She lay on the couch, taking deep breaths and settling her nausea. She opened her eyes, facing the white leather couch. She looked at the stitching of the couch, and tried to count them through the fog in her head, but she couldn’t focus.
She felt along the couch, pulling herself to a sitting position. The light from outside made her eyes squint, even though the sun was setting on the other side of the building. She sat there, staring at the floor, waiting for the nausea to pass and to get some semblance of strength back so she could walk.
Have to get a hold of Earl, she thought through the haze. She didn’t think she could drive right now. She didn’t know if she could even make it to a phone. If she got to a phone, she could call Earl’s neighbor and send him to the Pub. She’d done it before, when Earl forgot his phone or chose not to listen to it.
She didn’t know how long she sat there, staring at the floor, when she heard Earl’s voice. “Aly?”
“Here,” she called, her head pounding as she spoke.
Earl came around the corner with Jim and, of all people, Jakko. Earl went to her side and looked at her. “What happened?”
“They snuck up on me,” she said, very quietly.
“We’ve got to get you to a hospital.”
“I’ve been through--”
“Will you shut up!” Earl helped her to her feet. She wobbled, and Jim rushed to get the other side, but Jakko was there first. “Jim, shut everything up, grab the keys.”
Jim grabbed a set of keys on a ring and followed the three of them down the stairs to the back door, then out to Earl’s Jeep. Jakko put an arm around Alyson saying, “Didn’t expect to see you in this way, boss.”
“Can it, Jakko,” Alyson snapped.
Jakko laughed. Jim got in the passenger’s seat and Earl drove like a bat out of hell to the hospital.
The hospital clerk looked over the counter and called for triage. “We’ll get her seen right away, sir,” she said to Earl, as Earl dropped Alyson into a wheelchair.
Earl nodded, and pushed Alyson toward the waiting room. No sooner had he locked the wheels then they called her name. He wheeled her over to the triage area.
“I was attacked in my home,” she said.
Earl watched concerned. Who hit her? Did she see her assailant? Could Earl leave the room?
Earl left, went back out to the waiting room with Jakko and Jim.
The nurse asked Alyson, “Do you want a rape kit?”
“No,” she said. “It wasn’t like that. They wanted information and they wanted to stop me.” As she followed the nurse’s finger, squinting, she thought about the Men in Black and how much she was going to kill them the next time she saw them.
“Do you feel nauseous?”
“We’ll bring you in the back.”
“What about my brother?”
“We’ll get him as soon as you settle in.”
Alyson was wheeled to the other room, and almost fell getting into bed. She hated this feeling of helplessness, of depending on others. They connected an IV to her and the doctor came in. “What happened?”
“I was attacked in my apartment.”
“I didn’t see. He came up from behind me.”
“Uh huh. You called the police?”
“My brother found me and brought me here. I didn’t get a chance to.”
“Want to call the police?”
“I suspect I know who it is.”
“Some old ‘friends’ from the platoon.”
“Are you sure you don’t need a rape kit?”
She shook her head. “I know these guys. They’re not like that. They know I’d sue their asses faster than they could blink.”
“All right...we’re going to go through the usual, you know what day it is?”
“No. I’ve been on the road and just got home.”
“You know where you are?”
“You know your name?”
He went through a few more trivia questions which she would know, and nodded, satisfied. “Anyone waiting for you?”
“My brother, Earl, and my two friends.”
“Only one person’s allowed here at a time.”
In the meantime Jim was watching the entire exchange and relaying what was going on to Earl and Jakko. Jakko sat, amazed. “You can see what’s going on?”
Jim said, “They’re done talking. The doctor is talking to the nurse. Alyson’s not looking happy.”
“She’s never happy in a hospital,” said Earl. He turned to Jakko. “You want to go in first, pay your respects?”
He laughed. “No, I’d better not. She doesn’t like to look helpless in front of people. Why don’t I take Jim here back to my place? You can spy on my neighbors who I think have a meth lab in their van, and I don’t like that.”
Jim smiled. “I can do that.”
“I like this guy already.”
Said Earl, “Good, because you’re going to get him his gun permit.”
“Just takes trainin’, son.” He patted Jim on the arm. “C’mon, you can meet mama. She’ll feed you.”
