There was a metallic clatter as the knife was knocked out of his body when he hit the hardwood floor. Warm blood trickled out of the wound. He could hear Dave calling to him, telling him he had to move, he had to bring him the key to the handcuffs or no one would be able to help him, hospital, we have to get you to the hospital. But greyness threatened to take over his vision. Unconsciousness wanted to claim him. He had to fight it.
Then a hand cupped his cheek. I'm sorry to do this after what you've been through, but you need my help. Let me lend you my strength. Just for a minute.
The being of someone new moved through him.
When Taylor inhaled sharply and looked up, Dave's heart absolutely sank to new depths. His eyes were blue again. But then his heart dared to hope as he realized Taylor's eyes weren't an ordinary shade of medium blue.
They were cobalt blue.
"Come on Taylor, it's not that far," Kurt said through him. He dragged his body across the floor toward the chaise lounge, leaving behind a trail of blood. "I can be strong for both of us. We're almost there."
"Kurt? Is that you?" Dave said.
"We can chat another time. Lucky for us, Nicky kept the key to the handcuffs in his pocket." Kurt took it out and held it up. "Saves us time looking for it." He unlocked one side of Dave's cuffs.
As soon as he was free, Dave jumped up off the chaise and raced to Taylor's side. He took the key from his fingers and unlocked the other cuff, then threw them aside. Taking hold of Taylor's head with both hands, he checked his eyes. They were brown again. "Taylor, are you okay?"
It was a dumb question, but his sarcastic response made Dave's heart soar. "Yeah, I'm totally gooch, man."
Laughing, he gave Taylor a long, relieved kiss. Dave pulled Taylor's T-shirt off over his head and wadded it into a ball, then pressed it to the bleeding knife wound in his abdomen. His eyes widening, Taylor winced in pain. Dave said, "Why did you do that? Why did you stab yourself?" A pause and then, "How did you know it would work?"
"Kurt told me. He said if my life was seriously physically threatened, Nicky would be driven back into the statue." Taylor's eyelids fluttered, and he almost passed out. "Dave, we gotta go," he slurred, grabbing Dave's arm in a death squeeze.
Dave nodded. "Okay! We're gonna get you to the hospital!"
Chris had been calling to him; Dave finally heard. He took the hand gripping his arm and put it on the T-shirt compress. "Hold this there. I'll be right back."
A frightened look in his eyes, Taylor nodded and tried to stay conscious.
Running to the couch, Dave unlocked Chris's handcuffs. Then he helped him free his legs from the yellow rope. "Go upstairs and find your phone and Taylor's. Hurry! We're going to take him to the hospital. It'll be faster than waiting for an ambulance."
"Okay! And you need some clothes."
Dave looked down at himself. Oh yeah, he was in his underwear. "Uh, yeah, clothes!"
With a curt nod, Chris ran up the stairs.
Dave returned to Taylor's side. "It'll just be a couple of minutes, and we can go." He took over applying direct pressure to Taylor's wound.
"Dave, if... if I don't make it, tell Alison and the kids that... that my last thoughts were of them," Taylor said. He was fighting unconsciousness.
"Don't talk like that! People survive stab wounds all the time. We're going to get you to the hospital!" Dave realized he was crying.
"Just tell them that if I don't make it!" Taylor insisted angrily.
Dave accepted that anger happily; he was never so glad to see Taylor show spirit. "Okay, no problem. No problem, buddy." He reached to stroke Taylor's cheek and recoiled from the blood on his hand. Both of his hands were covered in Taylor's blood.
"I'm... I'm sorry... I yelled." Taylor's eyes welled up with tears. "I love you, Dee."
Dave sniffled. "I love you too, Tee. So much." Then he added, "You were so brave to do this to save me and Chris. I owe you my life."
Taylor tried to smile. "You would have done it for me. I just couldn't let him kill you."
Chris came running back down the stairs and slipped on the knife; he wound up dumping everything in his arms and himself in a heap on the floor. Dave cried, "Thanks!" and started digging his clothes out of the pile. Quickly, he had to wipe the blood off his hands with the socks Chris had brought. They seemed like the least important thing he had to put on. Once his hands were as clean as he could get them, Dave jumped up to put on his jeans and shirt.
Looking at Taylor, Chris's eyes filled with tears. "Thank you, Taylor, for endangering your life to save ours!" He leaned over and kissed Taylor's cheeks gratefully. "I get to see Cara and the boys again." Chris laughed hysterically. "I didn't think I would. I thought he was going to kill me! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll never forget this!"
"You're welcome, man."
