Marie, mother of the sergeant who had driven him crazy, only in L.A. he figured.
The name hit Chance again as he sat beside Fiona inside the cramped space of the helicopter. Chance didn't much care for them unless he piloted them. A psychologist he had once dated told him it was because he feared situations he could not control. At any rate, this flight his attention had been focused on Fiona who lay there on the stretcher while a medic worked on keeping her alive to make it to the hospital where a surgeon could remove her appendix which had likely ruptured at some point during the third day of her bar exam.
"BP, is 90/60 and remaining steady, pulse is 140," the medic read into a phone, "She's developing abdominal rigidity in the right lower quarter and her body temp is around 105.5."
Chance frowned when he heard the medic speaking knowing that the vital signs weren't good.
"Saline solution…D5W… with a strong antibiotic," the medic continued, "Will there be a surgeon when we arrive? Good…she doesn't have much longer…"
Fiona began to stir on the stretcher, moving her arm while the medic tried to attach an IV bottle.
"I can't find my way…" she said, her eyes still closed.
And she couldn't through the smoke of the building which left her nose and lungs feeling like they had been rubbed raw with broken shards of glass. She coughed but the pain still permeated through her and her eyes stung, feeling raw.
"Where am I," she said, not being able to feel more than a few feet in front of her, "Montana?"
"I'm right here," he said, "just in front of here but we've got to get out of here before it's too late."
The fire licked the sides of the walls in the hallway and the wallpaper released trails of smoke before igniting. The voices of the men had receded and no longer followed her down the endless hallway. She saw the open doorway ahead out into what looked like intense sunlight. She saw the outline of a figure and thought she knew its name.
"Daddy," she said, "I can't find my way out of here. Can you help me?"
He shook his head.
"You can't come this way," he said, "You've got to trust him."
Her brows furrowed as sooty ash began to drizzle down like dirty rain. She shook her head.
"No Daddy," she said, "I'm afraid to go that way. What if it leads me back to where I started?"
He still shook his head.
"I love you daughter," he said, "and that means saying goodbye."
She felt herself being pulled in his direction like a current had caught her up in its flow, but she felt someone pulling on her arm.
" Fiona you have to come with me," he said, "The way out is over here…"
But she pulled away even harder and broke free, determined to keep moving towards the lightened doorway and the man she had spent most of her life seeking.
Chance felt the helicopter land with a gentle thud on the roof of a large building and then activity exploded as more medics came and unloaded the stretcher with Fiona on it.
"How's the generator holding up," the medic asked a doctor.
"It's doing its job," the doctor said, "We've got an assembly line going through ER."
"This one can't wait," the medic said, "Probably ruptured appendix and early stages of peritonitis."
The doctor nodded and ordered the others to take her inside the building. Chance started to follow but the doctor stopped him.
"This is as far as you go," he said, "There's a waiting room off the surgical wing."
"Is she going to make it," he asked.
The surgeon paused.
"We're going to do everything we can to insure she has the best shot to come out of this," he said, "but it depends on how much the infection has advanced."
Chance nodded and watched the medical team until it disappeared behind the double doors.
Fiona watched Chance move away from her.
"Don't go," she said, "I just want to say goodbye to him."
Chance's face looked anxious but she saw patience there too.
"You don't have much time," he said, "but I won't leave without you."
And that shook her into action because she knew if he stayed, he might die with her, if the building collapsed under the weight of the fire. So she looked at the outline that was her father one last time and said that she loved him.
He told her the same thing and then told her to go.
"Come with me," Chance said, and she felt his hand slip in hers. It felt warm and comforting and she followed him down the hallway dodging panels of burning wood that fell around them.
She felt the rush of cool air reach her.
"We're almost there," she said, "I think it's just ahead."
Chance looked around.
"Have you seen Gracie," he said, "Is she safe or do we need to find her?"
The answer to that question arose from her heart, in the language of quiet certainty.
"If we get out of here, so shall she."
Chance sat in the waiting room, a cup of cooling coffee sitting next to him. The vending machines had been out but a nurse had brought him a cup from the break room. He had gone to the chapel to pray a bit and felt some comfort from being inside the sanctuary. After about an hour, he looked up and saw that Ben had joined him, sitting down in a nearby chair with a weary sigh.
"Ben's talking with the nurses to find out how much longer until we hear anything," Ben said, "How are you holding up?"
"As well as I can I guess," Chance said, "It's the not knowing anything that always makes waiting so hard."
"I heard that so much when I was serving in Korea," he said, "You see the soldiers on the front lines get really close to each other, like a family and often they'll wait for hours or days if they can to find out how their squad mates are doing."
Chance looked at his coffee cup.
"I never served in a war," he said, "I did see some action in the Far East but I stuck to military intelligence."
"I always considered that an oxymoron myself," he said, "No offense."
"I take it, you didn't support the war…"
"They never labeled it a war back then," Ben said, "It was always called a police action but it was war."
"How's your wife faring?"
"I called her on one of those cell phones," he said, "She was a bit worried when she didn't hear from us but she's back at the hotel hanging out by the swimming pool."
"Thanks for waiting with me," Chance said.
