The cops get my foot free while the paramedics check over the dead guy to see if there’s anything they can do for him. It takes four cops to shift the load on my foot enough so that I can pull it free, and by then my body’s given up on telling me about the pain, more or less. I can feel the foot like an extra heartbeat, but it doesn’t hurt, exactly, as long as I’m not putting any weight on it.
The dead guy’s dead, sure enough, so after the cops talk to me and review the scene, they give the medics the go-ahead to get him out of there. They roll him onto a stretcher, but can’t heft him high enough to get the wheels to lock into place; after one of the cops pitches in, they finally get him up and rolling, but even then I can see that it takes a fair amount of elbow grease just to steer the thing.
I hear the stretcher clang into the back of the ambulance outside, and then one of the paramedics comes back in, motioning to me. “Come on,” he says, “we’ve got to get your foot fixed up.”
I shake my head. “No, I’ll get it looked at in the morning. I can’t leave the museum unguarded.”
Behind me, one of the cops snorts. “I think we can manage to cover you. You want to tell me where the security tapes are before you get out of here? We’re gonna need to look those over, see if there’s anything you forgot to tell us.”
I completely forgot about the security tapes. Suddenly, I am extremely glad that I couldn’t get up the nerve to crush that guy’s head while he was down. I can see the moment playing out in my head: all the cops gathered around the monitor as I calmly walk up to an unconscious man and methodically crush his head into jelly. The cops look at each other, and one says something into his radio. Then it’s my mugshot, then me in an orange jumpsuit in prison, trying not to look threatening to or scared of a bunch of guys who really belong there.
“You okay?” says the paramedic, and I realize that I’m in a cold sweat just thinking about what could have happened. “Come on, take these crutches and let’s get to the ambulance.”
I’m suddenly very eager to be away from the cops. “Yeah, thanks, um –”
“Brian. Good to meetcha.” I try to offer my hand to shake, and almost spill myself off of the crutches. Brian grins as he steadies me.
“Careful there, Dan. Crutches on a marble floor is not the time to try fancy maneuvers.”
“Hey, how’d you know my name?”
Brian points. “It’s on your badge.”
Like I said, I was an idiot.
The hospital turns out to be fine. I’ve barely been waiting at all when they call me in, x-ray my foot, prod me a few times just so I feel I’m getting my money’s worth, and fix me up with a cast. They give me a once-over for other injuries while I’m there, too, but it turns out that I really am totally fine. Nothing but a few shallow cuts from that whole fight; if I hadn’t been screwing around with the desk afterward, I would’ve walked away from it unscathed. I ask the doc about my superstrength, and he starts to explain about adrenaline, but I cut him off with a hand wave.
“Yeah, I know all that, but how come it kept working for me after the fight? How come I don’t have torn muscles and bruises and stuff? Why’d it shut off all at once like that?”
“The body and mind can respond to stress in unpredictable ways,” says the doc, which I can recognize as medical-speak for “your guess is as good as mine.”
After the cast sets, they let me go, but when I get back out to the lobby, there’s a cop waiting for me, one of the same ones from the museum. I freeze up, the vision of the cops all watching me murder a guy on video running through my head again, and it takes an effort to remember that it didn’t go down like that.
The cop’s walking over toward me, so I make myself keep heading toward him. When we’re close, I say, “Something I can do for you, officer?” It sounds stupid once I say it out loud, like I’m playing at being nonchalant, and I wince, then hope the cop didn’t see that, then realize I’m panicking again, and try to take a deep breath and end up swallowing some spit and having a coughing fit.
The cop either doesn’t notice any of this or writes it off as me having had a pretty rough night, and says, “Nah, I’m just here to give you a ride back home. Save you the trouble of waking someone up at this time of the morning.”
“Oh, heh,” I say, “I don’t really know who I’d call, anyway. Probably would’ve gotten a taxi. But I mean, thanks for not making me do that.”
I follow the cop – Officer Peterson – to his car, and he gives me a lift back home. Along the way, we chat about the job, and my home life, and about living in my parents’ house – it’s not like that, I rent it from them and keep the property up, it’s a good deal for everyone – and when he drops me off, I’ve almost forgotten he’s a cop. So it’s a bit of a shock when I’m getting out of the car and he says, “Don’t leave town for a few days. Everything looks pretty clear cut, but we’d like to have you accessible in case we have any more questions.”
And then I realize that this whole ride back, he’s been profiling me. I’ve been telling him about my friends, my family, my job, the whole nine yards; I’ve even taken him straight to my home address. But I look in the open car door at him, and he looks genuine, just like he has for the entire drive. So either he really is a good guy, or he’s really good at faking it.
I can’t tell, and standing here isn’t going to help, so I say, “Sure, no problem. Thanks for the ride,” and I limp inside, flop down on my bed, and fall asleep in my clothes before the bed’s even finished settling.