Rapidly slipping his feet into his shoes, Dave cried, "I'm dressed!" He ran over, snatched up his phone, and shoved it in his back pocket. "Taylor, you hold that shirt on your wound. Help me pick him up."
"Okay!" Chris helped Dave get Taylor in his arms and pick him up off the floor. Taylor winced and tried not to cry out in pain.
"You got the other phones?"
"We take your car. You drive."
Chris nodded again, vigorously. They ran up the stairs as quickly as they could with Taylor in tow.
On the way to the hospital, Dave kept talking to Taylor, telling him he was going to be okay. Taylor lay across his lap, in his arms, trying to stay conscious. Suddenly, Dave said, "Oh God. We gotta come up with a good story."
"We can't tell them Taylor stabbed himself to drive out a homicidal ghost. They'd think we were loony tunes." He spied the word carved into Taylor's arm. "And this word! YOURS! Shit, how are we going to explain that?!"
"I had a fight with Alison on the phone, and I got drunk and carved up my arm to prove my feelings for her," Taylor suggested, his voice weak but mostly awake.
"That story will wind you up in the psyche ward," Dave said.
"Maybe not," Chris called from the driver's seat. He weaved dangerously in and out of the remnants of morning traffic. "With all the teenagers cutting themselves these days, doctors are more used to seeing it."
"Taylor's hardly a teenager."
"Thanks a lot," Taylor joked.
"And even if they do put him on some sort of psyche watch, he'd probably only be on it a short time." Chris cringed to say it, but he felt it had to be said. "Taylor will most likely be in the hospital a few days anyway."
Dave's face fell, furrowed and lined with worry.
"What about my stab wound?" Taylor's voice sounded weaker, fainter.
"Umm... you were carrying a knife down the stairs to cut a wheel of cheese and you tumbled down the stairs and fell on it," Dave said.
Chris just laughed. "They're not going to believe that."
"The knife or the wheel of cheese?" Taylor asked.
Looking down at him, Dave said, "What?"
"Did I fall on the knife or the cheese?" He chuckled a little, then winced. "Maybe it was sharp cheddar."
Dave couldn't help it; he laughed out loud. "You're a nut. I love you, Taylor."
"I love you... Dave." Taylor's eyelids fluttered, and he passed out.
"Taylor?!" Wanting to panic, Dave checked Taylor's vitals as best he could.
"Is he okay?"
"He's still breathing." Checking the compress over Taylor's stab wound, Dave's head swam, and he groaned. The T-shirt had a great deal of blood on it, so much that it had soaked through and stained the plaid shirt Chris had brought Dave to wear. He had a large, round patch of blood on his stomach. Taylor's blood. "Oh God, he's bleeding really bad."
Chris said nothing at first, swallowing hard and trying to concentrate on driving. "Check his pulse."
Dave did. "Seems rapid."
Again, Chris clammed up, but managed to say, "We're almost there."
Dave held Taylor close and spoke quietly in his ear. "We're almost to the hospital. Hold on, okay? They're gonna fix you up."
A bare minute later, Chris pulled into a parking spot near the entrance and jumped out. He came around and helped support Taylor as Dave got out with him in his arms. Taylor groaned.
"We're here, Tee! We're gonna get you inside." They ran in through the automatic doors, which swooshed open to allow them passage. "Help! My friend accidentally stabbed himself! He's bleeding real bad!"
A woman standing near the doors gasped; the scene was quite dramatic. She covered her mouth and backed away. Dave didn't fully understand her horror, other than the fact that he was a tall, longhaired man carrying another fairly tall, longhaired man with no shirt on. A joke about Chris being kind of short skirted across his mind, but it was driven out as two people in scrubs came running toward them, one of them pulling a gurney alongside him.
"What happened?" the female nurse said. She and the male nurse quickly took Taylor from him and put him on the gurney.
"He was carrying a knife and tripped and fell down the stairs. He accidentally stabbed himself."
"What kind of knife?"
"A butcher knife."
She opened one of Taylor's eyes and shined a light in it. Taylor groaned again and shook his head. "What's your name?"
"Taylor," he said weakly.
"We're going to take care of you, Taylor." She looked at Dave, her eyes moving down his body, then said, "We've got to get some blood in you; you've lost a lot." The nurse, who was already wearing gloves, pressed on Taylor's abdomen near the stab wound. He curled in on himself and groaned, a little too high-pitched for Dave's comfort. The way she touched him really hurt. "Page Doctor Curry." The male nurse went to a phone on the wall and did as she instructed. Another female nurse ran over. "Let's get him back, get that bleeding stopped."
