Chapter 49: Great Escape

Alley

How I manage to get myself into these situations, I don’t know. But trouble always followed me around back in Kentucky (hell, Taylor was proof of that), so I don’t know why I thought it would stay behind when we went to Tulsa. I was currently being eyed by three security guards and a very surly receptionist. Good grief. Accidentally wander down the wrong hall around here and they sic freaking guard dogs on you.

“And what did you say your name was, again, miss?” the receptionist asked coolly. I put on my best sweet, innocent face and repeated the name I’d just made up.

“Sarah,” I said. “Sarah... Lawson.” Lawson was Taylor’s mother’s maiden name, right? Something like that. That would work. Hanson would just be way too obvious. And Sarah was a pretty common name. Surely he had a relative named Sarah somewhere down the line. I tapped my foot nervously and fiddled with the hem of my shirt. The receptionist continued to stare.

“And who did you want to see?”

I leaned forward, whispering quietly to her, glancing furtively from side to side, as if I didn’t want others to hear. “Taylor Hanson. He’s my... cousin. I was wanting to visit him, you know, I live really far away, in... Maine... and my family came down here to visit the Hansons, and they’re having such a rough time, you know, and I haven’t seen poor Taylor yet...”

“Mmm-hmmm,” said the receptionist in a tone that proved that she was not at all convinced. “And where might the Hansons be right now? Shouldn’t they have accompanied you down here?”

Stupid woman. “They’re having such a hard time... I didn’t want to make them come down here again just for me.” My lies were getting worse and worse.

“Sure, hon, sure.” She sighed heavily, tipping down thick-framed glasses and fixes me with an eagle-eye stare. “Listen, do you have any idea how many girls come in here and try this little trick?”

I opened my eyes in wide astonishment. “What trick?”

She swore under her breath and rolled her eyes. “Forget it. I’ll tell you what – you come back down here with one of the immediate family, and I’ll let you in. Otherwise, get the hell out of this lobby and leave us all in peace.”

Well, that was certainly rude, although not entirely unexpected. “Fine,” I snapped back at her, pretending to be completely insulted. “I’ll be seeing you later.”

“I’m sure I will. Oh, and by the way, sweetie, the name you should have gone for was Lawyer, not Lawson.”

Shit. I knew I should have asked Taylor about that before I came out here. I ignored her comment and marched to the other side of the lobby. Her minions, the security guards, advanced toward me. I eyed them.

“Ma’am, we’d like you to leave,” said the short, chubby guard. He had a face like a pug. I gave him my best shocked expression as he spoke. “Please come with us.”

“What? Right now?”

“Yes.”

I looked pleadingly at the tallest guard. He was a young guy with a strong jawline and just a hint of a goatee. Kind of cute, actually. “But.... but I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Ma’am,” repeated the pug guard menacingly. What the hell is up with this “ma’am” crap, anyway? I wondered. Did I really look that old? I pouted.

“I’ll just be a minute, and then I’ll go,” I said. But he was not to be swayed. He reached for my arm and I gasped. Luckily, the young guard seemed to find some pity in his heart for me.

“Let her go. It’s just right here,” he said. Thank God. I smiled at the pug guard and batted my eyelashes. Another blow to feminism, I thought to myself. Hell, I didn’t care. I just wanted out of there without handcuffs on.

Unfortunately, the guard didn’t seem to be buying it, although he grudgingly agreed to let me go into the bathroom. I scowled as I walked in, going immediately to the mirrors and scrutinizing my appearance.

“I bet if I had a bigger chest he wouldn’t have been so difficult,” I muttered. “Men. Idiots, all of them.”

“I second that,” said a woman, just coming from a stall towards the sinks to wash her hands. She was a custodian, I thought, noting the name patched onto the button-down shirt and dark slacks. She carried several plain white coats over one arm and laid them aside to turn on the water. Doctors’ coats? I wondered. What was she doing with them? “And such slobs, too!” she continued.

I thought of Taylor and smiled. Truth be told, I was probably more of a slob than he was. But I smiled and agreed with her, still eyeing the white coats.

“The Men’s bathroom is positively disgusting. Honey, I can’t tell you how many days I’ve had to just spray that place down with bleach and disinfectant. And I have to open the window in there constantly! Just sickening.”

Window? Was there a window in here, too? I glanced around furtively. Indeed there was. Hmmmm...

I nodded absentmindedly as she kept talking. “And these coats here are filthy. I don’t know why those residents can’t just wash these things on their own every once in a while.... No, they call me up, ask me to do it for them....”

“That sucks,” I agreed, a half-assed plan forming in my mind. Oh, to get my hands on one of those coats...

