t.
        Once again, I play the irresponsible idiot.
        He pulled himself from the couch and muted the television. By now an expert on virology from Simon Fraser was speculating on how the World Health Organization and Centre for Disease Control would deal with the situation and keep the public safe from an outbreak. He knew that he was front and centre of their concern right now, but he didn’t want to think about it for the moment. He really wasn’t eager to think about anything.
        He opened the door to the converted bedroom where Carly slept. She was curled up and appeared to be sleeping deeply. The only thing that betrayed the stress of the last few days was the way she gripped the blanket. Balls of fabric gathered together around each fist as she hugged the entire thing around her – embracing herself in independent defiance of how alone she now was in the world.
        She was so small. So defenseless.
        No one has bothered to ask her what she wants. Not even me. But she told me. This is what she wants. So long as it’s still in her best interest, I’ll make sure she gets it. Her life is fucked up enough. And just because I’m fucking up my life doing so, doesn’t mean that I can’t give her the escape she needs most right now. It’s not like I can undo the damage I’ve done to myself now anyhow.
        He bent down to her and whispered. “Carly, I promise…”
        Promise what?
        “…I promise your safety and happiness will never be less important than anything else so long as you are under my protection.”
        God. What is this? Your own contrived attempt at redemption? Can’t save Elisabeth or do right for your own daughter, so you’ll be this little one’s saviour?
        Carly took in one shuddering breath, like one might after sobbing uncontrollably. There were no tears, but Scott could only wonder what was going on in her small head after all she’d seen. He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. Carly twitched as if startled, but didn’t wake up. He spread his fingers out across her back, pressing down gently. With another breath she released untold tension and rolled over, letting go of the blanket as she did.
        Scott pulled his hand away as she turned, but Carly reached out and found his hand in her sleep. She grabbed his thumb and pulled his hand close to her chest. It was done with unconscious familiarity. Scott could picture her doing the same with her parents. Trapping them happily at her bedside. Beyond his own bidding Scott pictured his own daughter, Janne, in Carly’s place. He had no analogue. He had never sat at Janne’s bedside.
        I never had the opportunity. He told himself.
        It wasn’t so much that it wasn’t true, as that somehow, in the time he and Franti had been parents together, he had been too occupied. Franti had been the Mother, and he had taken it all for granted, distracted by a combination of vicious-circle obsessions with work and the bottle. Pressure from work made him drink, drinking made him drop the ball at work with only himself to pick up the pieces and make it right without giving away that he was drinking again. One problem feeding the other in a seemingly endless cascade of failures as he repeatedly dried himself out and fell off the wagon again and again. The only possible end was a life-changing shock to the system. He had to hit bottom.
        Surprisingly, Franti running away with Janne hadn’t been the bottom. It had however been the express elevator down. Franti had had the good grace to wait until he had rebounded before she left, but leaving had sent him spiraling again. 
        The fall had been fast and hard. He had only just got himself to a point where he felt as if he was on the path when Franti left. He left one morning for work, put in a long day to make up lost ground and when he got home and found Franti’s brief and largely uninformative letter, her flight had already landed in Prague. She had clearly planned it and had wasted no time. Once he was out the door she and Janne must have followed within minutes. He had spent some time cursing his bad habit of not calling at least once mid-shift to say ‘I love You,’ but he knew that it wouldn’t have helped that day – at worst he would have wondered why Franti never answered the phone.
        He began his investigation into where they had gone with a double rum and coke. Two days later he was unconscious in the hospital and had found no more than her flight and destination. By the time he was functional again the trail was cold. The only thing he had done right was to take an immediate leave from the force with the explanation that he needed some personal time off to resolve some family issues.
        He had completely blown it. Any chance there had ever been of keeping the trail of his family had been lost in the funky miasma of the deepest stupor of his life. He’d lost control, he had no control. His sickness had driven his wife and daughter away and then scuttled any chance he had of finding them again, possibly forever.
        Scott heard the shaky breath of a suppressed sob again and realized that this time it was himself. Carly was contentedly sucking on a thumb. His. With his other hand he wiped his eyes. They were moist. He wasn’t crying, but in his reflection he had come as close as he ever did. Like the little girl in front of him he played tougher than he really was.
        Okay, Carly. You win. To hell with this “so long as you are under my protection” qualifier. We both need surrogates. I’m sticking this one out to the full extent of my ability. Everything in my power is at your disposal so long as you should need me.
        He was weeping freely now.
        He bent down and kissed her forehead.
        For her part, Carly sighed contentedly and bit down on his thumb a bit harder than Scott cared for, but he had given her his pledge, so for now he bore it.

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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.