Pain. Through the fog, it was the one constant. Her throat hurt. Breathing hurt. Her legs hurt. She tried to move them, to rid them of the pins and needles that plagued her muscles.
She couldn’t. Movement was beyond her.
She could only sleep…
* * *
Arthur stepped out of the lift and walked down the half-remembered corridors of the hospital. He paused in front of the door before knocking with a quick, official tap.
There was a muffled sound of metal chair legs being pushed back on the spotless white tiles, then quiet footfalls. It swung open, revealing the girl’s father. He’d clearly come from work, sporting a dark five o’clock shadow and an un-tucked khaki dress shirt with a tie inches too loose.
It was quite a contrast to the impeccably neat uniform he’d worn before. The stress of having a daughter in hospital had eroded his standards a little. It took a lot to make Arthur feel like he was the neat one.
“Mr Spencer, I’m the police officer attached to the case involving your daughter.” Arthur said, brandishing his limp, dog eared badge.
The door remained half open, “I know that. I recognise you.”
These people were all so hostile. “Can I ask you a few questions?”
The man grudgingly allowed the door to open wide enough for him to slip into the room, stepping aside enough that Arthur had to brush uncomfortably close as he entered.
“I thought you caught the guys,” he said once Arthur was in the room. “Except that girl.”
“Yes, this is about a related matter.”
“I don’t know anything,” he answered to an unasked question.
“About what?” Arthur asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Come-on. You know full well what I’m talking about. Do you think I’m blind? Don’t you remember when you and your cronies handcuffed her in this room?”
“Ah…” Arthur pulled at a loose thread in his jacket. It didn’t seem polite to take a seat, specially not with Mr Spenser still standing by the door.
“They wouldn’t tell me why they wanted to know so much about her, and it took some convincing for them to believe that I didn’t know what they were wanting,” he said.
“Nothing at all? Your daughter never mentioned anything about her?” Arthur’s shoulder sagged. Was he ever going to get to the bottom of this?
“Oh, she talked about her all the time. They were good friends. Wouldn’t shut up about that idiot girl.” The man finally sat down heavily on the chair with a huff of breath and a pawing grasp at a cold looking mug of brown liquid.
“But she didn’t say anything-”
“I’m her father,” he interrupted, “if anything serious was going on I can guarantee I would be the last person she’d come to. That’s not what teenagers do.”
“I see.” Arthur took the opportunity to perch on the edge of one of the other chairs scattered forlornly around the tiny room.
“Why are you so interested in her? And how the hell did she get away from you?”
“How did you know she got away?” Arthur replied. His instincts to pick apart what people tell him were difficult to turn off, even when he wanted to set someone at ease. It was innate, ground into him as soon as he started his career as a detective.
“She was scared. I wouldn’t put anything past her. Also, I don’t think you’d be asking me so many questions if you still had her. And those other fellows wouldn’t have been so persistent about where my daughter might stay, or if she’d mentioned anywhere they’d been together.” The father took a sip of his drink, gave it a frown and put it back down.
“They aren’t subtle,” Arthur said.
“No, considering their line of work. You’d think they would be better trained for that kind of thing. Subtlety.”
“Line of work?” Arthur asked, with mock innocence.
“I know them. They do some work with the military. I know you aren’t one, unless their training has improved a lot since they last came to have a ‘chat’”. He swung the chair around to face the bed, and his unconscious daughter. “You never answered. Why are you interested?”
“She… I… I don’t know.” Why was this concerning him so much? He was still officially suspended for God’s sake. “Guilt, because I noticed the fear too. Curiosity, because it’s quite a feat for a handcuffed fourteen year old girl to escape custody of five fit and healthy trained professionals. Mainly because it’s a mystery, and I want to solve it.”
“Not because you want to help her?” He asked, stern.
“I… yes. That as well. I spoke to her, she genuinely didn’t know why they wanted her.” He paused, thought for a moment, then added, “I believe.”
It’s always possible she did know of course. Some people were very good liars. Arthur waited for a response, wondering what the Captain was thinking.
“Well, I’m sure you aren’t one of those goons. But what do you want with me?”
Arthur sighed, he really didn’t know. “I’m just scraping the bottom of the barrel for leads with this to be honest. Since your daughter knew Alexis the best out of anyone I hoped she would have told you something.”
“You’re out of luck. Sorry.” The Captain shook his head. “I’m beginning to think Kim was right, if for the wrong reasons. However much I’d like to help that girl, because of her relationship with my daughter or otherwise, I can’t help but think I’m doing the wrong thing for Beth.”
“I understand, Sir.” Arthur stood. He’d pushed enough and it genuinely sounded like they had no information that was going to aid. He made towards the door, then paused. Something had been nagging him since he’d spoken with the teacher. “There was one other reason I came. You mentioned you knew these kinds of people. I thought you should…”
He looked up from his child. “Yes?”
“They’re willing to do a lot to get what they want. It’s not unheard of for them to use… others. People sometimes find their families targeted. They tried with the girl’s mother, and that didn’t get them much. Be careful.”
Mr Spenser responded with an icy stare at the warning, but a genuine, “Thank you.”
* * *
Beth’s father watched him leave, then took his pistol from his belt and gave it a quick check, before racking the slide to pull a round into the chamber. He was going to have to take more precautions. He’d consult the doctor in the morning, see how safe it was to Beth to a different location. He’d have more control at home.
He would have to call work. The half-shifts he was pulling at the moment were going to end, at least for the foreseeable future.