“Honey, you listen to me.” I turned to her, questioning. “Men are scum. They’re idiots, they’re liars, they’re slobs. But there’s some good ones out there, too. You find one of those, and you latch on and don’t let go. Trust me.” Nodding curtly, she marched resolutely out the door.

God was on my side this day. I smiled, noticing that in her rage against our male counterparts, she had left the coats sitting on the sink. But not for long, I thought. She would remember them any minute.... I quickly grabbed one off the top and tossed into a stall, out of sight. Then I went back to the mirror and pretended to fix my hair.

She marched back in seconds later. “I’m so scatterbrained today. Forgot my load!” Grabbing the pile, she turned to me one last time before leaving. “You remember what I said, alright?”

“I will.”

“Good.” Then she was gone. I leaped into action, racing to the door and quickly locking it. I ran back to the stall, grabbed the coat, and headed for the window. After nearly giving myself a hernia, I pried it open. Luckily, we were on the first floor. I tossed the coat outside first, then followed. A blast of cool spring air hit my face. I picked up the coat and surveyed the surroundings. I didn’t know where the hell I was, but there was a sliding door only yards away. I slipped on the coat and walked with confidence I didn’t know I had to the door. It opened for me, and I walked in.

Hospitals are confusing places. I was surrounded by people: doctors, patients, nurses, enraged parents of patients.... luckily, I didn’t stand out among the chaos. I furtively slipped into the nearest elevator and pushed for the seventh floor. Seven for luck. Sounded good to me.

I checked every room on the floor, to no avail. Disappointed, I headed for the stairs. I worked my way up a few floors, painstakingly reading every name on the door.  Norman, Cathy M. Surnet, Joseph G. Lewis, Robyn D.

And then I saw it. Hanson, Jordan T. Oh, dear mother of God.

With shaking hands and knees, I hobbled toward the room. The door was cracked open. I gripped the doorknob fiercely, feeling my face flush red-hot with fear and uncertainty. This was it. This was what we’d spent nearly ten months wondering about. I ever-so-slowly pushed the door open, holding my breath and closing my eyes as it creaked softly. Finally, I breathed out a tremulous breath and lifted my eyelids slightly....

....to see a plain white bed, perfectly made, inside a pristine, clean, empty white hospital room.

Oh, no. Oh, God, no, please..... my first thoughts.... he’s dead. He died recently, they haven’t had time to change the door name.... No! Not Taylor! This wasn’t supposed to happen! I choked back a cry and leaned against the door frame. My eyes began to burn and I sniffed and hiccupped, wiping away hot, salty tears. “No,” I whispered aloud. “No.”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” asked a concerned, feminine voice just behind me. I whipped around. Another young woman stood there. A nurse, I deduced. I stood up a little straighter and adjusted the flaps of my newly acquired white coat.

“I--” I began, then stopped. I looked miserably at the name posted on the door. “Is he....?”

She laughed softly. “You must be new here.”

Not really knowing how to respond to that, I nodded mutely. Well, it was kind of true....

“He’s been moved. To a different floor, different wing. More private. Doing much better, from what I’ve heard. They think he’s beginning to finally respond.”

I sucked in a deep breath and clutched one hand to my chest. “Oh,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. “Oh.... thank God.” I laughed sharply; it sounded slightly hysterical and high-pitched, even to my own ears. A laugh of sheer relief.

“Are you okay?” she asked, eyeing me. No wonder. It probably wasn’t everyday that they found their own workers crying over some silly pop star. Not silly, I thought, retracting the mental statement. Wonderful, and completely worth it. Even if he is a brat sometimes.

I smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just... worried.”

She smiled back. “I guess you’re a big Hanson fan, huh?”

I bit back the sarcastic remark I actually wanted to say in favor of a well-timed lie. “Oh, yes. Yes, I am. I hope he fully recovers.”

“As do I,” she said. She picked up a clipboard and studied it for a moment. “Hey, will you run this down to Dr. O’Brien for me?”

I smiled. “Sure.” I took the clipboard from her and walked back toward the elevator. Once inside, I allowed myself a huge grin and a few more tears. She had said he was beginning to respond... well, I didn’t really know what that meant, but it certainly sounded good. I wondered what floor he was on. But I had already pushed my luck. I needed to get out of here, fast. But first... I glanced at the clipboard in my hand. How the hell was I supposed to find this Dr. O’Brien? Shrugging, I reached out and randomly pushed one of the elevator buttons. A minute later, I was walking out into the tenth floor. I walked up to the nearest nurse.

“Excuse me, where would I find Dr. O’Brien?” I asked softly.

She gave me a look that clearly stated that she thought I was an idiot. “He’s on the first floor, honey. You’re way off the mark.”