The other man looked at him, and Chance could tell he had spent a lot of his life waiting in one way or another.
"No problem," Ben said.
Fiona approached the door where the breeze had originated and tried to force it open.
"We'll need to get out the window," Chance said.
She nodded, trusting him and he led her to a window and together, they forced it open causing the darkening air to rush right inside. She felt the hint of rain.
"You go first," he said, and she did and then turned around to wait for him to join her. They ran across the grass, their hearts racing and their ears pounding as the building finally collapsed on itself behind them. She fell in the damp grass after her legs had gone limp and he joined her, cradling her against him and holding on tight.
"We're safe," he said to her over and over and closing her eyes to the sound of his voice, she believed him.
Chance looked up when he heard the tired surgeon who had lowered his facemask approach behind John and he rushed forward to meet him.
"How is she," he said in a hurry.
The surgeon gave him a tired smile.
"She survived the removal of her appendix but she's still got to fight off that infection," he said, "I think she's strong enough to make it but it will be touch and go for a while longer."
Relief filled Chance in a way that almost overwhelmed him.
"Can I see her?"
The surgeon considered that before he relented.
"Okay, but only for a minute."
Chance had walked in to where she lay in a hospital bed hooked up to various pieces of equipment all purposed to keep her alive until she rallied to recover on her own. She appeared more peaceful than she had earlier, her face less flushed. He sat down beside her and grabbed her hand, rubbing it between his own two hands. She didn't respond but he stayed there anyway telling her quietly how much she meant to him and how much she needed to fight to return to those people who loved her.
A couple of times he thought he felt her hand squeeze his own but thought he imagined it. Until he felt it for the third time and knew she was trying to return to him.
"You've got to make it Fiona," he said, "You see I've got this idea of maybe trying this securities thing more seriously and I'm going to need your help, you being a legal eagle and all…"
Her eyes twitched.
"And I'll need someone who's got a quick mind like you do and someone who I can depend on and who's better to do that than my best friend in the world?"
She didn't answer him, still lying there still so finally, when weariness hit him, he rested her head on the bed beside her body and closed his eyes trying to will his own strength into her form. He almost gave up for a while when suddenly he felt her hand weakly run her fingers through his hair.
"You're here," she said, without opening her eyes, "how did my test go?"
He sat up and stroked the hair off of her forehead. She finally opened her eyes and frowned at him as his face came into focus.
He touched his facial stubble where a beard threatened to grow.
"You don't like it?"
She appeared noncommittal.
"I'm just glad you're here," was all she said.
And Chance stayed with her as she recovered from the surgery and the peritonitis, and even when she began to grow restless and wanted to be released from the hospital so that she could return to work.
"The cases must be piling up," she said, "and you must be falling behind."
Chance sat on the edge of her bed in a room filled with flower bouquets and stuffed animals including that of a stuffed frog that she slept with at night after he'd given it to her here. He promised not to tell anyone about that.
"And I've got to start studying for the bar exam again if I didn't pass…"
"I'm sure you did," Chance said, "with flying colors."
She tried another line.
"I'm feeling so much better now," she said, "Surely the doctor…"
"Is not going to release you until the day after tomorrow Fiona," he finished sternly, "So why don't you just concentrate on getting plenty of rest okay?"
She sighed and settled in her bed, resigned to stay there at least until she could find another strategy which worked to get her sprung.
"Oh but I did bring you something," he said, mischievously.
That piqued her curiosity.
"What is it," she asked.
He pulled out a couple bags which emitted delicious aromas. Fiona thought she smelled some amazing pizza.
"I brought you some lunch," he said, "and cleared it with your doctor."
He handed her a pizza on a paper plate and she inhaled it before even taking a bite of what she knew already would be spectacular.
"Who's it from?"
"The woman who owns the restaurant where we were at," he said, "Marie, the one who helped us."
"That sounds nice."
"She helped save her life when she called her son on the radio he left her," Chance said.
Fiona furrowed her brow.
A sound interrupted them and they saw Burke enter the room tailed by his mother, who appeared to be lecturing him about not siring enough children or something like that.
"But Mom, my wife would kill me if I suggested such a thing," he said, "After four sons, she put her foot down."
"Oh yeah that's what you say," Marie said, "but she tells me she always wanted a daughter."
Burke's eyes widened.
"She never told me that…"
Marie shook his head.
"Look how rude you're being talking in front of this nice married couple…"
Burke tried to suppress a laugh.
"Mama, they're not married," he said, "She's a lawyer who works for him and he's a businessman CEO who mucks up all my crime scenes."
Marie looked at them a bit shocked.
Fiona looked totally confused.
"What Montana," he said, "You told her we were married?"
Chance hedged, feeling trapped in a room where the estrogen contingent had begun to take control.
"Well actually Fiona …"
But her laughter interrupted him and he stopped talking as she asked the Burkes, mother and son, to join them for lunch. Chance started to protest and Burke rolled his eyes but both women kept their men in line.
Chance tried not to grumble while eating his pizza and his efforts made Fiona chuckle even though it still hurt a bit for her to laugh.
"Oh lighten up Montana," she said, "Who knows, this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…"