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Extraordinary Measures MAG
I didn't snap. It was much more gradual than that. It was like slipping off a cliff, fingers scraping the edge, until in one moment that seemed like an echo of something that never existed I was falling. When I went to bed last night, I was still hanging on; when I woke up, I was crashing. I don't know what came undone while I slept. It had been three weeks, two days, and thirteen hours, I'd guess, since I went over the edge – nothing special. But that was the day I knew I'd never see the top of the cliff again.
That morning I felt the same, that sort of feeling that I was a rusty machine and when I walked I could feel every screw and joint twisting, grating because the whole thing was wound up too tight. I was used to it. I wasn't even surprised when I could walk through the ghost.
Her name was Dr. Aimee Joyce, and I have seen her every day for three months.
Three weeks and two days ago, my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., and I woke to a glimmer of light burning along the edges of the room. I blinked, trying to bring it into focus, and I felt the bed shift.
“Good morning.” A hand rolled me over, and Aimee kissed me on the cheek.
I moaned something unintelligible. She chuckled, patted my shoulder, and stood, the springs squeaking. I heard
her footsteps and squeezed my eyes shut, but the burning yellow light still seeped in.
“Is there any chance we could come up with a gentler wakeup call?” I rolled out of bed, rubbing my eyes.
“The alarm and a kiss have yet to be effective, so this is the only option left.”
Lights turned on in the bathroom, and I fumbled through my drawers, squinting. A whisper of water signaled the shower.
“You'd be late if I didn't get you up.”
“That's true. But it's … disorienting.”
“That's all right,” she called. “You're cute when you're blinking and confused.”
I rolled my eyes. I shuffled to the kitchen, and started the coffee. I got some yogurt, and poured granola in it. Then I looked at my reflection in the fridge and fixed my hair a bit.
I never was much for putting an effort into anything I don't care about, like hair. Aimee tells me I'm a bit of a cowboy: I follow my own rules. Aimee, on the other hand, sticks to the rules. Everything is as orderly at home as it is at the hospital. She has the light touch of a surgeon and a voice full of light to match. She makes mornings bearable.
I heard the whoosh of the blowdryer. I poured the coffee into two cups with two creams in hers and one sugar in mine. Aimee walked out with her blonde hair twisted into a damp bun. I handed her the coffee and the parfait.
“Thanks,” she murmured, taking a swig. “What are you going to eat?”
I shrugged. “I'll get a breakfast burrito on the way to work.”
“You know that as a doctor I'm obliged to tell you that isn't healthy?”
I grinned, taking a sip. “I know.”
She shook her head, a small smile creeping across her face. “I can't always take care of you. You need to learn to live on your own.”
As she was eating, I brushed my teeth, then took my gun from the lockbox.
“You ready to go?” I was turning the front door knob when her fingers curled over my shoulder.
“Be careful, Dave.”
“I love you.”
“Love you too.” And I kissed her. That was the last time we spoke.
Every morning since, I saw her as I used to: smiling and talking and kissing me good morning and good-bye, and when I walked out the door I realized I saw her in the dark, but there was nothing except cold, hollow space. I was alone.
I never hear her because the last time I saw her – really saw her, not just something my mind conjured up – there was a glass wall between us, and I guess my mind has always kept it there.
Three weeks and two days ago, my partner, Ramsey, and I were filling out paperwork for a case we'd just wrapped up with the news in the background when something caught my ear: Crown Hill Hospital, where Aimee worked. I dropped my pen.
“Ramsey, turn up the volume.”
He raised an eyebrow and obliged.
“… on the fourth floor. Police estimate there are sixty hostages.”
Aimee's floor. I jumped up, and Ramsey jumped after me.
“Dave, wait.” He grabbed my arm. I wrenched away. My vision tunneled as I stormed across the room. “We have to let local law enforcement handle this.” “You know they get pissed when feds–”
“I DON'T GIVE A S**T!” I whipped around, knuckles white, air buzzing.
Ramsey looked at me calmly and held out his hand. “I'll drive.”
It took ten minutes. The whole ride, it felt like my bones were turning to lead. We stopped in a parking lot full of cop cars and sirens. Red and blue lights flashed on dull concrete. The glass walls of the hospital rose tall and turquoise. When I looked at the building, every room was empty except one on the fourth floor packed with cowering people and three masked men with weapons.
“We should …” Ramsey began. I turned my head sharply and turned off his voice.
I ran toward the chief of police. He turned, bushy eyebrows furrowed.
“Is there a Dr. Aimee Joyce in there?”
“Who are you?” His voice was rough.
“FBI Agent David Bretton. Is there a Dr. Aimee Joyce in there?”
“And who are you?”
“His partner. Can you tell us anything about the people up there?”
“This isn't your case.”
I lunged. Ramsey caught me. “Tell me if she's there!”
He scrutinized me with narrowed eyes. He sighed. “She's there.”
Static. There was that weird buzzing all over like we were on TV and the satellite signal had been lost. I looked up and tried to make words but they wouldn't come.
“Dave?” Ramsey said. My eyes pixilated into black and white: static.
I looked back at the chief. “Are you getting them out?” My voice sounded like muffled thunder.
“We're trying to negotiate.”
“Chief, they're saying they're going to prove they're serious.” An officer appeared next to us. “We need you over here now.”
He walked away. I looked up. The hostages were crouched, barely distinguishable as they melded into a mass of fear and flesh. The men, all in black, stalked through them. I couldn't find her.
“Dave, can you hear me?”
I can't find her. I have to find her. Everyone has their faces buried in their knees. I can't find her. Where is she? The green-blue tinted glass distorts everything. I can't
“We need to go.”
find her. I just have to
“You shouldn't be”
find her and
“here. You can't help. We need”
get her out. If I could see her maybe I could help her, tell her
“to go. Let's get in the car. Come
how to escape. She isn't there, she isn't there, I can't
“get in the car. Dave, can you”
find her, I need to find her, I need her
“hear me? are you listening? Dave, look”
with me. I need to hold her
“at me. Look away from”
hand and tell her everything is going to be okay because
“the building. Look at me. You've got to look away.”
right now it is going to hell and I just need to find her. But I can't.
One of the men bent over, and every sound died. He slung the automatic behind him, yanked someone up by the hair: strawberry blonde. Aimee. Her hands were clawing at his on her neck as he pushed her toward the glass. She was fighting, but he was winning. Slowly, steadily, he pushed her to the glass walls that twisted the light around them. She kicked and scratched, but he never flinched. He threw her at the glass, and she bounced into it, elbows smashing against it, and I could see her face.
She was crying. Her face was distorted. She turned and ran and he pulled a handgun and shot her through the head. Scarlet slung across the glass shattered like a spider web, and I saw her body slam to the ground between the cracks.
I don't remember anything after that.
Later, they told me there was nothing I could have done. That it was random. That the men wanted to prove they would kill. That Aimee was the only one they killed. That I couldn't have her body because it was part of an ongoing investigation. That they couldn't tell me what the men wanted because it was part of an ongoing investigation. Because after they killed Aimee they got away.
I didn't snap. I walked through the ghost and realized that I would never be able to find her behind that glass, that it was always going to be cold and hollow. So I grabbed my bag, grabbed my gun, grabbed my keys, and I got on the highway, driving west until the dawn seemed to retreat before lost nights rumbling toward me. I went to find the men who killed Aimee.