"Huh?" she asked, surprised.
"You're injured. You need help. And, since I really have no interest in explaining what brings you to Emergency this time, it's up to me to check you out and tend to your wounds. Since there's blood on the back of your shirt, we'll start there."
Dot looked at me and smiled, and started unbuttoning.
"But let's please keep it decent, okay?" I reminded her. She slowly removed her top, keeping her breasts covered while exposing her back. I saw a couple of nasty looking fresh welts and some bruises. I winced empathetically.
"Pool cue, am I right?" I observed.
"Good guess," she replied in awe. "How'd you know?"
"Later. In the meantime, I'm going to call room service for a few things. Are you hungry? I'll order us a couple of sandwiches, and some first aid supplies -- what a combination!" I grinned, wishing I could see the looks on their faces. "Then I'll get a wet washcloth to start cleaning you up. You could probably use a shower, but not until you've been given a chance to heal a bit. Maybe tomorrow, okay?"
"Only if you can stand the smell," she crinkled her nose.
"Oh, I think I can," I replied, and gave her a quick kiss to emphasize the point.
After talking to room service, I got the washcloth and started to work. To keep her mind off the pain, I kept her talking. "Did GI Jane gave you these?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Don't be surprised, okay."
As I daubed at the wounds, I asked, "Want to tell me what you did to her?"
She took in a slow breath. "Well, if I remember right, I . . . shattered her jaw, broke her left arm, and cracked a few ribs before she blacked out." Her voice was cold with regret. "She fought hard -- and dirty," she commented, almost with admiration. "But she wasn't a black belt in Karate."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"So am I." She paused. "Perry, do you remember her real name?"
"I think her first name's Melody. I might have it written down somewhere, from the ID we 'appropriated'. Why?"
"What if we paid her medical bills for her? She's bound to have a few, and this can be my way of . . . making up for some of the damage I did to her. We can do it anonymously."
I smiled. "Sounds like a great idea."
As I worked on her, I admitted to myself, this surely ranked among the top three on my temptation scale. Massaging her bare skin was a nice feeling. And only 36 hours earlier, when my hormones were running amok and threatening open rebellion, it would've been a fatal feeling. But not now. Now I could work on her wounds without being tempted, reminding myself that God sometimes does His best work through the unpredictable.
I worked down her spine to feel for any damaged vertebrae. I knew she was enjoying it, as she closed her eyes, relaxed, and trusted my touch. However, when I reached a spot on her lower back, she released a purring sound, then her eyes suddenly snapped open and she jumped.
"Are you okay?" I asked, concerned. "Did that hurt?"
"No!" she exclaimed. "No. I'm fine. You just touched a . . . sensitive area." She put her hand on my shoulder and smiled. "I'm sorry."
"Okay." Considering her first reaction, I suspected there was more to that 'sensitive area' that she was not disclosing. Diplomatically, I didn't ask.
The final score was: one sprained ankle, one black eye, several scratches on her face, neck, and arms, and the pool cue tracks on her back. I cleaned and dressed them the best I could. "I'll tell you one thing," I quipped. "If we're going to be working together, I'm going to get us an EMT-sized medical kit." She chuckled and winced at the pain.
As I wrapped her ankle, Dot said, "My head hurts. I think she might've pulled out some hair. Just how bad is it?" I squinted and tilted my head and said as diplomatically as possible, "It'll grow back. Just . . . don't look in the mirror." As I held her comfortingly in my arms, after she looked in the mirror, I promised we'd get it taken care of.
I helped her to bed. "Rest well," I said softly. "Come get me when you wake up."
She nodded. "This time I will," she assured me.
I leaned over and kissed her. She had the purple teddy bear tucked under her chin, and held him close. I pulled the covers up over her as she just looked up at me and went off to sleep. As I turned off the lights, I looked back. There was a smile on her face, praise God. I couldn't have been happier, as I left her room for my own.
