Elpida - Chapter Two

Hippokration Hospital, Friday
Sotíras strode down the long corridor to the private security wing of the hospital. He reached the double doors and peered through the small glass window. All looked quiet within. He reached to the wall and pressed a hand to the stainless steel plate, and a discordant buzz sounded. Within seconds the pneumatic locks rotated with a rude click. The quiet of the hospital only served to enhance the echo and made it sound louder and more annoying than it already was. He pulled the door open and entered the deathly quiet area. Though Thimi was the only patient currently in the private wing, it was almost too quiet.
He walked down the hall, rounded the corner to the nurses’ station, and was surprised to find it empty. Who let me in? He turned and looked down the opposing hallway toward Thimi’s room, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. The guards weren’t at the door. He moved his hand to his belt, unsnapped the holster, and wrapped his hand around the pistol grip. His senses on high alert, he made his way down the hall to the door, his footsteps stealthy in the quiet of the wing.
When he reached the door, he listened intently. Nothing. With his gun at the ready, he tried to push the door open. It wouldn’t budge. He pushed harder, to no avail. He took two steps back and kicked the door in. Splinters flew as the doorjamb shattered, and he shoved the chair that had blocked the door away as he swept the room with the gun.
The room was empty.
What the devil is going on?
He withdrew his cell phone and dialed the station.
“General, thank God you called! The hospital has been trying to reach you!” Colonel Apostolos, his second in command, shouted. “They’re on the roof! Thimi saw the news about Christy and is threatening to jump!”
Sotíras turned and ran for the stairwell. “Why didn’t someone tell him Christy is all right?”
“Dr. Jordanou did, but he doesn’t believe it. HRT is on the way. ETA three minutes.”
“The rescue team better get there before I do, or losing jobs will be the least of their problems!”
Sotíras was a big man and took the stairs two at a time, using the railing to catapult himself around each turn. At the fifth-floor roof door, he made to barrel through it but decided against it. He didn’t want to startle anyone, most particularly Thimi. He opened the door slowly and was nearly blinded by the late evening sunset. A fiery splash across the horizon, it shone with crimson, a neon bloodred, threaded with streaks of red-orange and yellow—as if a giant, ethereal hand had crushed and smeared the sun across the sky. He cursed the few seconds it took his eyes to adjust and looked around. There was Thimi. Standing on the damn parapet!
Dr. Jordanou spoke softly at Thimi’s back while the hospital staff waited in abeyance, terror evident on their faces. Sotíras approached slowly, and the sound of Thimi’s near-silent weeping drifted to him on the evening breeze. Sotíras quickly withdrew his notepad from his breast pocket, scribbled a note on it, and held it so Dr. Jordanou could read it.
Dr. Jordanou nodded and gestured for Sotíras to stand to the right of Thimi. Dr. Jordanou crept forward to Thimi’s left. “Thimi? General Sotíras is here. He says you can speak with Christy.”
Thimi turned fast, tottered, his arms spinning like the blades of a windmill, and he began to fall.
They lunged. It was all Dr. Jordanou could do to catch Thimi’s hospital gown with a hand. Sotíras caught his wrist with one hand, the gown with the other. Thimi cried out as he hit the side of the building with a dull thud and hung there, suspended six stories above the ground. Dr. Jordanou stretched over the side of the parapet and grabbed the other arm as he gripped the gown with all his might. They heaved and had Thimi back over the parapet in seconds, landing hard with Thimi on top of them. As the hospital staff advanced to help them, Thimi scrambled away on his hands and knees.
“Don’t!” Dr. Jordanou ordered as he got to his feet.
The staff froze.
Taking in Thimi’s heaving chest and hands that trembled almost violently, Sotíras’s heart ached. Christy had been no different when he’d first spoken with him—terrified of the world, distrusting of everyone, simply waiting for the next form of torture, the next humiliation, and the pain to come.
Sotíras slowly got to his feet. “Thimi,” he said softly. “Christy is alive.”
Thimi’s chest heaved as he spat venomous words. “Y-you lie!”
Sotíras knew there was no use in arguing with him. He held his hands at his sides, his palms open. “I’m going to get the phone out of my coat and call Christy.”
He slowly reached into his breast pocket, and Thimi bolted. Sotíras motioned to Dr. Jordanou to head around the other side of the roof exit as he raced after Thimi. He rounded the small roof building as Dr. Jordanou came around the other side of it, but Thimi was gone. It was as if he’d vanished into thin air.
Sotíras looked around, and then he saw it. He glanced at Dr. Jordanou and gestured toward the storage shed. They approached, and Sotíras motioned for Dr. Jordanou to wait as he dialed Christy. There was no answer. There wouldn’t be. Christy was in the hospital. He rubbed his forehead in frustration before dialing Nero Santini. No answer. No surprise. He was in court. He dialed Rob Villarreal, Christy’s psychiatrist. Thank God, he picked up on the first ring.
“Nicos Sotíras,” he said without preamble. “I have a problem.” He quickly explained the situation, and Rob was quick with a solution.
“Michael has his phone with him, but let me also give you the number to the nurses’ station.” He rattled it off.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, UPSTATE NEW YORK
Michael frowned when he heard the distant ring of his cell phone. Christy looked at him, a question in his eyes. Michael shrugged, set his fork on his breakfast plate, and crawled out of bed. He looked around the room, having no idea where he’d left his phone. He hobbled to the bathroom and was pleased his knee didn’t hurt like hell. Climbing Ferris wheels with a dislocated kneecap was definitely not smart.
