Chapter 2 – Hope
Like his beloved Cubbies, the only kind of luck Charley seemed to have was bad luck. Had it followed him all the way from California? He hoped that he’d left the past behind. He hoped that he could start a new life. He hoped…
Hope. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Such a simple concept. Why then did it seem so elusive?
The nurse tapped Charley on the shoulder, distracting him from his thoughts. “She’ll see you now.”
After all that had happened to him over the last couple of months, the last thing Charley needed was to get close to someone again. He didn’t even know if it was possible. But there was something about Lizzy. Something that had brought him to the hospital looking for her. Something that kept him from doing what his gut told him he should have. Which was to leave her be.
When he saw her he knew what that something was. She sat on top of the white linens, smiling. She didn’t look like someone who had spent the night in a hospital. Her makeup appeared fresh, her hair washed. Her clothes showed bloodstains but still managed to look good on her.
Lizzy’s heartbeat kicked up a notch. “Those are for me?” she asked, her face aglow. She’d hoped that he would come, and spent the last half hour making herself look presentable before giving the nurse the green light to let him in.
Charley nodded and handed her a bunch of flowers he picked up in the hospital’s gift shop.
She breathed them in. “They’re beautiful,” she said.
“You doing okay?”
She nodded. “Yeah, they just had me stay overnight to make sure my head is still screwed on right. I told them it’s always a little off.” She grinned. “It’s just a little concussion. They say I’ll be fine. I’m just waiting for the doc to come back and tell me I can go home.”
“I’m glad,” Charley said. “You had me worried.”
“I’m glad you came,” she smiled. “Would you — no, I couldn’t ask.”
“It’s just that…I don’t have a ride home. I was wondering…”
“I’d be happy — ”
The doctor’s knock on the door interrupted Charley’s words. “Excuse me, Miss Parker .”
“Am I free to go, doc?” She crossed her fingers.
“All the tests came back negative,” the doctor said, “So, yes, I’ll discharge you. Just take it easy, okay?”
“And if anything doesn’t feel quite right — ”
“I know the drill, doc,” she smiled. “You’ll be the first one I call.”
“Good, well then, take care of yourself. The nurse should be by in a minute to wheel you out of here.”
As soon as the doctor exited the room, Lizzy hopped off the bed. She poked her head outside to make sure that he wasn’t hanging around. When she saw that the coast was clear, she grabbed Charley’s hand. “Let’s go,” she urged.
Charley didn’t budge. “Aren’t you supposed to wait for the nurse?”
“That’s just a formality,” she said, tearing the band off her wrist. “Take me home.”
Lizzy’s history with men was grim. Like the Cubs and the World Series, the two rarely met and when they did it usually didn’t turn out well. The one time she was serious — really serious, to the point where she was silly, head-over-heels and all that crazy stuff — reality slapped her in the face. One night she was studying in her off-campus apartment and there was a knock on the door. It was the wife of her professor, the one that she was sleeping with all semester. The one that she thought was The One. After that she decided she wouldn’t let a man hurt her again. She wouldn’t let them get close. She kept a cold distance and never lost control of her emotions. Men, to her, became disposable. One night and done.
Then what was she doing? Why had she roped this one into taking her home? Why could she not stop thinking about him? Why did her heart beat a million miles a minute every time she glanced at him?
“Last night, the police, they talked to you?” she asked.
Charley’s eyes focused on the road. “They did.”
“They talked to me, too.”
Charley looked over.
“They came to the hospital late last night. They wanted to know if I was going to press charges.”
“What did you say?”
Lizzy looked out at the intersection ahead. “Charley, the light — ”
At the sound of the screeching tires, her hands flew up in front of her body and her head lurched as the seatbelt tightened on her. The car came to a stop ten feet beyond the white line.
“Oh, my god, are you okay?” Charley asked.
“I’m fine. Just a little shaken.”
“I’m sorry, what you said — about the police — it caught me by surprise.”
“The light’s green,” Lizzy said.
Once past the intersection, Lizzy said, “It’s nothing to fret over. Take a right here on Addison. My apartment’s just a couple blocks over, on Fremont.”
But Charley didn’t seem to want to let it go. “I don’t understand. Why would the police be talking about pressing charges against me?”
“They seemed to think you had something to do with it. It’s no big deal. I set them straight. I told them you didn’t.”
“But why would they ask you such a thing. It was an accident…”
“Calm down, Charley. Here’s Fremont. Turn left. There’s a spot right in front of that red brick three-flat. You can park there, that’s my apartment.”
Lizzy kept her eyes on Charley as he backed into a space that left little room for maneuvering. At least he passed the parallel parking test. Another check on the plus side. She thought he might just be a keeper. If only she hadn’t kicked up the dust from last night…
“I can see that this business about the cops has you bugged. All I can tell you is that they said they had received an anonymous report. Someone called — ”
“When was this?” Charley interrupted. “What did this caller tell them?”
“They said that you and I were arguing.”
“But that’s not true…”
“I know, Charley. I told them that. Don’t sweat it. It’s nothing.”
“It had to be that strange man at the bar. I knew there was something off about him.”
Lizzy tilted her head. “What man?”
“The customer, at the other end of the bar. The guy with the beard. He was talking to you, and it seemed like what he was telling you was making you upset. Who was he? Did he know you?”
“My memory is a little fuzzy about what happened,” Lizzy admitted. “The doctor said that could be expected with a concussion.”
“Wait a second — you don’t remember there being another customer at the bar?”
“I’m sorry, Charley. I wish I did…but I don’t.”
Randy Richardson is the author of CHEESELAND. An all-new edition of his Wrigleyville murder mystery, LOST IN THE IVY, will be released by Eckhartz Press on Opening Day.