Don't Write What You Know;
Write What You Care About -- Passionately!
Walking on the Weird Side
- Rebecca McFarland Kyle
When Dallas homicide detective Kevin Talon wakes up in the ER with no memory of who put him there, he's grateful he's alive.
Except he's not.
He quickly learns that crime scenes are no place for a vampire. But he’s determined to continue fighting crime. Being as he’s stuck with a permanent night job, he’s definitely walking on the weird side.
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No Good Deed
Screams woke Kevin Tallon. Bright lights blinded him as he reached for a weapon that wasn’t holstered at his side. He tried to move, get away from whatever came for him, but straps held him his body securely supine. He shut his eyes, sucked in a sharp breath of acrid disinfectant, blood and fear. Cold sweat made him tremble enough to rattle what sounded like a metal cage around him. Sirens wailed in the distance while a woman’s calm voice overhead made announcements.
He forced himself to breathe, lie still, and think. Yeah, he’d been here before—only he recalled the abused wife shivving him with her kitchen knife when he’d cuffed her husband, the chewing on tinfoil sensation at his ribcage as that blade slid in, then the ride on the bus to the ER praying he didn’t bleed out before he got there.
He swore inventively and slowly opened his eyes one more time.
He noted teal: curtains, scrubs on a dark-skinned nurse with an eighties style Afro. An aura of warmer greens darker than her garb haloed her head.
“Detective Tallon,” she said in a precise alto. “I’m Deborah, your nurse. You’re in Richland ICU.”
His head pounded, his throat felt scoured with steel wool. Every muscle ached like he’d taken a beating. He looked over at tubes in his arms, running blood and fluid, probably had a catheter too. Monitors beeped and blipped. Somewhere in the distance, he heard another woman’s voice calling a Code Blue.
“That’s not me coding?” he asked Deborah. His eyes moved to a Dallas Police Department patrol officer standing at the foot of his bed. He appeared to be a big square blond man with his mouth set in a firm line. It reassured him to see the black uniform with the shining badge and know his brother officers were keeping an eye out for him.
I wouldn’t want you to die even if you are a cop. He heard Deborah’s throaty alto voice in his head though her lips weren’t moving.
A warm caramel colored hand rested on his forearm above where the IV needle protruded from his hand. She flashed white teeth reassuringly, but the stubborn ache from his ribcage told a different story.
“What the hell happened?” he asked.
“We don’t know,” she replied, keeping a steady grounding pressure on his forearm and meeting his gaze squarely. “We were hoping to ask you that question. You came in unconscious and screamed your way out of it.”
Shit, he thought. Every cop’s worst nightmare…
He rolled his eyes to the patrol officer and rasped. “Got a clue?”
“No, Detective Tallon.” He stepped forward. Tallon read Green on his name tag.
Tallon swore again.
“We found you unconscious beside your car. From the dirt and tears on your clothing and person, looks like you crawled out of the bushes to get there.”
That first aid probably hurt as bad as his original injury. Just shaking his head brought on a headache like dealing with his first mother-in-law. His ribs ached. Had someone administered CPR and broken them?
“Can you think of anyone who’s got it in for you?” Officer Green took his notepad out.
Tallon’s laugh ended in a gasp when his ribcage admonished him for his merriment. The nurse placed his hand on the pain pump and showed him how to administer a dose of oblivion. The drug rolled over him like a good single malt beside a warm fire on a cold winter’s night. He really wanted to just go there, but the nurse kept talking. Tallon cudgeled his brain to pay attention. He’d probably hear the story again, but someone could leave out important details.
“You stopped breathing,” she said gently. “One of your fellow officers administered first aid. Your ribs are cracked, but you will heal.”
“I work Homicide,” he said to Green once the pain retreated. “You’ll need a bigger notebook.”
Green flashed his teeth and nodded. “I’ll get with your LT and see if she has any ideas.”
“My LT might be first on that list,” Tallon was only halfway joking. He wasn’t ever the type to polish the brass’s over-inflated ego. Kim Nguyen and he got along most of the time, but when they didn’t…. His eyes got heavy and he tried to focus on the man’s questions.
“Doc says five minutes,” Deborah interrupted. “I think he’s only got about two, personally.”
“I’ll get back with you when you’re feeling better,” Green moved to the opposite side of the bed as Deborah and clasped Tallon’s upper arm. “You got goldfish or anything in your apartment you need us to look after?”