He cursed Yosef yet again. When Yosef kidnapped Christy, his goons had taken out Michael’s knee, given Jake a concussion, and permanently disfigured Sophia. Yosef then proceeded to chase Christy down with a car, fracturing his fibulas and ribs, before beating him severely. In a supreme act of unmitigated cruelty, Yosef had cut through the scar that bisected Christy’s neck, a souvenir from the previous abuse he’d endured. Anger suddenly surged through Michael. Whenever he thought of Yosef, he felt a white-hot fury he’d never dreamed possible, and what he’d learned during the trial had only made his rage harder to suppress.
The trill of the phone emanated from the filthy clothes he’d left piled on the bathroom floor. He bent and retrieved the pants, searched the pockets, and only succeeded in getting grease on his newly bandaged hands. The phone snagged on the stitching as he tried to withdraw it. Irritated, he shook the pants insistently until the phone came free.
“Michael, General Sotíras.”
Michael shouldn’t have been surprised, but he was. “Hello, sir.”
“How is Christy?”
Michael didn’t know what to say. A mess? Hating himself? Holding together by a thread? Sort of okay because Thimi was coming to the US? “Not great, but okay. He’s safe. That’s what matters.”
“True. Thank you for all you did last night.”
Michael tucked his chin in disbelief. What was he supposed to have done? Let Christy jump? “Thanks. I’m just glad he’s okay. Do you want to speak with him?”
“I do, if you think he is up to speaking with me.”
That didn’t sound good. Michael scratched his head as a sense of foreboding came over him. “Is Thimi okay?”
“That is why I am calling. He saw the news and doesn’t believe Christy is alive. I would like him to speak with—”
“Oh my God. Hang on. Let me get him.” Michael exited the bathroom and half hopped, half strode back to Christy as he held the phone out. “It’s General Sotíras. Thimi doesn’t believe you’re okay. Can you talk to him?”
Christy looked at Michael in horror and spouted words in Greek that didn’t sound kind. He took the phone and spoke rapidly. “Na! Na!
Michael knew “na” meant “yes” in Greek, but that was all he understood. He climbed onto the bed, straightened his bad leg out, and rubbed his knee as he listened to Christy speak. Then Christy’s tone changed to one of melancholy, and Michael knew Thimi had come on the line.
Thimi had been through the same hell Christy had endured and, unbeknownst to everyone, had hidden in the heating ducts of Christy’s father’s empty house for a year to escape it. They had no idea how he’d survived, and it had been a tense couple of hours while they waited to see if Thimi would come out of hiding and go with General Sotíras. In the end it was only his trust in Christy that brought him out. Michael could only imagine how awful Christy felt now for scaring Thimi on top of everything else.
Christy suddenly burst into tears, his voice became hoarse, and he seemed to be pleading with Thimi. Now Michael felt awful. He put an arm around him, and Christy leaned against him, seeming to become smaller by the moment.
When Christy’s cardiac monitor began to beep erratically, Carol entered the room and glanced at Michael before checking the machine. “Who is he speaking to?”
“General Sotíras and Thimi.”
“Christy, you need to calm down,” she said.
Damage to Christy’s throat often caused asthma-type reactions if he overexerted himself, and Michael prayed this was not turning into one of those times. “Babe?”
Christy ignored them, the machine began to alarm, and he glared at it. “Make it quiet!”
Carol quickly silenced the alarm, and Christy began to turn an ugly ashen gray.
“Christy? Babe? You need to calm down. Take deep breaths,” Michael encouraged.
Christy seemed to try but only halfheartedly. The machine sounded again, and Carol silenced it again. “Take the phone from him,” she instructed.
Oh, man. This is so not happening! “Christy!” Michael’s raised voice got his attention. “I have to take the phone if you don’t calm down and breathe.”
Christy took a deep shuddering breath, and passed out in Michael’s arms.
Panic zinged Michael’s spine. “Oh my God.”
Carol quickly pushed the bedside table away and pressed the nurse call button. “Lay him down,” she instructed as she reached for an oxygen mask and placed it over Christy’s mouth. “I need you to get off the bed,” she said as she handed the phone to Michael.
Michael quickly complied. “What’s happening?”
Another nursed entered the room, pulled back the bedcovers, and straightened Christy’s legs. Carol put her fingertips to his wrist and watched the machine for a moment.
“Is he okay?” Michael all but demanded.
Carol turned to the other nurse and nodded. The other nurse quickly lifted Christy’s knees and propped his legs up.
Michael’s nervousness continued to mount as he watched Carol’s systematic movements. She watched the machine for another moment as she placed the earpieces of a stethoscope in her ears, then pulled the neck of Christy’s gown down. She quickly put the bell to his chest and listened. The other nurse checked the clothespin-looking thing on Christy’s finger.
Michael knew the thing measured oxygen in the bloodstream, and he watched the red glow of Christy’s fingertip. He couldn’t help it. He had to ask again. “Is he okay?”
“Give him a few moments,” Carol said softly.
When Christy’s eyes fluttered open, Michael’s nervous system ratcheted down so fast he felt faint.
Carol looked down at Christy and smiled. “There you are. How are you feeling?”
Christy squeezed his eyes shut, coughed, and pushed the oxygen mask away. “Thimi.”
Oh crap. Michael put the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
The call was gone.

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