Still leaning against the oak door, Michael tried to slow his breathing. He closed his eyes and pictured Miriam greeting him at the door after a hard day at work.
She would hurry to the front door as soon as she heard the door of his Cadillac close. Barefoot, she would stand on her tip toes in order to drape her arms around his neck. Miriam hated wearing shoes at home and Michael didn’t mind. He thought she had the cutest feet. They were dainty, like her, and her toes were always painted red. Even in the yard, she would garden barefoot.
“Welcome home, handsome,” she would say as she helped remove his jacket and hung his hat.
It didn’t matter what time Michael arrived home, Miriam would be at the door. He looked forward to it. Her arms around his neck, her soft lips against his, immediately he would relax no matter how rough of a day he had. Even if they had an argument that day, she would be at the door to greet him.
“I missed you so much,” she would say.
His eyes began to water. “I miss you so much, love,” he said aloud.
He opened his eyes. The clock across the room read 1600. There was still three hours until shift change and he couldn’t wait that long to find out what had happened to Tiana. He needed to make sure was OK. He couldn’t bear anything happening to her on account of him.
How in the world did he get himself into this mess? Why couldn’t he just stop working?
“Oh Michael, you will be working on the day of your funeral!” he could hear Miriam say.
He needed to get more information on the new nurse and he knew just how to do it. Janette!
Janette was the head nurse at Manor Lakes for the past 25 years and not only was she very hard on the new hires but she was known to be quite the petty gossip.
Michael made his way to the outdated nurses station once he made sure the coast was clear from trouble. Janette was just finishing up a phone call when she noticed Michael approaching her. She smiled and put up a finger to signal him to wait for her to finish up. Her salt and pepper hair was up in a loose bun held by a pen. She wore her glasses around her neck alongside her stethoscope. She was arguing with the caller. From what Michael could gather, it was the physician and as always Janette was advocating for her patient to a man who didn’t want to hear it.
She hung up the phone and mumbled, “How stupid can you be?”
Michael smiled. She reminded him a lot of Miriam. “We have to stop asking people that question,” he said. “Too many people are taking it as a challenge.”
Janette laughed, her cheeks turning pink. “Mr. Henry, you weren’t suppose to hear that!”
“What can I do for you?” Janette said. “It’s not everyday you grace us with your presence.”
Michael looked around and while he didn’t see the ice queen anywhere, he didn’t want to chance her hearing their conversation.
He cleared his throat. “It’s sort of private, could I talk to you in my room?” Janette’s face became concerned. Michael never complained or wanted to be bothered for that matter. This must have been serious.
“Yes of course! Let’s go,” she said, standing up from her desk. She signaled to one of the other nurses that she would be stepping away for a bit and they made their way down the hall.
As they approached Michael’s room, the new nurse came out of the room across the hall. Great, Michel thought.
“After you,” he said to Janette holding the door open to his room. He shut the door behind them, but left it open just enough to keep an eye on the spy. She had parked the med cart right outside his room to make it look like she was working. She wasn’t going anywhere.
“What’s going on, Mr. Henry?” Janette asked.
Michael could feel ice queen’s eyes on him through the cracked door.
“Going on? Oh nothing really,” said Michael, shifting side to side. “Same old routine.”
The spy slammed one of the drawers to the cart shut and it startled Michael. As he jumped, Janette noticed.
“Svetlana, try to be a little quieter! No need to slam the drawers and startle the residents,” she barked at the woman in the hallway.
So that’s her name.
“Michael, are you feeling alright? You are not yourself! Come over here and sit down, let me take your vitals.”
“I feel great. I’m fine, really.” He said, not wanting to let Svetlana out of his sight.
“So what did you want to talk about?” she asked.
“Talk about? I didn’t want to talk about anything,” he responded.
Janette’s face was full of worry now. “Mr. Henry, I am very concerned. You are acting very confused. I need to check you out and possibly send you to the hospital.”
“I assure you that’s not necessary,” he argued. He was still pacing and peeking out the door.
