Things That Are Not ...

A THIRD SEASON ROUND ROBIN STORY

Chapters 1 & 2


Chapter 1

by Janet Rivenbark

 

“Captain?”

The Captain looked up to see one of his best detectives standing in the open door of his office. She looked like hell.

“What’s up, Bennett?” he asked.

“I think I’m catching something,” she said as she leaned on the door jamb.

“Looks to me like something’s already caught you,” he said sympathetically. A bug had been making the rounds of the entire precinct staff, and since Diana didn’t spend much time in the office, she’d managed to avoid it; but it looked like she’d finally succumbed. “It’s almost quitting time, why don’t you go home? Tomorrow is Saturday, I don’t want to see your face in this office again until you are sure you are no longer contagious; that means no fever! I don’t want anyone else coming down with this. I’ll meet you at the front door with a thermometer on Monday, and if you still have a fever I’m sending you back home.”

Diana gave him a weak smile. “Yes Sir, Cap’n Sir!” she managed through her sore throat as she popped a ragged salute. She turned to leave.

“You got someone to check on you?” he called after her.

“Um, yeah,” she said after a moment. “There’s someone I can call. Thanks. I’m sure I’ll be OK by Monday.”

It was so cold and wet that Diana uncharacteristically flagged down a cab. She gave him her address then sunk back onto the seat, trying to find a comfortable position. Everything hurt; even her skin.

Inside her loft she dropped her bag and coat and kicked off her shoes next to the couch. She collapsed there and it took several minutes before she was able to summon the energy to pick up the phone and dial Peter Alcott’s private number.

Ten minutes later she allowed herself to slide down into a semi-prone position; her feet were still on the floor and her head propped on the arm of the sofa. Just a few minutes, just a little nap, then she’d get up and see if she could find a couple of aspirin and some pajamas.

Vincent was in Father’s study when Eric arrived with a note from Peter. He handed it over and Vincent opened and read it.

“What is it?” Father asked.

“From Peter. Diana called him. She’s sick. He wants me to go to his house and pick up some medicine and take it to her.”

Father nodded. “How sick is she?”

“She told him that she has a fever, but doesn’t know how high. She also has a sore throat and the usual body aches.”

“The flu?” Father asked as Vincent stood.

“Probably,” he picked up his cloak then turned back to Father. “I may stay and look after her if I think she needs it.”

“I would expect nothing less. Don’t worry, Mary and I will take care of Jacob. He’ll be fine.”

Vincent nodded and headed for the kitchen where he ladled some of William’s soup into a container then took off toward Peter’s. His long stride ate up the distance, and he was in Peter’s kitchen in a very short time.

Peter handed him a paper bag.

“Have her take two aspirins and one of these very four hours,” Peter told him. “When do you think you can get there?”

Vincent glanced out the window. “It won’t take me long; I’ll go now. With the rain, it’s already dark. There is a manhole in the alley behind Diana’s loft. I’ll go that way. It’s only a few feet from the fire escape that goes up to her roof. She leaves a key to the roof access door hidden in case of an emergency. Any other instructions?”

“Just the usual, plenty of fluids, food if you can get her to eat. Check her temperature often and if it doesn’t come down, call me.” 

*                      *                      *

When she opened her eyes next, the room was dark and Vincent was standing over her, softly calling her name.  

“Diana, come on. Wake up. I’ve got some medicine that Peter sent you. I straightened your bed and found you a warm nightgown to put on.”

She reached out and grabbed his arm, using it to lever herself off the couch. He was shocked at the heat that was radiating off her.

“Have you taken anything for the fever?” he asked in concern.

“I don’t think so,” she answered vaguely. “I don’t think I ever got that far.”

Vincent helped her into her bedroom and then went to find the thermometer and aspirin while she started pulling off clothes. She’d managed her socks and slacks by the time he was back with aspirin, one of Peter’s pills, and a glass of water.

