“It was touch and go for awhile, but he’s going to be just fine.”
Espinal still could not believe the words his ears had heard. He had gotten the call just a couple of hours after he had gotten to the hospital to wait with Zoe while her brother was in surgery. “Thank you,” he had replied mechanically before hanging up, sure that he was actually dreaming.
Zoe was looking at him with concern. “Hector? What is it?”
He kept staring at her without really seeing her. “He’s alive.”
“What?” Her voice was tightly controlled, as if she didn’t dare entertain the idea that he could be saying what she thought he saying. He knew, because that is exactly how he had just felt.
“Andres. He’s alive,” he said, the beginnings of a glimmer of joy blooming in his heart.
She stared at him a long moment, then smiled tentatively. Then she beamed. And then she laughed and threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, thank you, God!”
“Amen,” Espinal heard himself saying. He paused the briefest of moments to note the oddity of such a sentiment coming out of his mouth, but then realized he meant exactly what he said. Hearing Zeb’s story, and Zoe’s, and being part of the events that had followed in the last couple of days had given him a glimpse of God he had never expected.
He had always believed God existed, in some part of his mind and soul, but He had always seemed so far removed from mere mortals that he had never given Him much thought. But now, witnessing the faith of the Martin siblings, and how everything had happened exactly the way it had needed to, had shown him that God not only could be present in the lives of Men, but that He already was.
Espinal had hoped to experience that for himself one day. But, he had known it would be a long time before he would get over Andres’ death, and, therefore, a long time before he sought God. But now… God had given Him a miracle. And he took it as a sign that God was trying to tell him that He was already there, right beside him.
Zoe sat back suddenly, like she had just had a terrible thought. “Oh, Hector, if you had killed him…”
He didn’t want to even think about that moment again. He hadn’t been in control, operating on grief and rage like he’d never felt before. It had gone so far beyond the quest for justice that had fueled him his whole life to some primal need for revenge, a thirst for blood. He had had tunnel vision, seeing only one way to end his suffering, with no thought to the consequences.
“I know,” he said, shuddering.
“If you want to go see him, I’m fine here,” she said. “You don’t have to stay with me. I’ll call you when Zeb gets out.”
He smiled at her. “Thank you, but they said it would be tomorrow before anyone can see him. But, if you’ll excuse me for a minute, I need to make a phone call.”
She nodded. “Sure, of course.”
He got up and went out of the waiting room, finding a quiet spot down the hall by a couple of vending machines. He took a deep breath and dialed a phone number he still remembered even after all these years. Emelina answered on the third ring.
“”Hector?”” Her voice was just as he remembered it: velvety and rich. But the suspicion and sourness that colored it robbed it of any warmth or sweetness, as it so often had done toward the end of their marriage.
“”Emelina, I’m sorry to bother you-“”
“”He’s fine, but Andres-“”
“”What happened to my boy?”” Panic pushed her voice up nearly an octave.
“”He’s been shot.”” She was silent for a full second, then she began to keen, a heartbreaking, broken sound.
He went on to explain as best as he could, minimizing Andres’ own involvement in the crimes of the past week but not omitting them. He knew she would think he considered her unable to handle it if he had. That was one thing they had always fought about: his desire to protect her from the worst of the world’s ugliness and her perception that he thought her too weak or delicate to face the truth.
When he had finished, she asked which hospital he was in and he was forced to reveal that they were in the US. She was taken by surprise by that, and that led to more questions and answers, until she finally accepted his word that Andres was going to be all right.
“”What will happen to him?””
He knew she meant in regards to prison. “”I really don’t know, Emelina,”” he said. “”Testifying against this other man, the man who shot him, will make a remarkable difference in how he is treated, both here and in Spain, though.””
“”But he will still go to prison?””
“”Maybe. He was involved in the match tanking scheme, but he was forced into being complicit in everything else. And with part of this happening back home and part of it happening here it is going to make this thing into a huge legal mess… Honestly, this will probably take a very long time to sort out.”
“”Oh, Andres, my darling boy… What have you done to yourself…””
“”I was the one who – who found him,”” he said, reliving the terror of that moment, the smell of blood, the sight of Andres so pale with blood loss. “”We both thought he was going to die. But you know what he asked of me?””
“”What?”” Emelina whispered.
“”He wanted me to tell you he was sorry.””
She started crying again, but this time it was a quieter, aching weeping. “”Thank you, Hector. For being with him. I wouldn’t have wanted him to be alone…””
She hung up.