In the corner of my room was a large plastic trash bag. All of Dot's dirty clothes, including what she had been wearing, were inside. Now she wore her sweats. Most of her clothes were battle-torn and otherwise damaged. Here also, room service was above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty-helpful, suggesting a place nearby that did both cleaning and mending.
In order to give Dot an undisturbed rest, I hung onto both cell phones. I called Clark, then called Jack, giving them the current situation. They were much relieved. I was barely off the phone to Jack when Dot's phone beeped with a call from Monk and Lea. I updated them and we talked for several minutes.
In a lighter vein, Monk asked, "So, Perry, when are you two gettin' married?" And I heard the sharp sound of flesh smacking flesh -- from Lea, I assumed -- and the yelp that followed. "Later."
"Okay," I said, chuckling.
I put Paul Immanuel Owens' first CD on the player and settled back in a chair. Then I started weeping, a grand smile across my face. And I thanked God over and over and over.
Dot slept until mid-afternoon. She was sore, but still wanted to get out. We decided to take things easy for a Saturday, and not overly-stress her ankle. I was amazed at the change in the person before me, who was a basket case less than twelve hours earlier. Now there was a light in her eyes and a glow on her face that saw past the black eye and scratches.
The first thing we did involved damage control. We took her clothes to the cleaner, where they promised they'd be done by Monday morning. Then we went to a hair stylist. Dot wore a stocking cap provided by room service, and the stylist casually asked how it happened. Wearing her most innocent expression, Dot replied, "Bar fight." The stylist simply nodded and said, "Okay, dear, let's see what we can do."
I asked how long it would take, and the stylist gave me a ballpark figure of a few hours.
"There's a Christian bookstore a couple of blocks away," I said. "I can take care of getting you a Bible while you're getting . . . worked on. What color do you want the cover?"
I kissed her and walked out of the styling salon.
She turned around slowly, showing off her new hair style. "So what do you think?" she asked.
"You look like what's-her-name from the tv show. The Raven," I observed. "It's nice."
"You really think so? Greta figured the easiest way of getting past the torn patch was to even it all out. And, like you said, it'll grow back. The color was my idea."
"Why white, if I may ask?"
She looked at me and smiled. "Because I'm clean."
I nodded and smiled back. "You look beautiful."
"I'm also starved. Did you spot any decent restaurants while you were out?"
"As a matter of fact, yes . . . ."
We had dinner at Planet Hollywood. Sitting in one of the dining rooms, we were surrounded by numerous pieces of trivia and props of the entertainment world. As we waited for our food to arrive, I gave her the items from the Christian bookstore. I had been practical in choosing the Bible, getting her a pocket-sized one with a white zippered leather cover. "I also took the liberty of having it inscribed," I said, letting her see it. Below her name, also embossed in gold letters, were the words NEW AND IMPROVED. She smiled. "Amen."
Then I handed her a small box. "This is something extra. From me."
She opened it and her eyes got wide. Gingerly, she removed the gold cross with its chain and put it around her neck. As she leaned over and kissed me, she said, "It's beautiful, Perry. Thanks."
As we ate, we were captivated by the numerous displays of Hollywood memorabilia. Doing a double-take, I pointed at a particular glass display case.
"Is that what I think it is?" she asked.
"The bullwhip, the fedora, the leather jacket . . . yeah, it's Indiana Jones' stuff," I answered.
"Is that the Ark of the Covenant?"
"Impressive," I marveled, then added, "But it still doesn't match the Old Testament's description."
"I wonder what Clark and Johnny are up to," Dot suddenly asked.
"Oh, you said that Johnny was the model for Indiana Jones, right? Well, I just was wondering what they were doing right now?"
I shrugged. "Probably having a snowball fight."
The John Williams score blared over the rolling of the end credits on the massive video screen. Johnny reached for the remote control and muted the sound. The two of them sat in twin recliner couches, their feet up, munching popcorn.
Johnny turned to Clark and asked, "So what do you think?"
