The Witness

Chapter 10

As much as I would have loved to linger in bed reality intruded. We both had jobs to get back to. A quick shower later and David dropped me off at DataTEK. Originally I was going to run up to my cubicle and do some more work since the day was young, but I felt too excited to concentrate on anything so mundane as work so I took the elevator down to the basement garage and walked to my assigned parking spot. I'd head home and do some maintenance stuff there. A little house cleaning, a lot of tiding up and the place would be ready for David tonight. I shivered in anticipation.

I rounded a pillar to the driver's side, keys already out when something slammed into the side of my head. Pain erupted and I went down, feeling the oily surface of the garage floor under my cheek. I tried to get up then froze when something moved into my field of vision.

A pair of once white Nikes moved alongside my head then I felt another jolt of pain and realized my assaulter had kicked me in the side.

A rough voice followed a second kick that was just as painful as the first.

"Stay out of it, faggot. Don't let your cop friend get your ass in any more trouble. He won't be there to save it if you do."

Then the Nikes walked away. I lay on the ground for several more minutes, aching too much to move. Finally I grabbed the door handle on the Escalade and pulled myself to my feet. My side hurt and I walked hunched over as I made my way to the elevators.

I encountered no one until I reached my floor and staggered out into the corridor. Tex was just stepping out of his cubicle when I sagged and almost went down as fresh pulses of pain stabbed into my bruised side.

"Jesus Christ, man, what happened to you?" Tex grabbed my shoulder and guided me into the first cubicle. Becky Sharpe, one of our site admins took one look at my face and vacated her chair. Between the two of them they got me seated and dialed for security.

Reid Innova had been DataTEK's chief of security for as long as I could remember. He was a grizzled veteran of L.A.'s mean streets and looked the part. Lean and unyielding, he listened to my story with an expressionless face, then called down to check with the team he had dispatched to check the lower levels for any suspicious people.

When he got off the two way he shook his head.

"No sign of anyone. The police are on their way, maybe they'll have better luck."

But we all knew that wouldn't happen. I hadn't seen my attacker. Apparently no one else had either.

A uniformed cop was first on the scene. He was followed less than twenty minutes later by David.

"I heard the dispatcher issue the call, caught your name," David spoke for my ears only as he watched the uniformed cop talk to Reid. I thought he looked paler than usual. I was gratified to think it was for me. "What's up? Any idea who jumped you?"

"None. I saw his shoes, that's it. He told me to stay out of it." I winced at a fresh burst of pain from my bruised kidneys. "Called me a faggot."

"Hate motivated mugging?" The uniformed cop came up behind David. He'd clearly been informed by someone that the words the mugger used weren't a mistake. "There's been a rash of them lately."

"Could be," David said. "But Mr. Bellamere here's also the prime witness in the Overland homicide. Don't blinker yourself, Hobbes."

The uniformed cop looked less than thrilled to be chastised in front of civilians.

"Tell me exactly what your attacker did and said." David pulled out his ubiquitous notebook. Before he could go looking for his pencil, I handed him a pen. He smiled in gratitude. "From the beginning. You went down to the garage at what time?"

"Three, three-twenty."

"See anybody?"

"No one."

"Then what?"

I told him. He pushed me for more detail. I didn't have any.

"There's always something. What color were his socks? The pants he was wearing? Any indication he was disguising his voice? Did you smell anything?"

"Smell anything?"

"Cologne, cigarette smoke? Alcohol?"

I thought back to the brief, but painful encounter. "Car exhaust. Oil." I wrinkled my nose. "Vomit."

David wrote. He finished then tapped the paper with his pen.

"Not much to go on, is there?" I murmured.

"Fraid not. But we'll put the word out, something may show up." He snapped the notebook shut. "Meanwhile, you, my friend, are going back to the hospital."

"Oh for Christ sake, David --"

I realized damn near everyone on this floor was watching us by this point. It would have made a damn fine soap opera if I'd told him what I really thought.

"Detective Laine," I continued through gritted teeth. "I don't need a damned doctor. I'm fine. Really."

"Not my call. For evidentiary purposes I need you to get checked out. Doesn't do much good if we pick up someone and their attorney can cast doubt on your injuries even existing because you didn't see a doctor. They'll make out you tripped, fell. Maybe imagined the whole thing. Including the fact you saw their client at the scene of the shooting. Reasonable doubt gets another asshole off."

I swore under my breath then abruptly stood up.

And sat right back down.

When the world stopped spinning I tried it again with Tex's help. I could tell by the way he hovered that David wanted to do something too, but couldn't let on how he felt about me. I shook off Tex's hand.

"I'm okay, honest." I glared at David. Then I took pity on him. "Fine, you want me to go to the hospital, you can take me."

"As you wish, sir."

We headed for the elevators. Before he could punch the ground floor I hit the basement.

"If we have to go I'm not getting into that wreck of yours again. We'll take my truck."

"Fine. But I'm driving."

I hesitated for about thirty seconds. I had never let anyone touch my Escalade, let alone give someone free rein to drive it. Without a word I handed him the keys.

"Try to keep it somewhere close to the speed limit."

"Not a chance," David said. "Oh man, I've never driven one of these babies."

I winced as visions of vehicular carnage crossed my mind. We climbed in and slammed the doors.

David leaned over toward me. His hand slipped over my knee and squeezed gently. "Truthfully now, how are you?"

"Fine, really. My side aches, I'll probably be bruised but it's not a big deal."

"Let the doctor determine that."

We arrived at the hospital in one piece. David dropped me into the emergency side then went back out to park the truck. By the time he'd come back I'd been triaged and was waiting my turn.

There were half a dozen others sharing the waiting room. I looked them over then glared at David.

"This is not how I imagined spending this evening. What the hell ever happened to dinner?"

"The night is young."

[More to come]

If you like this story so far, let me know at Patrick's email I'm always happy to hear comments, suggestions, anything.