Oh. Well, that other woman had said “take this down to Dr. O’Brien,” hadn’t she? Nodding, I mumbled an apology and walked back into the elevator. First floor. That meant I could get spotted. I chewed my lip, trying to imagine ways in which I could escape. I could go out the way I came... but the guards might have figured it out and made their way back there. Maybe I should just go out through the front entrance.... Or maybe there was another side entrance somewhere...

I didn’t have much time to think. The bell dinged, and I walked out the door and resolutely down the hall. After questioning several different people, I found the elusive Dr. O’Brien. I grinned brightly at him as I handed over the clipboard.

“Here you go,” I chirped.

“Thanks,” he said uncertainly, eyeing me.

“No problem.” I retreated back down the hall. Now, how to get out of here... Was the lobby this way? No, no, I just came from that way. I should go left...

“There she is!”

I halted, frozen in place. Daring to peek behind me, I saw my three new guard friends tearing down the hall after me. Oh, shit....

I bolted. Running wildly, not knowing where the hell I was going, bumping into people. I tore down the hall like a madwoman. At one point I managed to shrug off the white coat and toss it aside. Finally I noticed sunlight spilling into a hallway. A door! I sharply turned and raced toward it.

“Hey! Hey you! Stop!”

Luckily, it was a large sliding glass door. It opened on its own as I approached. I ran out into the street and headed for the parking garage. They were still yelling back behind me. Gasping for breath, I kicked it up a gear and raced toward the car. We would have to get out of here quick. I managed to pull my cell from my pocket and dial Louise’s cell phone.

“Start the car, start the car
!” I screeched into it when Louise answered.

“What? Allison, what happened?”

“JUST START THE CAR!”

I slipped the phone back in my pocket and stumbled around the corner of the parking garage entrance. Ah, there they were; and thankfully, light gray smoke was churning from the muffler. I slammed into the side of the car, unable to stop my momentum. I jerked the door open and dove in. Right on top of a very frightened Taylor.

“DRIVE!” I screamed.

“What the hell is going on?” demanded Louise.

“Stop asking questions and get us the hell out of here! NOW!”

Louise stomped on the gas and we screeched out into the street. I hunkered down in the seat.

“Get our elbow off of me! Are you trying to kill me?” bitched Taylor. He pouted, rubbing his stomach and glaring at me. “And what
are you so tore up for, anyway?”

“Um... nothing,” I said nonchalantly, poking my head up for a second to make sure we were safe. Louise had maneuvered safely downtown, traffic was all around us and the hospital was nearly out of sight. I sighed with relief.

Taylor eyed me, and then looked back toward the hospital. He promptly snorted. “Allison, what exactly happened back there?”

“Oh, you know, nothing really, it was just a little argument...”

“A little argument? Is that why there are ten security guards standing at the door, looking for you?”

“How do you know they’re looking for me?” I rolled over, attempting to look indignant.

“Just a hunch, Allison... just a hunch.”

“Did you say ten?” I asked. Good grief. It wasn’t that big of a deal, was it? Hell, that bitchy receptionist had said they were used to crazy fangirls coming in all the time. Not that I was a crazy fangirl. Well, not really.

“Okay, we better be getting some explanations fast,” growled Louise. “That way I know what to tell the police when they come to arrest us for assisting you in whatever chaos you’ve created.”

“Oh, they blew it all out of proportion,” I said. “It was ridiculous. I snuck upstairs to another floor--”

“You snuck upstairs?” Taylor asked in disbelief. “How?”

“Well, they were on to me, so I had to sneak out the bathroom window and go in from another entrance--”

“WHAT? Wouldn’t someone else have noticed you?”

“Well, I had to steal this white coat to blend in--”

“You stole a coat? Jesus Christ...”

“Will you shut up? At least my valiant attempts were not unfounded.” I leaned forward, close to Taylor, until our faces were inches apart. I grinned. “I found out something very important.”

His face whitened. “What?” he whispered.

“Let’s stop somewhere so I can explain everything. And get something to drink before I pass out. Where’s a good, quiet coffeeshop or diner, something?”

Taylor sighed in exasperation. “Tell me now!” he demanded. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry,” I said, grabbing his hand and squeezing it. “It’s good. Much better than I expected.” I smiled at him, and to my horror, felt something wet drip down my cheek. Dammit, was I crying again? I sniffed, feeling embarrassed. I disliked crying in front of people. Especially when said people were staring at me.

His eyes softened, and he reached up and gently wiped away the tear. He opened his mouth to say something but Louise interrupted.

“Where to, Taylor?” she asked, eyeing him in the rearview mirror.

“Gypsy’s,” he replied softly, squeezing my hand back and smiling. “Let’s go there.”