He put some tablets in her hand and handed her the water, but before she took the pills he stuck a thermometer in her mouth.

He waited then pulled it out and read it.

“What is it?” she mumbled.

“One hundred and two point three,” he answered then turned to pick the discarded clothing up off the floor.

Diana looked at the pills in her hand. “What’s the blue pill?” she asked.

“Something Peter sent. I’m not sure, but he says it will help.”

She put the tablets in her mouth and swallowed them with the water. The water was so cool, felt so good going down that she gulped it all then held the glass out to Vincent.

“Please, Sir, can I have some more?” she croaked in a bad imitation of the young boy who had played Oliver Twist in the ‘60’s movie that they had just recently watched on TV.

Vincent smiled at that. At least she hadn’t cooked her brain so bad that she was delirious; she could still joke.

He handed her the flannel nightgown he’d found and took the glass back to the bathroom to refill it. When he returned, her blouse was on the bed next to her and the gown was around her neck dropping down as she tried to wiggle out of her bra.

She discarded the bra and stood unsteadily to get her arms in the gown.

“My skin hurts,” she commented as the gown dropped into place. “My skin has never hurt before.”

Vincent helped her into bed and handed her the water.

“It’s the fever,” he told her. “You’ll feel better once it breaks.” He sat on the side of the bed and watched her drink the water. “I’ll stay until you feel better.”

That roused her somewhat.

“What about Jacob?” she asked.

“He’s in good hands. Mary and Father are looking after him,” he assured her.

“Are you sure they can keep up with him?” she asked with a weak smile. “Three year olds are a handful. I once looked after my niece for a day when my sister was in town shopping. I only had her for six hours, and I was exhausted when she left.”

Vincent laughed. “They have Jamie, Samantha, and Brooke for backup.” He tucked the blankets around her as she started to shiver. “Now you need to try to sleep. You’ll feel better when you wake. I brought some of William’s soup for later.”

Diana snuggled down into the bed and obediently closed her eyes. Vincent stood and watched until her even breathing told him that she was asleep.

He went back to the kitchen where he put the container of soup in the refrigerator. He checked the freezer and found a can of frozen orange juice concentrate. He discovered a pitcher after a short hunt and mixed the juice. He set it on the shelf in the refrigerator and then put the kettle on to make a pot of tea. It was only a little after nine, and it promised to be a long night. Luckily he’d brought a book, and Diana had an extensive VHS tape library of old movies.

Three chapters and a cup of tea later, he heard something fall on the roof. The only things up there were a couple of folding lawn chairs and Diana’s telescope. He didn’t want the telescope to be damaged so he went up to check.

It was surprisingly windy when he opened the door. The rain from earlier in the day had stopped by the time he’d arrived a couple hours before. The stars were visible now, but the wind had shifted and was blowing briskly out of the north. He searched the roof, but found nothing out of place. The telescope was already in a sheltered area out of the weather and the chairs were beside it.

He went back down to the loft wondering what he’d heard; maybe something had hit the side of the building.

Just before midnight, he heard Diana moving around in the bedroom and was on his way to check on her when the intercom from the front door downstairs buzzed.

 

 

Chapter 2

by RedNightBird

 

Vincent froze at the sound, standing between Diana and the door, and their eyes met.

Sluggishly Diana fumed, "I don't have patience for this." Running her tissue over her red nose. she gathered her scant energy to slog to the intercom.

Vincent shook his golden head in confusion. Was Diana expecting a guest? Slipping behind the half closed bedroom door, he waited.

Diana slammed the button. "WHO IS IT?" she asked, only to hear silence.

Defying Vincent's protective posture, she retrieved her slippers and muttered back to the gate. Without explaining herself, she descended to the ground floor and returned carrying a package wrapped in brown paper.

"This has gone far enough!" Diana spoke over her shoulder to no one in particular. Vincent eyed the loft and let his curiosity get the best of him. As he was about the step out of the bedroom, he saw a similar package propped next to her closet door. He strode out to join her, questions bubbling to his exotic lips.