“I just ate.”
“You eat her stuff or somebody in the family will kick your ass. Ain’t that right, chief?”
Jim said, “Nurse is coming.”
The three turned and looked at the door, which opened and a woman stepped out calling, “Packard family?”
All three men stood up. The nurse said, “Sorry, one person at a time.”
“Was just leaving,” said Jakko. “How is she?”
“Are you her family?”
Said Earl, “I’m her brother.”
Jakko punched Earl lightly on the shoulder. “Text me. C’mon, Jim.”
He looked back at Earl, a slightly pleading look on his face, but followed Jakko. Earl nodded, following the nurse into the other room while Jim walked into the glass door on his way out.
“Sorry,” said Jim, looking at Jakko. “Was watching Earl.”
“Don’t do that shit while driving.”
Earl, meanwhile, followed the nurse. “How is she?”
“She’s fine. She won’t take a rape kit.”
“She wasn’t raped.”
“You know this how?”
“We found her, we three.”
“How was she found?”
“On the couch, sitting up. She was dazed.”
“Do you have any idea who did this?”
“I’ve got some ideas.” He said quietly, “Look, the business we’re in, we make a lot of enemies. One of them probably snuck up on her when she least expected it.”
“What business are you in, Mr. Packard?”
“Security and other information gathering.”
“In a sense.”
The nurse glanced at a room in the ER. “Well, she’s over there. If you don’t think she needs a rape kit then I won’t worry about it.”
“She’d let you know if she did. She doesn’t hold back from that kind of stuff.”
The nurse parted the curtain, and Earl saw into the room. “Hey, Aly.”
“Hi,” she said. “How do I look?”
“Like someone hit you over the head.”
“Don’t mention it.” Earl pulled up a chair. “So who snuck up on you?”
Earl jerked straight up. “Those son of a bitching bastards.”
“What? What did they do?”
“We - shit, if I knew they did this to you, I would never have agreed to it.”
“We agreed to keep Jim for two years. After that, we’d give him up to them.”
“What did Jim say about it?”
Alyson cast her head back on the pillow. “After all that.”
“They’re still the government.”
“They’ll take him in and chew him up. He’ll be like them.”
“No, because we got him with us.”
“In two years, what can we do?”
“We’ll just have to teach him what we know in half the time it took us.”
Alyson lifted her head. “You were the one who told me not to take home strays.”
He blinked, “A stray?”
“A business, you said. You thought I was going to go out into the field and pick up strays, and how many did you get?”
“I didn’t get any strays!”
“Jakko. Mullet. Now Jim.”
“They weren’t strays. They work for us.”
“We got them from two different missions.”
“And aren’t they good workers?”
“That’s not the point!” Alyson winced, the pain in her head getting worse.
“Let’s talk about something else. About how I’m going to fuck over the MiB.”
Earl raised an eyebrow.
“We stay under the radar and he’ll be forgotten.”
Jim leaned against the door and watched Boston go by on the highway. He had lost Alyson and Earl about a half hour ago, knowing that they were just talking to each other. Jim assumed his mother was going to be like Lily.
“So where you from originally?”
“California,” said Jim. He sighed. He really should call his kids. “Do you have a phone?”
“Yeah, sure. Need to call someone?”
“My soon-to-be-ex-wife. I want to try and talk to my kids.”
“She was talking to me while another man was in the room.”
“You saw that?”
“Son of a bitch, that’s cool!”
He shook his head. “I had to concentrate for it. It didn’t just come to me.”
“Still, man. Do you know how important that shit is? Especially to the military?”
“You don’t know how I know.”
“What do you mean?”
Jim glanced through the rear window of the truck. “Oh no.”
“Men with guns.”
“Four cars back - now three.”
“What car?” Jakko looked in the rear view mirror and then to the traffic in front of him.
“Blue...light blue. Chevy.”
Jakko glanced in the rear view mirror. “Got it. Got your seat belt on?”
“I know, this is what they’re used for.”
Jakko grinned. “Well, we’re not going to the house, I’m going to take him for a ride. Roll up the windows and lock the doors.”
“Where are we going?”
“South Boston, visit some of my homies.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Jim whispered, locking the door.
Jakko went over into the left hand lane and blew through the traffic.