“Nah,” Tallon barely managed to answer before he drifted off.
~ * ~
He woke stifling another scream with a white-coated doctor and another nurse in teal at his side.
“You’re safe, Detective Tallon,” the white haired physician answered steadily. “There’s a patrolman guarding your door.”
He breathed and oriented himself to his surroundings. His heart hammered like he’d run hard, but there really wasn’t anything present to frighten him. While he was sleeping, he’d been moved to his very own private room. Nothing worse than a needle, a catheter, and morphine addiction loomed right then.
“What were you dreaming about?” the doc looked at the monitors above his bed with an expression of concern on his face.
Tallon shook his head and wished he hadn’t when the room spun eerily. Only thing he knew for sure was he thanked God to be awake.
“Can you tell us what happened to you?” the doc, a silver-haired man in that indeterminate period between fifties and retirement, asked as his warm practiced fingers touched Tallon’s wrist to check his pulse by hand. An aura surrounding him was a mix of blue with a lot of grays; trustworthy enough, but the man may well have made some very hard decisions in his tenure. He wondered at the addition of blue. He’d seen auras around people’s heads all his life in black and white, but in the hospital he was seeing colors, too. Maybe it was the drugs? He could read black and white pretty easily. Truth, most people had some grays in there, but there were pattern and predominance that aided him with his police work. He wasn’t sure what to do about the addition of colors to what he saw. Every one of his wives complained he needed someone to help with his wardrobe. He wasn’t colorblind, more like color indifferent.
Tallon’s temple throbbed from the light and the noise. He reached up a hand to rub the ache and found his fingertips startlingly cold.
“I—” he began. “This is the last place I remember.”
“Let me help you out here,” the doc released his wrist and pulled a chair to his bedside. Tallon gritted his teeth when the chair’s foot scraped.
“Records say you clocked out of the station at twenty-one hundred hours,” the doc pulled out a legal pad with notes on it. “You told co-workers you were going for a beer and a steak. Where were you likely to have gone?”
Tallon repressed a desire to ask the doc if he didn’t already have that information. The man wanted to help his recall. He’d done the same for suspects often—admittedly, most of them had the information he wanted; they just needed to have it coaxed out of them.
“I’d go to Pappas if I wanted to celebrate,” Tallon had to swallow hard when he thought of the taste of warm blood-red meat in his mouth. His belly growled audibly. His upper canine cut a hole in his gum and he tasted salt. He shot a glance at the IV, nearly empty. “Just a regular day, I’d grab a six pack and meat at the store and fry the steak up in the iron skillet. Doc, what are the chances I can get some real food? You’re looking tasty about now.”
The doctor chuckled. “Real food in a hospital? Detective Tallon, you must have been hit on the head pretty hard…”
“Yeah,” Tallon agreed, rubbing his throbbing temple with the hand not shackled by the IV. “It still feels like it.”
“You’ve been out of it for three days so your system is not ready for solid food no matter what your stomach is telling you,” the doctor said. “I’ll order something for you that’ll get you started. Now, let’s get back to it…”
“Beer,” the doctor said. “Got a favorite hangout, maybe someplace you’d stop for a couple before going home?”
Wouldn’t be the first cop brought in after a bender. Their profession’s as bad as mine. Tallon heard the man speaking, but his lips were not moving.
“Are you saying I drove drunk?” Tallon said.
“Didn’t say you did,” the doc’s tone was deliberately mild. “But we’re trying to establish a timeline here so we can figure out what happened to you.”
“What exactly did happen—from the clinical standpoint?” This was the first Tallon knew that he’d been out so long. So far, no one had told him anything but he recalled hearing the term “transient global amnesia,” which wasn’t either helpful or reassuring. He’d always thought that happened to folks in the movies. Nobody he’d ever known who’d gotten cracked on the head ever forgot who did them.
“Passersby found you alongside your car at the Brookside Medical Clinic and called nine-one-one,” the doc rattled off case statistics. “You came into the ER unconscious. We ran an MRI and a CT scan and it appears you experienced a blow to the head. Your wallet with ID and credit cards appears to be untouched. Your car keys were on you, so robbery was not a motive. You were down four pints of your blood volume which is a near fatal loss…. There doesn’t appear to be any history of anemia.”
“Don’t girls get that?” Tallon tried to joke.