Dave opened his mouth to ask a million questions, but the male nurse tapped his arm. "Wait over there," he said, still on the phone. He pointed to some chairs that were around the corner from the main part of the emergency room, away from prying eyes. "We'll let you know more once we get him stabilized."
"Okay. Did he look bad? Do you think he'll be okay?" Dave asked.
"We'll know more once we check him out." The nurse handed Dave a towel. "He's lost some blood, so we need to take care of that first." The man gave Dave's arm a comforting pat before speaking into the phone.
Why did the guy hand Dave a towel? Chris finally had a chance to look, and he gasped. Dave, confused, looked down at himself.
Taylor's blood had run down his left leg, soaking a large portion of his thigh. Put that with the big, fresh stain on his stomach and he was a horror show. No wonder the woman near the doors had reacted the way she had. Even Dave had to gasp and stand there, gawping at himself. "Fuck!" he cried. That was Taylor's blood.
Chris took the towel from him and wiped at the stain on his stomach. "If we just get some of this off you, it won't be so bad."
Dave realized his hands were shaking. "Chris, what if he dies? What if Taylor sacrificed himself to save us?"
"He's not going to die. They're going to get some blood in him and close up that wound, and he'll be alright." Chris took Dave by the elbows. "You need to sit down."
"I, I can't lose him. Not now. Especially not now." Dave couldn't stop looking at Taylor's blood, all over him. "Chris, I can't lose him." His voice broke.
"Dave, he's going to be alright. Taylor will be alright." He pushed lightly at Dave's arms and he went weakly into one of the chairs, bursting into tears. Chris sat next to him and pulled him into his arms; Dave wept on his shoulder. Soon, they were both weeping and hugging each other, for the fact that they had made it out of this alive, and that Taylor might not.
Their sobs had become sniffles by the time the doctor came out to speak to them. "Taylor Hawkins. Are you Taylor Hawkins' family?"
Dave jumped up. "Yes! How is he?"
"Hello, I'm Doctor Curry. Mr. Hawkins is showing signs of internal bleeding. He's given us permission to operate to stop the bleeding and make sure he didn't perforate any organs. The surgery will take about four to five hours."
"Once the surgery is done, will he be okay?" Chris asked.
"Barring any complications or infection, he should make a full recovery."
Dave and Chris looked at each other, sighing with relief. "Thank you, thank you so much," Dave said, shaking Dr. Curry's hand.
"He asked that you come speak to him before the surgery. You can stay for only a moment, alright?" the doctor instructed.
Dave was glad they made him cover his clothes with a gown before going in; he didn't want Taylor to see all the blood. Taylor's hair had been put up into a shower cap. He looked like he might fall asleep any second. "Heeeey," he said as Dave and Chris came toward him.
Looking at the bag of blood attached to Taylor's arm, Dave cupped his cheek in his hand and said, "Hey Tee. You going under the knife twice in one day?"
Taylor chuckled. He spoke slowly. "Yeah. Hey, you'll get Alison back here, won't you? But not the kids. This will just scare them."
"Sure," Dave promised. "I'll give her a call after we're done talking to you." And tell her... what, exactly?
"Hey Taylor. The doctor said as long as there aren't any complications, you'll be just fine," Chris told him.
Taylor gave a sleepy little, "Yaaay."
Dave planted a kiss on Taylor's forehead. "I think we'll let you get to it, then. You come back to us, okay?"
"I don't plan to go anywhere else."
"Good. We'll see you after the surgery." They both patted his arm and said their goodbyes.
Just before they walked out, Dave noticed the bandage on Taylor's arm. It covered the word YOURS. No one had said anything about that yet. He wondered when the questions would start.
Back in the waiting room, Dave made sure no one else was around but Chris. He took out his phone. It needed to be charged, but it should last as long as he needed it to. Readying himself, he called Jordyn.
She answered immediately. "Dave, where have you been? Is everything alright?"
"No, babe, it's not," he said, and sighed. "I need you and Alison to pack a bag and come back to Los Angeles. Taylor's hurt. He's in surgery right now."
"Oh my God, what happened?"
Dave started with the lie. "He was walking down the stairs to the art room and he had a knife in his hand that I asked him to bring to cut a wheel of cheese. You know me and cheese."
"You love cheese," she said.
He couldn't help but grin. "Yeah. Anyway, Taylor tripped and fell and accidentally stabbed himself."
"Holy crap!" Someone spoke to Jordyn and she repeated the phony story to them. Dave heard Alison shriek. Were they actually buying this? "We'll get some stuff together and get the first flight back."
