Emma had always been taught to do as she was told. Mr Spenser was an adult. He knew more than her. He clearly knew more about what was going on around here. He was in charge.
So she did what he wanted, and he wanted her to get his daughter away. That didn’t conflict with any of her own feelings about the situation. Emma had to drag Beth away from her father. She didn’t want to leave him, but she was too weak to walk, let alone put up much of a fight.
Emma grabbed the bag from by the door as she passed, hardy noticing how violently her hands shook. She only noticed because of the inconvenience grabbing the handle. But she managed, throwing the pack over her shoulder as she put one arm under Beth’s and pull her from the room.
The corridor was empty, disturbingly empty. Beth was silent at least. Her feet dragged as she tried to support her own weight. It was a slow, arduous shuffle, and didn’t get them far before two burly security guards emerged from the corner and sprinted down the corridor towards them.
“That way!” Emma said, pointing the way they’d came, only thinking afterwards that they might hurt Beth’s dad.
But he needed help. A doctor. There was no way any of the medical staff would be allowed near the scene until the security let them. That wouldn’t happen until they got there. They’d left Beth’s father slumped in a twisted heap… there was no way they’d see him as a threat surely?
It was the fastest way he’d get help. If he wasn’t already… well…
Emma just hoped that those two would forget that they passed someone on the corridor…
Beth’s weight pulled her down, her bare feet catching on the smooth polished floor. “I can’t.” She was gasping for air after barely a few hundred meters, and the noise of more footsteps echoed in the halls. More people.
“In here.” A door, set into the wall. Emma had no idea what was behind it, but she didn’t need to know. A store cupboard, a restroom. Anything. She hit the door with her shoulder as she jerked the handle down, cursing the noise that could have been avoided.
Another patients room. Well, that was better than nothing. It was dim, blinds closed and contained a single empty bed. An exact mirror of the one they’d left on the other side of the hall, bar the blood and slumped figures.
Beth collapsed, panting, onto the bed, left to fend for herself as Emma pushed her back against the door as people passed on the other side. Her shaking didn’t stop, it spread to her whole body. She had to grit her teeth to stop them chattering.
It was starting to sink in.
That was shooting. Actual guns firing actual bullets. That had been real, she hadn’t just been having an elaborately vivid dream. She wasn’t going to wake up. One minutes she’d been talking to Mr Spencer and had just closed her eyes for a moment and the next thing that she knew the world had exploded into a scene out of a thriller. And none of it made any sense at all.
She was half expecting someone to come and tell her it was all a big hoax. One of those prank TV shows. An elaborate prank.
But… Those people were sure acting well. She’d brushed against one on the way out. It’s lolling head stared with blank eyes. Could you fake that blood? No, it must be real. That meant they were in actual danger.
Maybe Mr Spenser had done something wrong, hurt someone, and they were trying to arrest him?
She had visions of him tracking down those that hurt his daughter… But the way he spoke to Beth, it was like he thought they were after her. He was, after all, trying to get her away. Home. If he really wanted to protect her then he’d have just left wouldn’t he? Ran? No, the police wouldn’t target his family. Maybe he’d angered the mafia…
Whatever the situation it was way over Emma’s head. But was she supposed to do now? Beth wasn’t well, not well at all. She couldn’t even walk. What was it he had said? Don’t trust anyone. Could she ring her dad? Dad might know what to do. Oh god, she was stuck here in a room next to a scene of a shootout in a hospital with-
“Emma.” Beth’s dry voice cut through her thoughts like a knife. She focused on her friend. “Emma, I think you should breathe now. I don’t want you fainting on me.”
She wasn’t crying anymore. Why wasn’t she crying anymore?
“We just need to think about the situation…” Beth closed her eyes. Dry, sunken, eyes. “Who are they?”
“I don’t know, Beth, I don’t know who they are. None of it makes sense. They had guns. Guns, Beth. And they came in and I’d never seen them before in my life and then your dad stood up and told them not to move and then… shooting! At your dad-“
“Emma.“ Beth said, through gritted teeth.
“Oh no, I didn’t… Oh Beth, I’m so sorry.” Tears were flowing down Emma’s cheeks.
“Slowly,” Beth said. “Did dad say anything before about them? Anything?”
“No. He did start packing a bag. Said he wanted to take you home as soon as possible.”
“He must have known something then.” Beth, leaned forwards and rubbed her temples, “Fuck my head hurts.”
“Maybe I should get a doctor.” She wasn’t well. She shouldn’t be moving about. She should be in bed, asleep.
“No. Too dangerous. God, what would Alex do in this situation?” Her head snapped up. “Alex, is she okay? What happened to her? Where is she?”
“Beth… I don’t know! I don’t know what’s going on.” Her nose was running. Okay, not her nose – her whole face. She thought this day was bad before, when Haley turned out to be an awful person but this? This was just… it was…
“Have you seen her? How long was I…” She doesn’t know anything. How long was it?
“I’m not sure, two weeks? More?” Emma thought back, trying to work it out but Beth interrupted before she could count the days.
“And Alex? What happened, Emma, for fucks sake!”
“I don’t know! I thought you got hurt in a car crash, Alex never told me it was just what everyone at school said.” She thought back to the series of events that occurred after Beth had stopped coming to school. “Alex was different. Afterwards,” Emma said, “Quieter. Haley, she kept pushing. Alex just snapped. She went crazy and-”
“It was bound to happen sometime.” Beth closed her eyes again, breathing slowly and deeply. “Then?”
“She didn’t just go mad though she really hurt them, Felicity still isn’t back in school.”
“No one died?”
“Well, no.” Beth’s lack of concern was alarming.
“They got off lucky,” Beth said, “Alex is… complicated.”
Complicated must cover a lot. “She stopped coming to school then. I couldn’t find out why. Then the she was on the news. The police want to talk to her.”
“I have to find her.” Beth said. “I’ve got a good idea where she’ll be.”
Beth pushed herself off the edge of the bed, but her legs failed her. She fell to her knees.
“Beth!” Emma fell to her side, “You can’t just go… running around. You need to rest.”
“I need to get out of here Emma,” Beth said, “before whoever they are work out I should still be in that room.”
“You can’t even walk!”
“That’s why you’re going to help me.”