"Makes me miss the old days." Clark stood and walked into the kitchenette for another soda pop. "Reminded me of some of our adventures."
A strange grin appeared on Johnny's face. "And just as true," he confessed.
Clark paused and turned. "Are you suggesting that this story . . . is true?"
Johnny just smiled, a little too proudly, and nodded.
Tilting his head forward, Clark asked slyly, "Including the girl?"
"Well . . . maybe not that part." Johnny grinned back as he ejected the cassette and returned it to the box. "That was Mr. Spielberg's idea."
Clark paced the floor, musing, "You found . . . the biblical Ark of the Covenant. That's fantastic!"
Johnny looked over at the large bronze man with astonishment. "Fantastic, Doc? Not if you consider some of our old exploits. Let's see . . . anti-gravity spheres . . . undersea cities populated by gas-breathing descendants of Egyptians . . . alien colonies . . . flying men . . . dinosaurs . . . pirates . . . nazis . . . amazons . . . pygmies . . . there's more, but my memory isn't quite what is used to be." He paused, tilting his head. "Is finding the Ark any more fantastic?"
Clark smiled thinly and nodded. "No, I suppose not. Was it during those weeks in 1943?"
He nodded. "Yes. I was on a special project for the Government. Back then, it was classified Top Secret. Today it's an adventure movie on videotape." He shrugged and grinned at the irony.
"So where is . . . it . . . now?"
Johnny pointed to the video screen. "There," he said simply.
"You're telling me the warehouse exists?"
"It's in Nevada. Located very deep underground." He walked over to the refrigerator for some ice. "I'd love to give you a tour of it. You'd probably recognize some of the things stored there."
"Did you know that the Fortress had been found?"
Clark nodded. "Monk told me. Why?"
"Well, I suspect that there are several items with your name on them, removed from the Fortress after John Sunlight had his fill. Now, for what it's worth, they're safely under wraps. Maximum security, at least."
"Does the Dome stand?" asked Clark slowly and deliberately.
He shook his head sadly. "No. Five years ago, an earthquake. The Dome suddenly crashed through the ice and went straight to the bottom. The expedition team that was inside was lost."
"The second lever," said Clark in barely a whisper.
Clark walked over to the window. Outside it was snowing lightly. His tone was one of regret as he explained about the two emergency levers buried under the ice, and the function of the second lever. "I'm glad the Dome's gone forever. But I just wish no more had to . . . ." His voice faded off.
Johnny unwrapped a bag of popcorn, put it in the microwave, and punched the buttons. "This is starting to get depressing. Let's watch another movie."
He walked over to the rows of videotapes, looked back at Clark, and said, "Remember that nerve pinch you used to do?"
"Well, somebody borrowed your technique. Are you acquainted with a television series called Star Trek?"
Clark shook his head. "I've heard the name, but I don't think I've seen it."
"Good." He held up a tape. "Let's watch this one. Keep an eye on the dark-haired guy with the pointed ears . . . ."
It was Monday morning. I sat at the table in my room, a notepad open before me, the cell phone at my ear. Dot sat near me, watching.
"Gregor? Gregor Antilles?"
"Yes?" the voice on the other end growled.
I gave him my name, and told him that I was given their number by the pastor of the church that sponsored their ministry. Then I got down to business. "I need your help. I'm looking for a friend of mine. It's possible he emigrated to Romania a few years ago, and I want to find him. I know it won't be easy, but I'm willing do anything to help. You see, up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought he had died in a boating accident. Then I find out he survived, and somehow ended up there. Can you help me?"
"What is his name?"
I sighed. "That's the other problem. It's possible he changed his name when he emigrated, and I haven't a clue what it is now."
"That makes it difficult."
"Tell me about it. I know this seems to be an impossible task, sir, but I'm serious about finding him. May I offer a suggestion?"
"I have an idea of when he emigrated. If you could send me a copy of the naturalization records for that time frame, I could go through them and see if he's there. I'd be most grateful."
