Chapter Twenty – Bedside Manner

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Alice came to. She didn’t recognize where she was, she sat with a start and immediately regretted it. Her head hurt like the morning after a three day bender. Her ribs were bruised or cracked, and her arms were stiff and prickly with sleep. She let her head fall back down onto the cushion. Early dawn light was coming in through the window. She reached up to shield her eyes, but was stopped short by the handcuff chaining her wrist to the metal frame of the hospital bed. She tried to force herself up to sitting, causing pain to shoot through her ribs and neck. The world dimmed and lurched sideways, and she squeezed her eyes shut and leaned back into the pillow, hoping the feeling would pass.
“You’re awake.” The voice came from across the room, and Alice peaked out to see the massive outline of her brother, backlit by the morning sunlight coming in through the window. “I heard some woman got arrested for discharging a firearm in JP in the middle of the night. She had alcohol on her breath. She’d been roughed up, too. Choked. Needed medical attention. A woman matching her description had tuned up a couple of guys in a bar near there. Same bar I was in with my sister, not two hours earlier.”
Alice tried to shade her eyes with her other hand, but it was handcuffed to the bed too. “Travis, listen-” she tried to break in, but he kept talking.
“I would have thought maybe it was a coincidence. My sister…” He paused. “My sister. I didn’t want to think you were dangerous, Alice. I thought whatever was going on with you, you weren’t crazy. It wasn’t like you were going to start getting into bar fights and shooting up neighborhoods.”
Alice didn’t know what to say. She was lost in shame and guilt, coupled with all of the pain that came from having been cut and beaten, and finally choked unconscious. She couldn’t tell if the nausea she felt was from her injuries, or from knowing that whatever she said, Travis wasn’t going to believe her. She waited until he was quiet before she spoke, “I was attacked, Travis.”
He nodded soberly. “Sure.”
She spoke, angrily, the words burning in her raw throat. “How did I get in here, then? What’s your timeline? I got in a fight where I was choked out, then I walked my unconscious body over to some other neighborhood where I pulled out my gun and started shooting? That’s bullshit and you know it. There were people who saw what happened. They had to have seen it!” Alice felt her throat constricting and rasping, and she couldn’t help herself from coughing.
Travis didn’t let her finish coughing. “They don’t know what they saw.” He said, with a dismissing wave of his hand. “Some of them say they saw you alone out there stumbling around and firing your gun in the air. Some of them say they heard shots and looked outside, and all they saw was a blur of snow. That guy who you were going home with, Stipelman? He says you were attacked. And you know what he said when we asked where the attacker went? He says he disappeared. Mr. Stipelman tells the detective, and I quote,” Travis made quotes in the air with his fingers, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but,” he put his hands down and continued, “He says the guy was right there until the black and white rolled up, and then he just vanished.”
She was silent in shock for a moment. The people looking out the windows had to have seen him. There was no way that they couldn’t have. There hadn’t been anywhere near enough snow falling to block their view. It didn’t make sense, and she could feel her face reddening, and her heart begin to race. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. “He’s telling the truth. I was attacked.”
“No, Alice. No. I’m not going to listen to you spout this horse shit. The other forty people who saw you, none of them can say there was someone else out there. You want to know what I think happened? I think you got drunk and you beat the shit out of college kids for god knows what reason, and then you decided to hook up with the only other guy in the bar, who was just as drunk as you. And I think on the way to his place, you decided to pull out your gun and put some bullets into the snow. And he decides he’s going to lie to protect you because he’s just that kind of stand up guy.”
“There’s a problem with your theory, Travis. I wasn’t drunk. I didn’t even finish my second beer. I didn’t go anywhere else. Go ask around. Ask your friend Mike. I wasn’t drunk.”
Travis shook his head. “You think that’s better? I’d almost rather believe you were drunk.No alcohol, and maybe you’re just crazy. I hate to say it, Alice-”
She cut him off. “Then don’t, asshole. You think I’m crazy, fine. But you don’t think I’m that kind of crazy. I was attacked. I was defending myself. That’s… whatever, Travis. Don’t believe me.” Alice fell into silence and glowered at him.
Travis sighed. “Fine. Maybe you were followed by one of those college kids who you messed up, and he jumped you and ran off before anyone could see where he went, and then he made it back to the bar in time to file a report against you. Maybe I’m wrong. But, attacker or not, you were carrying an unlicensed firearm. You discharged the weapon. This is Massachusetts. We don’t fuck around with that shit here. Even if you can find this guy you say attacked you, and prove you were defending yourself, you’re in some serious shit just for having the gun.”

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