With a sigh, he put his phone away and went back to the waiting room. When he entered the room, he saw Zoe talking to a doctor. He approached softly, not wanting to intrude. But when Zoe saw him, she reached her hand out to him. He let her take his hand in hers, standing by her side.
The doctor, a weary, middle-aged man, nodded to Espinal in greeting. “As I was telling Zoe, her brother is still in surgery, but so far, it’s looking promising. The bullet to his leg nicked the femoral artery, but it didn’t completely sever it, as we feared at first.”
“Thank God,” Zoe sighed in relief.
Espinal squeezed her hand. The doctor gave them a smile that inspired cautious optimism. “However,” he said, “our concern now is the bullet he took in the lower back. The problem is that it is close to his spine.”
Zoe’s grip on his hand tightened. “How bad?” she asked.
“We have Doctor Symons in with him right now. He’s our best spinal surgeon,” he added for Espinal’s benefit. “It will be a long, delicate procedure, but he’s confident that Zeb will retain full use of his lower extremities.” He looked at each of them in turn. “You’ll need to be prepared for a very long road to recovery, however.”
“Thank you, Mike,” Zoe said.
“Of course. While you’re here, you really should get that arm seen to properly. Otherwise, you could end up with a pretty nasty looking scar.”
“Yeah, I think I’m okay, but thanks.”
“Can’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said with a shrug. “We’ll keep you posted on Zeb, but there’s really nothing you can do for now. I’d suggest going home and getting some rest.”
Zoe and Espinal exchanged a look. “I could stay, if you want to go home,” Espinal offered. “I’m sure one of Addison’s men could drive you.”
“I can’t leave him,” she replied simply.
“All right then,” Mike the doctor said. “Of course, you can use the nurses’ lounge if you want to get some sleep. I’ll make sure no one disturbs you.”
“Thank you,” Espinal and Zoe both said.
Zoe led him to the nurses’ lounge, a divided space that served as a combination kitchen and almost barracks-like sleeping quarters, on the opposite end of the surgical ward. She pointed out the sink, the coffee maker and where the cups and glasses were before waving a hand toward the half dozen or so bunk beds in the sleeping alcove. “Take whichever one you want. All the sheets and pillows are swapped out after every use, so they’re all clean.”
He thanked her and took off his suit jacket, laying it across the end of the nearest bed. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and rolled up his cuffs. Then he lay down on his back in the bed, cradling his head with one arm, after kicking off his shoes, but he could not get his mind to stop churning over the events of the past week.
Zoe, also lying on her back in the bed next to his, seemed to be struggling with the same problem. She rolled onto her side, facing him and said, “I haven’t called my parents.”
He furrowed his brow. “Why not?”
“I don’t know,” she said, apparently thinking it over. “I guess I feel like none of this has been real, because it’s all happened so fast. But if…”
“If you tell someone, it makes it real,” he finished for her. That was exactly why he had put off calling his ex-wife. Other than all the reasons she had become his ex-wife.
“Yeah,” she tucked one fist up under her chin, slipping her other arm under the pillow. “I almost lost him today,” she said, and he saw a tear slide down her cheek. “I thought my brother was dead… And you thought you lost Andres. We both nearly lost the people we love.”
“But we didn’t.”
She smiled. “But we didn’t.”
“Hey,” he said, “where did you learn to use a shovel like that?” He grinned at her.
She giggled. “I can’t reveal all my secrets,” she said. And then they were both laughing.
They fell silent. “Zoe?”
“I am very glad to have met you and Zeb, despite the circumstances. I just want you to know that.”
She smiled. “Me, too.” Her expression grew thoughtful. “Will you have to go back to Madrid soon?”
“I don’t know how soon, but I will have to at some point, yes.”
He shrugged. “That will depend on how your DA’s office wants to handle this whole thing, and how the authorities in Madrid choose to work with them.”
“I wish you didn’t have to. I wish you would stay. Both of you.”
He regarded her for a few seconds. “Andres said something, before the ambulance came for him, something he wanted me to tell you.”
“He said to tell you you were right.”
She began to cry, but she was smiling, too. “Thank you,” she whispered, but he got the feeling she wasn’t really talking to him.
He felt something slide in his pocket and he reached his hand in to see what it was. He withdrew the small, squarish object he encountered there, turning it over in his fingers. “Do you know of a computer here I could borrow?”
She furrowed her brow. “Yes. Why?”
He held up the memory card. “I think there is something we need to see.”