That is not the way that stories get finished.
I've had this next bit of the story outlined for months. It's really long and involved, though, so I've been putting off the actual writing. I can only get away with that because I have the outline in hand and can therefore theoretically come back later...
Anyway, I spent part of my vacation outlining "The Stone of Kings", meaning that I can now put that off for awhile. It probably needs to happen anyway since it'll doubtless do me some good to get my head out of Wanderhaven for a few months.
THE RETURN OF DR. NECROPOLIS
CHAPTER 9: Lost in New York (Part 1)
By the time Frank came back to himself, he was freezing. He looked around. Buildings rose like towers on the banks of the river over his right shoulder casting long shadows across waters of the Hudson. The new light of morning peaked around buildings, turning the sky red and gold. Steam rose off the water, shrouding the cityscape’s concrete banks. Frank didn’t know where he was or how long he’d been in the water.
I’m lucky I didn’t drown, he thought. Must’ve been in here for hours.
With an effort, he rolled off his back and started swimming towards shore. He didn’t have far to go, but his arms and back were numb and cadaver-stiff, and it was all he could manage just making them move. His body was tight and sore, and he was shivering, making even small movements a challenge. Still Frank knew that had to get dry. At last his feet touched the bottom, and he stepped forward, pulling himself towards a metal railing that shielded a concrete path from the dangers of the river. He reached up and grabbed the railing, but his fingers slipped on the cold metal, and he fell back into the water. Spots swam across his vision, and his shivering grew uncontrollable. He had a vague sense that he should be worried about something, but his thoughts had become sluggish in his head, and he couldn’t quite remember what it was that ought to be such a concern.
He reached up again and grabbed the railing, gritting his teeth with the effort. The air was bitingly cold, but he’d made up his mind to get out of the water, and that was what he was going to do. He heaved and pulled, exhaling a breath like smoke against the frigid air, and then he was up on the concrete, both arms wrapped around the metal railing, holding as tightly as he could, teeth chattering in the morning cold.
“Hey buddy! You alright?”
Frank tried to look, but he couldn’t turn his head. He couldn’t move at all. Strong hands gripped him, pulled him over the railing, and he flopped like a landed fish onto the path. His head bounced from the concrete, and he saw spots again…
The next time Frank came awake, he was sitting in a little concrete office. There was a desk and a couple of chairs and a little space heater that was blasting blessed warmth into the air. Two men sat staring at him, both wearing brown pants and white t-shirts. Their tan uniform blouses hung over the backs of their chairs, each embossed with a green leaf inside a green circle—the New York City Parks Department logo. Frank wondered how long he’d been in the water, realized that he was still shivering, and that it was a miracle he’d survived. He’d drifted all the way from Buchanan in northern Westchester County down to New York City—though God alone knew which part. Regardless, it must have taken him hours. His whole body ached so much that even breathing hurt. Some small part of his brain began registering his symptoms.
He really was lucky he hadn’t died.
“Hang in there, buddy,” one of the Parks guys said. “We already called the ambulance.”
“N-n-no,” Frank muttered through chattering teeth. He couldn’t quite remember why the ambulance was a bad thing. “N-n-no ambulance. I’m alright…”
“Must’ve hit his head,” one of the men said.
The other nodded and then turned to look Frank in the eyes. “Dude, I don’t know what happened to you, but you are one ice cube away from being a popsicle, you hear what I’m sayin’? You are blue, my man. You need a doctor.”
Frank reached up, tried to stand, and fell back. He hit his head again, but not hard enough to numb his mind again, thankfully. “I n-n-need to g-g-get out of these w-w-wet c-c-clothes. D-d-do you have a t-t-towel or s-s-something?”
“Yeah, buddy,” the first man said. “Sure thing.”
They reached down and started stripping off Frank’s clothes. One of the men produced a towel from somewhere, and although it was filthy, Frank didn’t care. Who knew what he’d been exposed to in the Hudson? He started drying himself and--with effort--pulled himself closer to the space heater. His shivering got worse before it began to started getting better. His mind began to work again, at last, and he remembered why he didn’t want an ambulance.
The prison break.
The guards at Sing Sing must have realized he’d escaped by now. If they also figured out where he’d gone, then the paramedics might well have received an All-Points Bulletin. They might recognize him. They probably would.
He couldn’t go back to prison. Not when he was this close. Not when Draygho was still parading around the City with Frank’s life’s work in his hands. The Neural Disrupter was the invention and sole property of the infamous Dr. Necropolis, and if Frank wasn’t quite ready to be that man again, he was for damn sure not about to let Draygho walk away with it, either. Draygho was a punk and a bastard, and it was long past time Frank settled up with him.
Besides, Frank still had to pay Draygho back for Jaynie.
Frank looked around, but there were no obvious weapons within reach, and even if there were, he wasn’t sure that he could overpower two burly Parks Department guys, not in the state he was in. Nor did he want to. The Parks guys had saved his life, no question, and it wasn’t against them that Frank held his vendetta. There was a time and place for gratuitous violence, but this was neither. He would just have to come up with another way to—
The paramedics arrived, and whatever plans Frank was hatching were gone in an instant. There were two of them—a pretty blonde girl, standing maybe five-feet-six, and a skinny dark-skinned kid who looked like he was two weeks out of high school. Between them they were wheeling in a stretcher.
Frank blinked. When had the kids gotten so young?
“Take it easy,” the girl said. She turned to her partner. “You wanna call this in, Jack?”
Jack reached to his collar for the hand-mike that was clipped there and turned away. He started talking softly, but Frank couldn’t hear him because by then the girl was leaning close to take his vitals.
“I f-f-fell in the w-w-water,” Frank said.
“It’s okay,” the girl replied. “You’re gonna be okay. What’s your name?”
Frank looked back, saw his discarded clothes, and realized that at some point he’d lost the uniform blouse he’d taken off fat fucking Grossman’s bleeding corpse back at Sing Sing. That was a blessing, he supposed, since it left only the white t-shirt that Grossman had been wearing when Frank stole his clothes, along with the blue prison guard pants, but those weren’t distinctive enough for anyone to identify. Whatever Frank told these two, it was going to stick—he hoped—at least until he got to the hospital.
He decided to stall.
“I f-f-fell in the w-w-water,” Frank repeated. The paramedics could make whatever they wanted out of that.
The girl ignored him and turned away. “Hey Jack, help me get this guy onto the stretcher, okay?”
“Ready when you are,” Jack replied.
Frank had to suppress a smile.
Two minutes later, they had him in the ambulance, covered in a blanket, intravenous fluids running into his arm, the siren overhead screaming as they raced towards the hospital. Jack was driving while the girl—Frank still didn’t know her name—sat over Frank looking concerned. Frank wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but he knew he couldn’t let them admit him to any hospital in the City. The City’d bureaucracy was far too professional. Someone would identify him for sure.