"Don't bring the kids, okay? Leave them there with their grandparents and the nanny. If things get serious, we'll bring everybody home. But for now, Taylor doesn't want to scare his kids."
There were shuffling noises and Alison came on the phone. "Dave, why is he in surgery? Did Taylor hit an organ with the knife or something?"
"They don't know. He's showing signs of internal bleeding, so they're going in to make it stop." To make her and himself feel better, Dave repeated what the doctor had said. "As long as there aren't any complications, he should make a full recovery."
"Oh... oh, that sounds good," Alison said with relief.
"Put Jordyn back on the phone, okay?"
She did. "Are you picking us up at the airport?"
"Yeah. You call me when you land and I'll come get you. Don't talk to anybody. I don't know how quickly the press will get wind of this; there may be someone at the airport when you land." Dave didn't like the press talking to his family ever, but especially about matters as personal as this. If there were any press at the airport, he would be the one to talk to them.
"Okay. What about Chris? Where is he? Is he okay?" Jordyn asked.
Dave looked at Chris, who already had wide eyes like a rabbit in a snare. Oh, God, Nicky had fucked him up. It would be a while before he was really okay again. "Chris is right here." He said to Chris, "Do you want Cara to come back?"
The rabbit eyes went wider for a moment, and then he shook his head. "No. I'll call Cara myself." Chris took out his phone and walked to the other side of the room, where he could have some privacy.
Dave relayed this information to Jordyn. "You know the flight is going to take five hours, right?" she reminded him.
"I know. The surgery may be over by then."
Jordyn laughed lightly. "With the jetlag, we'll probably be just as groggy as Taylor will be by then. I would like to drop our bags off at the house before we go to the hospital. Dave, are you sure you don't want us to do all of this by cab so you can stay at the hospital and be there when - "
"No!" Dave barked. "Don't go by the house alone! Not until I take care of..." He realized what he was saying, and stopped abruptly, unsure how to continue.
Jordyn paused a long time. "Okay," she finally said. "Why don't you want us to go by the house?"
"Um... there's a lot of blood, Taylor's blood, on the floor of the art room." It wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't a lie, either.
"Oh... God..." Jordyn replied, obviously horrified at this detail, something she hadn't thought of. "Okay, we won't go by the house without you."
"I'll take care of everything before you get home."
"Jordyn, can you do one more thing for me?"
"Can you make an excuse to go off where Alison can't hear you so I can tell you what really happened?" Dave requested. He couldn't keep lying. He needed to give her an idea of what she'd be walking into.
"What - " There was another long pause. "Okay." He heard her say something to Alison about being right back, then there were some shuffling noises before she said, "Okay, we can talk."
Dave sighed. "I never meant to lie to you, babe, but the real story is long and a bit crazy. We'll eventually tell you everything, but I thought it would be better if Alison didn't have all of this to think about on the long flight back."
"Okay... what did happen?"
Unsure how to start, Dave said, "I lied to you when I said we didn't make contact with the ghost in the statue. We did, and he's responsible for Taylor being hurt."
"I knew it, I knew that ghost was dangerous!" Jordyn cried. This surprised Dave quite a bit, but it wasn't outside the realm of things his wife could believe. "He showed me that horrible vision of the head in the bathtub. A vision like that can only mean two things. Either the ghost is showing you his murder, or..."
"Or the ghost murdered someone when he was alive," Dave finished. "And he showed you this murder."
Jordyn gasped. "Hold on, that's not what I was going to say. I was going to say that the ghost was mean, and was trying to scare you with a vision he made up. Dave, what are you saying?!"
"I'm saying that the ghost in our house was a murderer when he was alive."
Pausing a long time, Jordyn swallowed hard before she spoke again; Dave heard her throat click. "Now I'm really not bringing the kids back with me on this trip."
Dave promised, "Babe, I'm going to take care of the ghost and get him out of our house. He's trapped in the statue again. I just need to figure out who did this to us and how we can send the ghost back to Hell."
"How are you going to do that?"
"I'll tell you later. I have a hunch on where we can get help."
"Okay. So how did the ghost hurt Taylor? Did he push him down the stairs?" Jordyn guessed.
How did he tell her this over the phone? "No."
"Did he somehow... push Taylor on the knife?"
"Jordyn, I would much rather tell you this in person. The story is long and... it's crazy. It's going to sound crazy."
"Just answer me this question. Was the ghost somehow influencing Taylor to not act like himself, and he forced Taylor to hurt himself or something?" Jordyn asked.
