Celia screamed again at what she saw next. “John, look out!”
The man had produced a three inch switch blade and before John could dodge he had buried it to the hilt between John’s ribs.
Celia was too terrified to scream. She looked on in horror at the red blossom growing ever larger on John’s shirt.
“Nobody move, police!” Two policemen arrived on the scene just as the man was coming at John a second time. John had raised his arm to fend off the attack this time, earning him a nasty cut. With his other hand, he was trying to stop the bleeding in his side, a futile endeavor.
The man who had attacked John turned on the police, brandishing his knife. One of them shot him. He went down.
Celia ran to John. “We need an ambulance. Please, please hurry.”
The second officer called it in while the first checked to ensure that the man he had shot was still breathing.
Celia’s neighbor, Teresa, picked that moment to show herself. She made such a scene that she was almost arrested. Then she calmed down and gave her statement. The children came running out of the bedroom to their mother. Celia and John were also questioned while they waited for the paramedics.
Celia thought John was beginning to look pale. She felt his face and it was clammy. She willed the ambulance to hurry. He just seemed to be losing so much blood. Half of his shirt was soaked with it.
The man, Thomas, was taken to jail for breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do grave bodily harm and other assorted charges.
When the ambulance finally arrived, Celia was allowed to ride with John to the hospital. With the IV giving him fluids, he began to look a bit better.
“Your neighbor put you in great danger today Celia.” John said softly. Celia imagined it might hurt to talk, as if taking too deep a breath was painful. “There’s no telling what might have happened to you if I hadn’t been there. You mustn’t let people take advantage of you like that.” He made a face, but Celia couldn’t tell whether it was the pain or disappointment in her. Either was bad.
“But John, you were there.” Celia took his hand carefully. “You were amazing. I’m just so sorry that you got hurt.”
John squeezed her hand. “You should have someone to look out for you Celia. You’ve got a brother in town don’t you?
“No, but he helps me a lot anyway. He’s great.” Celia wondered what John was driving at. Did he think she couldn’t take care of herself?
John looked at Celia’s sweet face and could practically read her thoughts. “Celia, I think you are too trusting and naïve for your own safety. Where do you think your neighbor went when she dropped the kids off with you? Not to the police, obviously. Seriously, did you ever ask yourself that question?” John started to cough. It clearly hurt him. The paramedic told him to stop talking. Celia never let go of his hand.
At the hospital, Celia had to wait in the hall for them to check John over and stitch him up. Celia didn’t wait well. She paced. She thought about how smoothly John had reached over and zipped her dress earlier, as if it was something he had done a lot. Had John been married? Celia was bothered again by the fact that she knew nothing about this increasingly amazing man. When did he stop being that sweet nerd? There was nothing nerdish about the John she had come to know in the past several hours, just the opposite. The doors opened and John walked out with a nurse. She handed him to Celia.
Celia was glad for the physical contact. “What did the doctor say?”
“That I was very lucky. The blade only grazed my lung. I will be extremely sore for a while, but I’ll mend.” John smiled down at Celia who was obviously holding her breath. “Breathe Celia. I’m alright.”
Celia laughed. Nervous energy bubbled to the surface and turned to giggles. She clamped her hand over her mouth.
John burst out laughing then cursed softly when the pain hit.
“I’ll call us a cab.” Celia pulled out her cell phone and called directory assistance. It was getting late. “Are you hungry? We can pick something up, or I can cook for you.”
“I think you’d better do something about the door to your apartment first. You may already have been cleaned out.” John said sadly.
Celia did her best not to react. Everything she owned was in that apartment. What was she going to do? “I’ll just go see and then come right back to you. I’m sure the police put up some sort of barrier, right?
When the cab came, John gave them Celia’s address. They both went up to her apartment. The police tape had been torn aside and her place had been ransacked. Celia burst into tears.
John pulled her into him with his good arm. “Let’s look around. Maybe there are some things we can salvage.”
There wasn’t much left, a few dresses, some shoes. Her underwear was strewn all over the bedroom. She was too distraught to be embarrassed. Someone had even gone through her pictures. She gathered them up lovingly.
Celia grabbed a tote and started stuffing the clothes and shoes into it. She checked the bathroom closet for her favorite 450 thread count sheets. They were amazingly untouched.
All of the furniture had come with the apartment, so she now had everything she owned in one large tote bag. Celia didn’t realize she’d been crying steadily until John handed her several tissues. “John,” she whispered, “They took everything.”
He reached for her. “Celia, I need you to know …”