Could things be any worse? Darek had asked himself that several times throughout the past couple of months, but he was certain that the attack on him and the others was about as bad as it could get.
Better not jinx me, he thought as he watched the doctor tie off Raven’s sutures.
The attack had come swiftly. One minute, he stood with his friends, planning on continuing the night at a club, and the next, bullets were showering down on them. The whole thing happened so fast, he hadn’t had time to do much but try and get to his own gun. A lot of good that did.
“There you go,” said the doctor. “All done. I’ll give you a few prescriptions. I know you’re probably going to be a bit sore tomorrow, so there’s something for the pain and to keep you relaxed. I’d suggest taking a few days off work.” He turned to Darek. “Are you her husband?”
“No. I’m, uh, her boyfriend.” Darek hadn’t really needed to label himself when it came to Raven and hated that he stumbled a bit.
Raven glanced up at him and rolled her eyes. “I’m staying with him, but we’re from New York and flying out tomorrow. We only came to New Orleans for his business.”
“I see,” he said, glancing at Darek. “Well, you’re free to travel, but I’d make sure and do a follow-up once you’re back home. I’ve ordered an antibiotic as a precaution, so you should heal fine, but it’s always best to keep a close eye on a wound and let someone take the stitches out for you.”
“Will do, Doc.” Raven gave him a half-hearted smile. “Thanks.”
“No, problem. I know you want to check on your friends, and I hope that the police find whoever did this to you.”
“We will, thanks.” Darek had told the man how he was a detective, but that hadn’t impressed him any, and he looked at Darek as if he were the one who shot Raven in the arm.
As the doctor left, Raven’s shoulders slumped. “I’m going to lose my job. Coming here took the last bit of time I had on Friday. Now, I’ll have to miss more?” She let out a long breath.
“I’m sorry,” said Darek, stepping over to the bed where she’d sat to get stitched up. “We’re going to find out who did this, babe. I promise.” He kissed her forehead.
“We both know why this happened. Whatever shit storm is brewing with this killer, it just got worse. They just tried to take the rest of you out in one fell swoop.”
“That’s not true. Ethan and Carter weren’t there, and there’s nothing saying this couldn’t have been a random shooting. Crime in the city is not unheard of. I’ve already spoken with the local detective, and he said that random shootings have been a problem lately. It’s usually a gang-related event.”
Raven gave him a dead stare. “Then we’re the unluckiest people in the fucking world, Darek.” She hopped down off the bed and walked out from behind the curtain that separated her from the rest of the emergency room.
Darek followed her, trying to offer a hand, but Raven was distant and wouldn’t even look him in the eye. He knew he had to give her time. He’d have gladly taken the bullet for her, but that wasn’t the way it had worked out.
Before he could wallow in guilt, Lane Simon walked over from the waiting room. “Darek, how are the others?”
“I’ve been trying to keep up, but so far, I think we all made it out with our lives. Justin and Bay are in surgery, and I heard that Corey went into cardiac arrest once. He’s critical.”
“Yeah, Brandy is a mess,” Lane said. “She’s in waiting with Mia.”
Darek wondered if Mia was as broken up as the other girl. “How’s she doing?”
“She’s been crying on the phone with her sister,” said Lane. “I think this has put her in a terrible situation.”
“They are a weird family. You know Bay. It’s always some strange dynamic.” They were both too exhausted to laugh, but they shared a sigh and a nod, knowing how fucked up Bay Collins really was.
“Do you think he’ll make it?” asked Lane.
Darek couldn’t help but notice a bit of regret in his voice. “Bay? Yeah, his wounds were mostly superficial. He might be slowed down a tad, but that’s it. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with when he does wake up.”
“What about the others? The doctor didn’t sound too hopeful when it came to Corey. He said his insides were a mess. He was hit three times before Justin took them down.” Lane closed his eyes and shook his head. “I was just about to say something to him when Justin took him down. It all happened so fast.”
Darek sympathized. “It did for all of us. I’m not sure about Corey.” He swallowed a hard lump. “How was the restaurant? I heard glass breaking. Was anyone else hit or hurt?”
“Nothing a few sheets of plywood and a call to the glass company can’t fix. I gave a few free dinners and a round of drinks, but other than that, it was okay.” He raked his hand through his hair. “I’m just worried about the guys. How’s Justin?”
“He took a hit in the side on the way down. It missed his kidney but did some damage to one of his ribs. They went in to remove a bullet.”
About that time, the doctors came out and called for Brandy. Darek and Lane walked over and joined her along with Mia, who was still on the phone with someone. “I just wanted to let you know that Mr. Finch is out of surgery and things went well. He’s in recovery, and we’ll keep him overnight for observation. Once the room is ready, we’ll come to get you.”
Brandy’s voice was weak. “Any word on Corey Farrow’s condition?”
“I looked in. He’s still on the table. I’m sure you’ll hear something as soon as they’re done with him.” The doctor turned and walked away, leaving them all there to take in his words.
Darek noticed Mia had walked back over and sat down before the others. Whoever was on the phone with her now wasn’t much comfort. He wondered if she’d talked to Max.
Lane walked over to join him as Raven walked with Brandy back to the waiting room. “The cops tell you anything?”
“No, just that there had been a lot of violence in the city lately. Have you ever had a problem with anything around the restaurant before?” Darek figured Lane had been around long enough to know that much about his new city.
Lane shook his head. “No. I researched and got a location in the best part of town I could find. I can’t put my employees in danger, and no one would come if I’d chosen a shit hole.”