“It’s not as common in men,” the doc said. “But, there are certain gastro-intestinal conditions, cancers that might cause it, but you were in severe hemorrhagic shock. We almost lost you—”
Tallon struggled to sit and the doc laid a hand on his arm. “We’ve run a battery of tests on you…you’re fine except for the shock and the low blood volume.”
Air whooshed out of his lungs. Nana, his father’s mother, died horribly from intestinal cancer. He’d rather eat a bullet than lie in a nursing home for years just waiting to go. Back then, medical professionals didn’t like to give morphine to the dying—for fear of addiction. He remembered fighting them to get the poor old woman the meds she needed, then at the last being told the morphine would slow her breathing. None of them seemed to understand that was precisely what she needed after nearly two years of pain.
“Have you been feeling tired or weak before this?”
“No,” Tallon said. “I donated at the police blood drive a couple of weeks ago. My hematocrit was within the normal range then. They took a pint—I watched them.”
The doc made a wry face.
Tallon laughed, “And that sounds more like a suspicious cop than I would care to admit…”
“I watch, too,” the doc said with a chuckle. “Never can tell when the vampires might get greedy.”
Vampires. Tallon forced out a laugh when he felt a shiver at the word. Yeah, that’s what the drive coordinators called themselves. Even had fancy buttons and fake Transylvanian accents. It was all in fun. He gave to the blood drive whenever he didn’t have a temporary case of lead poisoning, or some other job-related issue that precluded donation. God knows, he and his brother officers were beneficiaries more often than he cared to think about.
“There’s no sign of a stab wound,” the doc continued. “You had what looks like an infected mosquito bite on the inside of your elbow…but I got half a dozen of those just dead heading my rose bushes last night.”
“Did I have any blood alcohol level?” Tallon asked. He’d drive after a beer or two if he played darts and had some pub grub with it. Seen too many fatality crashes on the beat. Usually, the impaired driver survived, but the damage they’d done destroyed many lives.
“Nope,” the doc said. “Sober as a judge…”
“I hate to disabuse you of that one…”
“Sober,” the doc corrected. “As in no evidence of consumption of alcohol or drugs according to the tox screen. You were found on the sidewalk—looks like you might have crawled there from your clothing and scratches on exposed skin. Your car was left unlocked—you’ll have to check it when we release you to see if there is anything missing.”
“Shame the car’s not missing,” Tallon joked. “That Pony turned into a nag a few thousand miles ago. I wish I had the sixty-five Mustang my first wife got in the divorce.”
The doc clucked his tongue in sympathy.
“Your partner’s gone over the scene and can’t find a clue as to what happened to you.” The doc shook his head. “Looks like you stopped voluntarily, but we don’t know anything after that.”
“Moye’s a good man. If there’s anything to be found, he will find it.” Tallon reached for his temple again and mashed around near the bone with his index finger hoping to calm the ache down a bit.
“Anyplace in specific hurt now that you’re awake?” the doc said. “Aside from your head?”
Tallon took inventory. His head throbbed like it’d been struck by thunder, but when he felt around through the tangled dark brown curls, there weren’t any “eggs” or other particularly tender spots that would indicate a blow. A feeling of wrongness crept along his nerve endings. He couldn’t peg it to a location and that worried him. In his head, he sounded like his ninety-year-old grandfather had, groaning and moaning about some medical condition he cheerfully mispronounced.
“No,” Tallon answered. “Just feel all over like I’ve been dragged behind a garbage truck down a mile of bad county road.”
“Should help when you start moving around,” the doc said. “I’m going to have the nurses get you up and walking today. While we endeavor to shift your position as much as possible in the bed, there’s nothing like standing on your own two feet. Still, take it easy. We don’t know what happened to you—and you have been in bed for four days.”
Tallon nodded and wished he hadn’t. He felt his neck where the needle of pain stabbed. Nothing.
“If all goes well,” the doc said. “I think I can release you tomorrow morning. I’ll have Social Services come around, though, and find a home health nurse to visit you until we’re sure you’re back on your feet again.”
“You don’t need to,” Tallon said. “I’ll have my second wife come check—Erin’s an RN.”
“On good enough terms to do you this favor?”
“Yeah,” Tallon chuckled. “She’s not one of those I think would do me in.”
The doc shook his head. “It’s good to know your enemies.”
“Yeah, well there may be one I don’t know about and that worries me,” Tallon said.
“Working your job, I can imagine,” the doc agreed. “Rest, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”