"All the records?"
"Maybe there's something there I could recognize, a description, or a name that he could have used."
He paused. "What you ask is not easy."
"I know, and I'm truly sorry. If there's anything that you need that I can supply . . . "
"Possibly." He thought a moment. "There is one way. The officials could be 'persuaded' to cooperate for the right incentive -- if you understand my meaning."
He meant bribing them. "I do. Cost is not a problem. How much would you need?"
He gave me a figure in local currency, then translated it to dollars. "Can you supply this?"
"I'll double it, just to be on the safe side. What would be the most expedient way of getting it to you?"
He suggested a method of electronic funds transfer. "Is this possible?"
"Yes, very much. Mr. Antilles, I don't know how to thank you."
"We could use a few supplies," he said reluctantly.
"Name it -- food, clothing, Bibles, medical supplies?"
"Yes. Any and all."
"Then consider it my way of showing my appreciation. What and how many, and who is your contact in the States?"
He gave me the person's name. "They have a list of supplies. It . . . might be a bit long."
"Don't give it a second thought, sir." I paused, then gave him my cell phone number. "This is to show you that I am serious."
"If things go smoothly, you should have your 'incentive' in a few hours. Contact me when you have the information, and I'll give you my fax number."
He was speechless. "God bless you, Mr. Liston. I'll keep in touch."
We ended the conversation, and I smiled at Dot. "I think we're in."
After lunch, we considered several places to go sightseeing, but ended up back at Fisherman's Wharf. Dot hung onto my arm for support, not trying to cause undue stress on her ankle. I didn't complain. We even found the place where we first kissed and laughingly referred to it as 'the scene of the crime.' Then we kissed there again, with new meaning.
Later, while checking out exhibits at the Wax Museum, we became separated. I was looking over the figures when one in particular caught my attention -- and my jaw dropped open. "Oh wow," I mumbled. I quickly went off in search of Dot, finding her in a nearby room. I took her hand and, as I pulled her towards the exhibit, said excitedly, "You gotta see this!"
When she did, her mouth fell open as mine had and she squeaked, "Wow."
"Uh huh," I agreed, and we both examined the statue before us.
The figure stood over six feet tall, disproportionately muscled, his skin the color of a rich mahogany. His expression was one of determination and power, with his eyes slightly squinted and his teeth bared in a menacing grimace. His outfit was leather breeches, vest and shirt. In his hands were twin .45 automatics, at the ready. In front of him was the sign that identified him:
After many moments, I commented, "He's so . . . familiar. It's Clark, but it's not Clark."
"I know what you mean," added Dot. "I can't believe it's him."
My hand brushed the camcorder case at my side. Inspired, I smiled and took it out. I looked around; at the moment, we were practically alone. "I've got to get this on tape," I said.
I raised the camcorder, moved around it to get a complete view of all details, then paused it. With a grin and another glance around, I looked over at Dot and suggested, "Let's have some fun. Move next to him. Give us a pose."
She caught on. As I taped, she got into several poses: hanging onto Doc's arm as a 'damsel in distress'; looking out at the camera in horror and shock, as Doc stood transfixed as her protector; and as co-Defender of the Universe, matching his pose, side-by-side, complete with teeth bared for battle. The bruise on her face only made her look meaner. She laughed, but pain caught her short. Then she came over to me and we switched roles. I cowered behind Doc, and took a co-Defender pose as Dot had done.
"I can't wait to see the look on Clark's face when he sees this," I commented, patting the camcorder.
It was Tuesday. We were at the hospital again, but for the checkup on Dot. While she saw the doctor, I read through a two-year-old copy of Newsweek in the waiting room. After an hour, the door opened and Dot came out. She smiled at me, and I walked over to her.
"A clean bill of health, despite my attempt at self-destruction," she commented with a smile.
"And the rest . . .?"
"It came back negative. I'm not pregnant."
I smiled, then hugged and kissed her. We took care of the bill and left.
We had a plane to catch.