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Cedric sat up, breathing deep and fast, his body covered in sweat. His head was throbbing and the moment he opened his eyes, he lost his balance and fell back to the pillows. As soft as they were, the mere sensation of touch was a sharp, stabbing awareness into his brain. He shut his eyes tightly which caused even more discomfort and the only thing Cedric Cayle knew for sure was that he was in pain. It was a place virgin to him and he would have preferred it staying that way.
“Believe me, child, this is nothing!” a woman’s voice called to him. It was soft yet cradled by time, wise beyond his perceptions, even had they been uninhibited.
He opened his eyes again and still he could not see, though the blurred images did not hurt his mind to see. He tried to move his hand to his eyes to rub them and coax them into working again. But his hand only completed a fraction of the journey to his face as he could hear metal rattling against metal. The shock of the sound shook him and he could at last see. He was wearing handcuffs, on both hands, and lying in a hospital bed.
“Well, if it isn’t the Mad Mauler, back amongst the living.” Abel’s voice was easy to place and those tones were of some comfort to Cedric. He looked up to see Abel walking with the use of a cane. He peered at Cedric through his customary brown bangs and managed a smile. Cedric looked into his eyes and knew it was not as sincere as others he had seen, but Abel was giving a genuine effort.
“I don’t suppose you came armed,” Cedric said, closing his eyes again. The throbbing in his head lessened with each sense he could do without for the moment. “End it now, please!”
“In a bit of pain, are we?” Abel asked, knowing the answer. But he had to get the measure of Cedric before he would continue with the reason of his visit. Cedric was used to this type of investigation and decided to cut to the chase.
“What happened to me?” he asked, pretty sure Abel did not have an answer, at least not the one he needed. Abel, however, recounted the events without thinking to ask Cedric whether or not he could remember the incident himself. For now, Abel was content and contained. Cedric had a moment to think, to explore this new facet of his life; as if he did not possess enough of them already! But Cedric laid there and let Abel recount the entire confrontation. All the while, he had his eyes closed. Master James always said it was easier to focus with the eyes closed and Cedric could attest to his statement’s accuracy. But with the self-appointed night over his eyesight and Abel’s voice, Cedric was able to see the entire event from Abel’s perspective and gain greater insight as to what happened with the bar fight. Yet it did not offer anything of use as far as what Cedric had experienced. The retelling of this story gave no real answers, simply validation that it had indeed happened.
“And that’s when I lost it,” he said, cutting off having to relive his sudden and inexplicable transformation.
“Lost it?” Abel repeated, taking a seat. “My friend, that is taking your gift of understatement to a point where you’ll need to confess!” Again Cedric’s curiosity was piqued. He opened his eyes and looked at Abel. “I tried pulling you off that poor bloke whose face you inverted. Threw me off like I was a bloomin’ pygmy, you did! Then you did the same with three other lads ‘ho tried to get your bonkers hide off o’ ‘im!”
“Abel, the Cockney is coming back hard and fast!” Cedric replied in a sharp tone. He needed to be able to understand his friend at the moment, so he would be made to mind his emotions. Abel lowered his head and composed himself. It took a moment. It always took a moment for him to fully recall the all the alley chases, the alley fights and the young boy that struggled to free himself of the more sour side of the British community.
“Look. It took five men to pull you off and keep you off that man. That’s all I’m saying,” Abel said getting up. He felt better on his feet at the moment. “They brought you to this place in a straight jacket and I had to pull a few strings to keep you out of a psychiatric hospital.”
“And where exactly is here?” Cedric asked looking around. It looked like a typical hospital room.
“Cook County,” Abel answered looking out the window. “And you better get yourself good and proper ‘cause you’ve got a psych evaluation any second.”
“Worse than that,” Cedric replied, remembering either points of his life that were not shrouded in mystery. They were clear and very significant. “What time is-”
“If you’re worried about catching the plane to Buenos Aires, you needn’t worry.” Abel walked over to the side of the bed and put his hand on Cedric’s shoulder. “Word of your little exploits has already gotten to Ricardo and he pulled our tickets. Job’s closed now, mate.” Cedric closed his eyes again as he was re-introduced to a pain he knew well: failure. He was not one who had experienced the sensation frequently, far from it. But to Cedric, one time was five times too many! “Apparently he had eyes on us already.”
“My money’s on the woman who hit me,” Cedric offered. She did act as a catalyst for the disagreement that escalated into the fight. “And that means Nathaniel!”
Abel nodded in agreement. “From what I hear, that would be right up his alley. You have been taking a few of what would normally be his jobs. “Who knew geeks could be so ruthless?” Abel asked.
“I am a Reverse Engineer, not a geek!”
“Mate, a Reverse Engineer resides in the Geek Pantheon. Now I will give it to you. In between jobs, you have your pursuits that have transformed you from a know-it-all to a know-it-all with style.”
“You’re just mad because the Countess said I was a better dancer than you.”
“Yeah, but it was ballroom!” Abel argued.
“Hello, she is called a Countess,” Cedric pointed out. “And if you had not been so foolish as to volunteer for Ingrid’s Rhythmic Torture treatments, you too would be an accomplished dancer.”
“I’ll stick to my nightclubs, thank you very much,” Abel said as the door to the room opened.
“And if I recall correctly,” Cedric replied, “It was at one of your favorite spots that all this happened. No thanks, Abel. I’ll stick to ballroom.”
“You don’t know how glad I am to hear that, Mr. Cayle,” the doctor said as he took a seat...