“At least let me take your blood pressure,” Janette said. He knew she wasn’t going to take no for an answer so he sat on the edge of the bed and held out his arm.
“It’s very high! Let’s get you your prn dose of your blood pressure med. We need to get this down.”
Janette waved to Svetlana. “Can you get Mr. Henry’s prn blood pressure med? His numbers are 170/101.”
Svetlana nodded and smiled. “My pleasure,” she said.
There was no way Michael was going to go down like this.
“I’m refusing the med,” Michael said. “I’m fine.”
“Michael, what has gotten into you? If you don’t take it, I’m going to have to send you to the hospital.” Janette was annoyed now.
He shrugged. “I’m not taking it.”
Michael laid on the stretcher surrounded by EMTs.
“Have you had any falls? Any recent med changes? Any fevers?” The one gentleman asked.
Michael knew they were trying to make sense of his “confusion.”
“What if I told you I was being plotted against by Russian spies because I ruined a plan of theirs?”
The EMTs looked at each other and made their way to the hospital. He felt Svetlana’s eyes on him the whole way out of the building.
He wasn’t in the hospital room for more than a minute when the young doctor came flying in through the thick curtains. He looked familiar.
“Agent Foster?” Michael said. Foster put his hands up to his mouth. “I’m Doctor Roberts. Would you be able to take a urine sample for me today?” He said loudly, eyes wide and head nodding up and down. “Uh yes?” Michael responded. “Great, here is the cup. Bathroom is down the hall to your left.”
Michael took the cup and headed down the hall. He stopped outside the bathroom door but it was out of order. The janitor standing outside the bathroom handed Michael a key. “Down the utility hall, to the right.” He said, nodding in the direction.
Michael looked at him and made his way to his destination. At this point, what did he have to lose?
He approached the locked bathroom and opened the door with the key he was given. Inside was a duffel bag. He opened it up slowly. For the love of God, please do not be a bomb, he thought. He was relieved to find a suit, a government ID badge with his photo, and a letter.
Head out the cafeteria back door towards the loading dock. If anyone asks, say you are the health inspector.
Smart, he thought. Everyone usually runs from those guys.
Everything went according to plan and about 20 minutes later Michael hopped into the car with agent Foster.
Foster handed him a bottle of pills. “For your blood pressure, these are safe.” He said. “Would you like some water?” Agent foster offered, holding a bottle of Evian.
“The only water I’m interested in right now is one that’s been filtered through a brewery first,” Michael responded.
“Well, we don’t drink on the job, Michael.”
Boy things have changed.
Michael noticed Foster spending a lot of time on the computer.
“What’s the plan? Are we going to sit here and play Tetris all day or will we be listening to the recorded phone conversations to find their headquarters and Tiana?”
Agent Foster laughed. “There is no need to waste our time listening through hours of calls. This here is the latest computer program that does it for us. It sorts the calls and translates. It can even give us approximate locations.” He turned the computer towards Michael so he could see.
“Hmm, I don’t care for computers much. They are easy to hack and can’t always be trusted.”
“Things have come a long way since your tim…since you have retired,” Agent Foster said. “I have been using this program since I attended Penn.”
Michael glanced at Foster and rolled his eyes. These college kids think you can learn the world from text books but real education comes from life experiences.
“I’m worried about Tiana. How do we know she is safe?” Michael asked taking his medicine. His head was starting to hurt and he knew it was related to his blood pressure.
Foster clicked away on the computer and hit play on a recording.
“The girl is here with us,” a man said in a thick accent. “She will not be any trouble at the facility.”
“Keep her alive,” a second man said. “We may need her later.”
Michael’s heart dropped. He now knew she was alive but not necessarily safe.
“We need to get to her fast,” Michael demanded.
“These things take time,” Agent Foster said. “We learned in Penn that you really shouldn’t-“
Michael cut him off. “Stop thinking having a college degree makes you smart. I know plenty of people who have drivers licenses and can’t drive for shit.”
Agent Foster was in shock. “I’m…I didn’t mean to disrespect you, sir. We can try your way. You are very respected among us.”
