My head pounds, and I struggle to open my eyelids. I eventually do, resulting in a sharp sting across my forehead, making me wince. My tongue sticks against the top of my mouth. How long have I been out? Hours? Days?
I manage to pry my eyes open, my gaze flitting to the ceiling and the soft white glow from the fancy chandelier. I attempt to lift my head, but set it back down, the pain from that small movement is enough to have me gritting my teeth. I turn my head to the left, the cords in my neck straining, causing me more discomfort. Where the hell am I?
Turning to my side is an effort, but I manage it. Gripping onto the side table, I pull myself upright, perching against the wall completely out of breath. I survey the room, a hotel room. And then it hits me. “Eliana!” I yell, only to be met with silence.
I had one job, to protect her, and from the looks of the state of the room, I’ve failed. I reach behind my head to the spot that aches the most, and wetness coats my hand. I bring it back down, my eyes widening. I’m bleeding. There’s a gash on my head, either from a fall or a hit. I’m more inclined to assume the latter.
I drag myself into a standing position, but my equilibrium is off, and I fall against the side table, the edge of it digging into my ribs. I cry out in agony, my breathing rapid, my heart pounding with the desire to move but the inability to do it. I stumble forward until I reach the king-size bed. The sheets are rumpled. I shake my head in confusion which causes my vision to blur. I press my bloodied palms against my eyes, taking in a few deep breaths. The room spins, so I sit down to get my bearings.
I’ll just close my eyes for a minute, I think, as I fall backward, the darkness taking me.
A voice calls to me. I can’t make out the words, they’re mumbled, like listening to someone talking while you’re under water. Cold hands are on my arms, my head. I feel them everywhere, and it makes my skin crawl.
“Sir,” a man says, then the rest of his words fade like an old cassette, its ribbons twisting in the radio, causing the lyrics of a good song to distort into unrecognizable mumbles. When I was ten years old, my best friend’s brother told us there were hidden messages in the songs from the anti-Christ, instructing us to commit evil acts. We’d been alarmed at the thought, not fully understanding but shit scared nonetheless.
“Mister Hayes.” I open my eyes this time, the excruciating pain I felt earlier now manageable. By the man’s uniform, I can tell he is a paramedic. A young lady, who must be from housekeeping, stands beside him, her eyes wide, her fingers twisting her apron.
“Yeah,” I croak. I notice my wallet in his hands.
“I’m Lucas. You took quite a bash to the head, how’s the pain?”
“Better than before,” I tell him. “I’m still woozy though.”
I lift my hand, reaching up to the injured spot on my head. My arm stings, and I look down, a small bandage on it. The wound on my head has been patched up too.
“It’s a flesh wound, no stitches necessary. I’ve cleaned it up and patched it. Had to shave off some of your hair at the back, though. I administered some Tylenol, but I’m going to have to take you in for a CT scan, make sure you don’t have a concussion.”
“I don’t need a scan,” I say, trying to sit up as a sharp pain shoots through my head. I have been injured far worse. This definitely does not need a scan.
“Whoa, take it easy there.” The medic settles me back against the pillow. “Want to tell me what went down here?”
“I don’t know – Eliana? There was a woman with me. Where is she?” The paramedic looks at the housekeeper who shakes her head.
“The place is a mess, were you attacked, Sir?”
I know the drill. If I say yes, they’ll get the police involved, which is the last thing I want, especially if Eliana has been taken.
“I was drunk. My girlfriend and I broke up. She left. I lost it.” I go for the truth.
“Are you sure that’s all it was?” He lifts an eyebrow.
“I’m still going to have to take you in. And maybe we can try and get hold of your girlfriend.”
I shake my head. “Like you said, it’s a flesh wound. I’m ex-Navy, I know what a concussion feels like.”
He doesn’t seem convinced, but knows he can’t force me into his ambulance.
“We’ll let you rest up then. If you need anything, you can call the front desk.” He hands me my wallet. “If you change your mind, the hospital is just a couple of miles from here.”
I nod, my gaze falling on the woman who looks at me suspiciously. I close my eyes until I hear them shuffling out.
I stand, staggering over to the closet and opening it. Her two bags are right where she left them. I pull on my jacket, looking around the room for any clues. Chairs are overturned, but hopefully that was just for dramatic effect.
If anything happens to her, it will be my fault. First rule of the game: Don’t take your eye off the ball. I did, and now, I’ll live to regret it.