Dave couldn't speak at first, he was so floored by the question. "Yes, that's pretty much what happened, as crazy as it sounds. There's more to it than that, but that's a good summary of the events." He sighed with relief; Jordyn was making this easier than he thought it would be. It was a lucky thing, that she had some belief in the paranormal going into this, like he did. But would she, and Alison, buy the possession? Would they be able to believe it was more than just a ghostly influence that left them all broken and Taylor in surgery? "How did you know that?"
"He wasn't himself on the phone," Jordyn replied. "He was so weird when Alison spoke to him. You know how devoted Taylor is to his kids. He barely seemed to care about them on the phone." She took a deep breath and let it out. "The ghost had some sort of hold on his mind."
"Yes," Dave confirmed. She was going to help him tell this story to Alison, he knew it. Jordyn was going to make all of this easier. "Yes, yes."
"Dave, you said you think someone did this to us? What do you mean?"
"Uh... it's just really weird, it's too much of a coincidence. The ghost is a really big fan of Nirvana. In fact... he's one of the scariest obsessed fans I've ever met," Dave said.
Jordyn had to laugh. "I'm sorry, honey, I'm sorry, it just..."
"It sounds crazy, I know. I told you it was going to sound insane. I don't know why someone would put a disturbed fan like that in our house, but it seems like that's what happened." Now Dave laughed. "Just wait 'til you hear who the ghost is."
"The ghost is someone?"
At first, Dave couldn't stop laughing; he sounded hysterical. Jordyn had to ask, "Dave, are you okay?"
The concern in her voice made him feel guilty. He just couldn't help it. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to scare you. We've all been through a lot. The ghost is someone you may have heard of, yeah."
"My poor baby... you must be so worried about Taylor."
The concern, the sympathy in her voice... Dave felt guilty again because he really did love her, he did, but... as he had admitted to Taylor, Kurt, and Chris, he loved Taylor more, more than his own wife. "I am, I can't help it."
"It's okay for you to be worried," she said, as if it was silly to suggest otherwise. "So who is our ghost?"
Sighing one last time, Dave replied, "Have you ever heard of Austin Nicholas Kelly?"
"Uh, maybe, wasn't he...?" Suddenly she fell silent, and was quiet for a long time. He heard her gasp, a drawn out, shocked gasp. "The serial killer?"
"Yeah." It was all he could manage at the moment.
"Dave, my God...! How...? Did he hurt anyone else?"
What he really wanted to do was break down and sob out every last detail, but this wasn't the time to do it; he was standing in a hospital waiting room and they all had things to do, important things. This wasn't the time to fall apart. "Chris and I are okay, pretty much. We'll talk about it later, okay?"
"Okay." She knew it was bad, he could tell by her tone. "But how did that thing get inside the statue?"
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," Dave declared. A new feeling swept over him, that of white hot anger. "Whoever is responsible for this put my family in danger. Whatever I have to do, I will make them pay."
"How are we going to figure that out? Do you think - " Jordyn paused as Alison began to talk to her. Dave could hear her voice, faintly. "Dave, I have to go. There's a flight and we have little time to catch it."
"You hurry, I'll see you later today. I love you. Give my love to the girls."
"I love you too. Be strong." And she hung up.
Dave held the phone to his ear a little longer, trying to get control of his swirling emotions, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. When Chris touched his arm, he nearly jumped out of his skin. "Fuck, Chris!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to - " They looked at each other and broke out in nervous giggles. "I just wanted to tell you... well, can you apologize to Taylor for me? I won't be here when he comes out of surgery."
"Huh? Where are you going?"
"Dave, I gotta fly out to Hawaii and be with my family. Right now." Holding up his phone, he added, "I just talked to Cara about it."
Dave could hear the apology in his voice, but also the threatening hysteria. It was a feeling he knew well. "Oh, yeah. I get it."
Chris nodded, grateful that Dave seemed to understand. "I thought I was going to die, Dave. I didn't think I'd ever see my wife and my boys again. I care about Taylor and want to see him come out of this okay, but I've got to see them and hug them and hold them as soon as possible." His voice was shaking. "Please tell him I wish I could have been there when he woke up."
Dave pulled him into a hug. He suddenly wanted to see his children too, very badly, but it wasn't safe for them to come home. Not yet. And he couldn't leave Taylor. Taylor was not going to wake up from surgery and find no one there. "It's okay, buddy. You go. Taylor will understand."
Chris hugged him back, desperately holding back tears. "Thank you for understanding."
Patting his shoulders, Dave asked, "Can you do something for me first, though?"
"Can you take me back to my house and help me clean up a little?" Dave looked down at himself and winced, not for the first time that day.