“Right. Do you know if Carter and Ethan left town?” Darek tried very hard to sound like his friend and not a cop, but it was a tough act to shake.
“Come on? Ethan wouldn’t risk something like this, and he hauled ass on the private plane back to his big Nashville singer lifestyle. Carter didn’t want to come in the first place, and if I had to guess, I’d say he hurried back to San Diego where his congregation thinks he’s a god.” Lane made a good point. Both had too much to lose.
“Someone took a pretty big risk to get to us. A neighborhood out of their way and targets who were only in town for a short period of time. As Raven said, we’d have to be the unluckiest bunch in the entire fucking world. I think this was an organized hit. I’m not sure who put it out, but I plan on finding out.”
About that time, Raven walked over to join them. “I’m tired. I want to go back to the room for a while. And I need to get my medicine.”
“I’ll take you to get it, and then we’ll go back to the hotel. I’m going to come back up here, though. I want to make sure that everyone is okay, and I hate to leave Brandy and Mia.”
“I understand, and I had a feeling you’d need to stay. I was hoping Lane would be so kind?” Raven gave him a pleading look.
Lane nodded. “Of course. I’m heading back to make sure the crew got everything boarded up before they left for the night. I’ve got too much invested in alcohol alone to leave the place vulnerable.”
“Thank you,” said Raven.
Darek had the feeling that was her way of getting some space between them, and he couldn’t blame her. He’d put her through enough as it was. He had really thought that their trip was going to be a good one, but that had all changed in a blink.
Things seemed to be all set, but before they could leave, Brandy and Mia came forward, still covered in their blood-soaked clothes. “I was wondering if I could get a ride out of here,” said Mia to Darek.
He couldn’t hide the surprise. She was going to leave Bay there? But then, she wasn’t of any use. “Of course. Raven was just going back to the hotel.”
Brandy let out a long breath. The girl looked like she’d aged ten years since the shooting. “I think we all need to get out of these clothes, but I don’t want to be gone long. I want to be here when Justin wakes up.”
“I just want a shower, and I can come back. Bay would want me here, but I just feel so gross.” Mia kept her head down, but Darek could still see the tears in the girl’s eyes.
“Then I’ll take you all back to the hotels.” Darek knew that Bay and Mia were in a different one.
“I’ll take her,” said Lane. “But, considering the circumstances, I’d feel better if you all stayed at my house. I know you ladies will be much more comfortable there, and I have an SUV you can use to come back and forth here.”
“We have a rental,” said Brandy. She broke down into tears. “That’s what I said when the shots happened. I have to go back there to get the car.”
“No,” said Darek, giving her a pat on the back. “I have the keys and brought it. I followed the ambulance in.” He had driven Raven in it. “I’m afraid I owe you for the bloodstains, but I’ll make sure it’s covered.”
“We can take that back later,” said Lane. “Better yet, I’ll call them to come and pick it up. From Darek’s description, you don’t want to have to see it again.”
She nodded. “Anything so I don’t have to go back to the scene. No offense.” She gave Lane an apologetic look.
“None taken,” said Lane. “I only hope none of my other patrons from last night feel the same.”
Darek hated that the business might suffer, but there was much worse that could have come from this, and still could. With the guys still on the table, the long night was not yet over.
“Then it’s settled,” said Darek.
They were all about to go, but just as Lane reached out for Mia’s hand, a nurse came out and called Brandy’s name.
She hurried across the room. “That’s me. Is he okay?”
“He pulled through the surgery fine, and he’s in recovery. I thought I’d let you know it could take a while if you want to go get cleaned up.”
“Thank you.” She breathed a big sigh of relief and reached out for Darek’s hand. “I’d like to go now. But could you bring me right back?”
“Sure, let’s get you all settled at Lane’s.” Darek turned to Raven, who nodded and took Brandy’s hand. Then she reached out for Mia and put her arm around the girl as they walked to the door. “Thanks, Lane.”
“No problem. I have a big house and two extra bedrooms that never get used. The only thing I did was buy furniture, so it’s a little bare, but I think you’ll all be more comfortable.”
Lane led them to the car, and Mia and Brandy got in. Darek took Raven to the rental, which he would use to get her to the pharmacy and to Lane’s before taking it back to the lot.
“I’m not going to come back to the hospital,” said Raven, once they were in the rental. “I don’t think I’d be any help to anyone.”
He couldn’t blame her. She was still shaken up. “I don’t think anyone expects you to. You should rest, Raven. Let your body start to heal. Your mind needs to rest a bit too.”
“I want the drugs to knock me out. I can’t stop thinking about what happened, the bullets, the screaming, the blood. I thought I was dead, Darek.” She closed her eyes tightly. “I know you’re used to this kind of shit. The action, the gunfire, and blood. But I’m not.”
He set the GPS to the hotel and started the car. “No one gets used to this kind of shit, babe. It’s always bad.”
“Promise me something, Darek.” Her voice was soft, and he could tell the medicine the doctor had given her was taking its toll.
He reached over and stroked her hair. “What’s that?”
She gave him a cold, dead stare. “You’ll get the motherfuckers who did this.”
He took her hand and brought it to his lips. “I will, baby. I will.” He knew he shouldn’t promise anything. He was out of his jurisdiction, and the locals weren’t impressed with a detective getting shot up the first day in town. They hadn’t let him in on anything so far, and in New Orleans, he was as good as useless. At least, that was how he felt.
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