Protectively, he walked up behind Diana and placed a gentle arm across her shoulders.

"You seem perturbed, has someone been harassing you?"

With a deep sigh, Diana realized how much better she felt, even with the sweat from her fever breaking. It was something about the warm gust of his breath, the gentle weight of his muscled arm and the tender squeeze of his fingers that drew her a bit closer.

The parcel, paper secured with twine, took up the entire top of the kitchen island. Her hands lay flat on it as if she was seeing the hidden contents.

"This shouldn't be harassment. The first one was actually beautiful, it simply…scared me how well someone would see me like that."

Vincent's head tilted, inviting her elucidation. He caught the flush of her cheeks, how her eyes had brightened in these past few moments. The woman did love to be challenged.

"The first package arrived after I heard all sorts of things outside; mind you I thought it was an alley cat making the noises. But then the buzzer went nuts and the elevator went fluky." Combing stray hairs back into her ponytail she continued, "Then a package like this came up in the elevator."

"The one in your bedroom?" Vincent posed part of the mystery.

"Ah, you DO open your eyes in the bedroom!"  She nodded in the package's direction, and Vincent replied with a nod, as if to say, May I get it?

"Yeah, Vincent, you might as well get a look-see." Diana sunk onto a bar stool and tentatively pulled the twine. When he returned, she motioned to the second package.

"Lay it on top of the second one. I'll swallow my dignity before I see what the second one is."

Vincent meticulously unwrapped the parcel, and Diana hid her face in her hands as he drew back the brown paper. His hands dropped from the paper as his eyes devoured the image.

The full portrait of Diana was presented like Sargent's 'Portrait of Madame X' and quite like the famous portrait it revealed what Diana took pains to hide.

Reverently Vincent confessed, "Diana, I am at a loss for words, you are…this is exquisite."

"Yeah, the artist must have caught me at the Laundromat." Diana pointed at the painting; to the slapdash mélange of titian hair on top of her head, the emerald velvet dress fitted to her curves, ending in a wave at her feet.

"Diana, why do beautiful women always decry their own beauty?" His eyes returned to the details in the portrait. Diana stood, amidst the revelry of Winterfest. A wry smile graced her wine-stained lips, her eyes jovial as she spied something out of the portrait to her left. Vincent shook his head.

"Unconventional beauty always fascinates an artist, and this artist is..." Vincent spied the name, K. Gentian at the bottom.

"Vincent, when have you EVER seen me in a spaghetti strapped gown?" She peered closer. "What an imagination! I can only hope he adds more clothes in the next one." She hefted her portrait, which Vincent caught from her, to prop it against the kitchen island.

He was about to laugh and stifled it. "Ah, to my salad days when I was green in judgment." 1

Vincent released the string and drew back the paper. It was Diana's turn to swoon.

"He is a devil!" Vincent drew himself up, fists on his hips, lips drawn tight momentarily before he let out a long, deep breath. "Oh, coward conscience, how does thou afflict me!” 2

Diana elbowed in front of him to get a better look. To strangers it would be a work of fantasy, a mythical being dressed for gaiety. Lit within, Vincent stood raising a goblet to the viewer, his blue eyes dancing in the frolic of his surroundings; his audaciously joyful expression revealing his glistening canines. His usual linen shirt spilled open, wide ruffles framed the auburn hairs on the 'V' of his chest; his velvet jerkin was the same rich emerald as Diana's dress.

"Well, aren't we a pair?" Diana's index finger hovered over Vincent's luminous hair and glistening London blue topaz eyes. "Some imaginative interloper is spying on us." She folded her arms over her robed chest.

_________

1. Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1
2. King Richard III, Act 5

 

contact the authors:
Janet - JanetGR(at)atmc(dot)net
RedNightBird -   Tabphb(at)msn(dot)com

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