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Surveillance – Ch. 17

Leaning on his cane, Finch hobbled down the hospital corridor, sweating underneath his cardigan. Taking a deep breath, he approached the officer seated in a chair outside Reese’s room. The cop looked up from his magazine, gaze sweeping Finch from head to toe and seeing nothing more than a harmless man with a limp. Finch knew the psychological effect the cane had on other people’s perception of him, which was why he never used one unless he was playing a part and wanted to be underestimated.

“Excuse me, officer,” he said softly. “Is everything all right?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Then, it’s okay if I go in?” He gestured toward the door.

“Do you know the patient?” the officer asked, rising from his chair.

Finch shook his head. “Not really. I sat with him for a while last week. A group of us over at St. Alice’s like to stop by now and then and visit those people who don’t have family nearby. ” He smiled. “It’s a good reason to get me out of the house since my wife passed.”

“That’s very kind of you,” the officer said. “Go on in, but I’m going to have to ask you a few questions afterward about what he says to you, all right?”

“Oh, he’s awake?” Finch asked, feigning surprise. “What a miracle. We’ve been keeping him in our prayers, you know.” The officer smiled and sat back down, returning to his magazine, probably to dissuade any further religious conversation. Finch opened the door, stepped into the room, and closed it again before picking his cane up and carrying it across the room.

Reese was sitting up, the bed inclined so he could watch TV. Finch felt a surge of anger at the sight of the handcuffs chaining him to the bed, but they didn’t seem to be bothering him much. His right arm lay still beside him. Megan said he still hadn’t regained the use of it, or his right leg, but that he’d start physical therapy in a couple of days. The bruises on his face had mostly faded and the wound on his head was slowly healing, and as Finch approached, Reese glanced over at him.

“Hello,” Reese said, but there was no recognition in those blue eyes.

Finch swallowed hard. “Hello, John. I’m Harold.”

“Hello, Harold,” Reese said. Silence fell, heavy and painful as Finch struggled to find something to say.

“Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?” he asked finally. Reese didn’t respond, except to turn back to the television. Finch sank into the chair beside the bed, taking slow, even breaths as he fought the tightness in his chest. This was something he had to do. “What are you watching?” he asked, glancing up at the TV mounted on the wall near the ceiling. An old Loony Toons cartoon was on.

An anvil, a staple of vintage cartoon comedy, fell out of a tree and landed on Elmer Fudd’s foot. Reese laughed, the easy and uninhibited laugh of a child, the sound making Finch’s heart ache. He would have given anything to hear the familiar quiet chuckle again. Shaking his head, he sighed. That wasn’t going to happen, and this…this really was the next best thing.

On the TV, a large boulder came rolling down the hill, flattening the unlucky Mr. Fudd, and Reese laughed aloud again, but it was cut short when he winced and pressed his left hand to his chest.

He looked over at Finch. “Hurts,” he said, a small frown creasing his brow.

“I know,” Finch said, reaching over and placing a hand on Reese’s unresponsive arm. “You’re getting better, though. It won’t hurt for much longer.”

“Okay,” Reese said and he looked back up at the TV. The indestructible Mr. Fudd was now running through the trees, in hot pursuit of Bugs Bunny. He fired his shotgun over and over and Finch snorted under his breath, both at his terrible aim and the fact that he never had to stop and reload.

Suddenly, Reese grabbed the remote and turned the television off. Finch looked over at him, his shoulders hunched and his chin tucked against his chest, frowning as he blinked rapidly.

“John, is something the matter?” Finch asked, rising from the chair and stepping closer.

“Don’t like,” Reese said, his voice low. “Bad. Bad sound.”

Finch glanced at the dark TV. “The gunshots? Is that it? Do you remember being shot? John- Reese, do you remember me?”

Reese looked over at him, blue eyes shadowed by lowered brows, the face so familiar, but the expression completely alien. It was looking at a stranger wearing Reese’s face. “Harold…” Reese said softly, extending his left hand and pressing his fingertips at the base of Finch’s throat. “Tie.”

“That’s right,” Finch said, forcing a fleeting smile. “I usually wear a tie.” He sighed. “C’mon, let’s find something else on the TV.” He picked up the remote out of Reese’s lap and began flipping through the channels. He was still at it when the door opened and Megan came in.

“Hello, Harold,” she said. “Hi, John.”

“Hi, Megan,” Reese said with a broad smile. “Watch?” His eyes darted to the TV.

“Not right now,” she said. “I need to talk to Harold for a few minutes, okay?”

“Okay,” Reese said.

Finch gave him back the remote and joined Megan over near the bathroom doorway.

“What did you want to see me about?” she asked.

Finch took a bracing breath. “Will he ever make a full recovery?” He hadn’t been able to ask the question over the phone. He needed to see her face; he didn’t want to be lied to.

“He’s made remarkable progress,” she said evasively. “He wasn’t expected to regain consciousness and now he’s speaking. It’s only been three weeks. It’s impossible to say what will happen in a year or two…” She trailed off, then sighed. “I know, that’s not what you asked.” She glanced at Reese. “I believe that in time he will be able to live a full and relatively normal life. Will he ever be the man we knew? I don’t know. Brain injuries are tricky. We’ve done several CAT scans and there appears to be only minimal damage, but it’s right in the area that processes memory. His brain could heal, or find a way to reroute the signals, and he could wake up tomorrow and be just like he was before, or he could be like this for the rest of his life. But I think you know which is the more likely of the two.”

“Yes,” Finch said, squaring his shoulders, “I do.” He reached behind him and pulled a thick envelope out of his back pocket. “This is for him,” he said, handing it to her. “It’s everything he’ll need – birth certificate, identification, social security number, bank accounts; I’ve set up a trust and arranged to pay all his medical bills-”

“Harold…Harold,” she said, speaking over him. “There’s no need to do this now. We can wait and see-”

“No,” he said. “I can’t. I can’t see him like this. He…he’s of no use to me and I have to get back to work.”

“You don’t mean that,” she said.

He didn’t respond. Returning to Reese’s bedside, he lay his hand upon Reese’s still right arm. “I’m going to go now, John,” he said, “but I want you to do something for me. Have a long and happy life, something neither of us ever expected, but you more than deserve. I…” He swallowed hard, his voice barely louder than a whisper when he spoke. “I love you.”

Reese smiled at him and then went back to flipping through the channels on the TV.

Finch turned and walked away, holding his cane in front of him until he reached the door. “Good-bye, Dr. Tillman,” he said, not looking at her as he gripped his cane and hobbled out to answer the officer’s questions.

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