Michael felt a little bad for the kid in that moment. “What does your robot say about their location?” Michael asked.
Thirty minutes later, they got a location and told the driver to take them downtown. On the drive they listened to more recordings. In doing so, they found out that the bomb was a distraction they were setting up so they could assassinate the Senator McConnell, who was planning on running for president that fall.
“Why would they want McConnell dead?” Agent Foster said. “It makes no sense.”
They listened to recording after recording and came up empty on a motive each time. Finally, they came across something as they pulled into the parking lot of the building.
The recording was poor quality but they could hear an American on the other end making a deal. He was giving them orders and information on the senator as well as government information. “I’ll be in to see the girl tonight,” was the last thing he said.
Who was this man? Whoever he was, he would be at this location by nightfall.
Agent Foster got on the phone to call for back up but Michael couldn’t wait anymore. He was out of the car making his way towards the building.
“Where are you going? You can’t just walk in? How do you even know what door to use?” Foster said as he grabbed Michael’s arm.
“Son, this is not my first rodeo. I know what I’m doing, let go.”
Agent Foster made one more phone call and quickly followed behind Michael as they made their way to the very back of the building where the loading docks were. There were two big trucks backed into opened garage doors and they heard boisterous voices coming from inside.
The trucks were loaded with refrigerated items and Michael knew exactly what to do. Agent Foster watched as Michael got under the truck and snipped a few wires. Immediately, an alarm went off inside the truck. The men walked into the back of the truck to check out the commotion.
“The reefer is broken,” the one man said. The other two men walked in to take a look. Michael could see there was no one else in the building so he took the opportunity to shut the gate of the truck and lock it. The men banged on the door, cursing in Russian.
Agent Foster was speechless. “How did you know?”
“Like I said,” Michael replied. “It’s not my first rodeo. They talked about shipping goods in the recordings. I know they have a candle shop in the mall as a cover and candles can melt easily so they would need temperature controlled trucks to ship.”
“Let’s go before they get help,” Michael said.
They searched the empty warehouse and were about to lose hope until they came across a basement door.
They opened it and made their way down the stairs.
“I’m not eating!” Tiana screamed. “Just take it away.” She was tied up in a chair, still in scrubs.
Michael ran over to her. “Tiana it’s me. We are here to rescue you.”
“Michael? What’s going on? Are you the old man these men are talking about?”
“No time to explain,” he said untying her. He looked at Foster. “How much longer until back up comes?”
“They are pulling in no-“ he was cut off by the sound of boots hitting the metal stairs.
The three of them stood frozen.
Out from the shadows appeared the president of the United States, Samuel Smith and Svetlana.
“It’s really a shame you didn’t just stick to your routine, Michael,” he said walking closer to him.
Michael had his hand on his gun just in case but didn’t want to pull just yet. This was his leader, after all.
“You really should have just stayed out of it.”
He could feel Svetlana’s eyes on him.
“You?! I trained this woman at work! You are involved?” Tiana shouted. Svetlana slapped Tiana across the face and threw her to the ground. Michael drew his gun but things weren’t the same anymore and he didn’t move as fast as he used to.
He heard the gun go off and felt his abdomen catch on fire. Looking down, he knew it was him.
Tiana rushed to his side and applied pressure. Agent Foster and President Smith had their guns drawn at each other. They could hear sirens and helicopters outside. Help had arrived and justice would be served.
“Help is here,” Tiana said with tears in her eyes. “Just hang in there a little longer, ok?”
Michael could hear Miriam singing their song as she walked down the metal stairs towards them. She was much younger as she stood before him. Her brunette hair was up in the same style she wore it the day they met. She always had a glow about her but today it was different.
Michael stood up and walked over to her. “Welcome home, handsome,” she said as she draped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He could hear chaos behind them, although muffled. He looked behind and saw himself lying on the ground in Tiana’s arms. He saw President Smith being arrested and Agent Foster comforting Tiana.
He looked back over to Miriam. She frowned, then smiled. “It’s time to retire, love.”