• Chapter One
    “ Earlier today, some unusual events have been reported to be occurring in the downtown Fort Whether ton area. People have been diagnosed with a new strain of the flu virus. Most are in the hospital, confined to a bed. We will have more updates for you as the story continues. Now for toady’s weather. John,” the anchorwoman, Patti Nickels said with a professional smile. As she watched the red light on the ON AIR sign shut
    .off, she ran a nervous hand through her long red curls.
    I watched from the back room, listening to the lies the writers forced her to say. What they didn’t want the people of our city to know was that the cases that has been bed-ridden all died. It was a 36-hour virus that had a 100 percent fatality. So far, at any rate.
    No one knew where it came from. Some people said that it was just a freak of nature, a mutation of the genetic structure of the virus. But of course the only ones that knew of how fatal this “ flu virus” truly was is the hospitals and us cops. Orders were to keep everything hush hush, top secret and classified. The idiots giving the orders weren’t the ones having to clean up the bodies.
    I walked out of the back room, passing through the hall. Everything seemed so silent making the tapping of my heels against the linoleum floor echo loudly. I hated wearing heels and suits for that matter. I’d rather wear a pair of cargo pants and a muscle shirt than this tailored pant suit. But my captain told me to dress up and check out the news station.
    I watched from the door as Patti walked of the small set and stalked over to the refreshment table. She poured herself a coffee and began chowing down on a donut. Her blue skirt lifted higher on her thighs as she bent over the table. She was tall, a little over six foot, with long legs and a slender waist. She definitely never had to wear these death shoes that I was killing my feet on now. And the short blue skirt of her 400 dollar suit would have been short on me.
    She turned around slowly, nibbling on a glazed donut. I stepped into the room, trying hard not to trip over the cords and wires on the floor. I glanced up to see her eyes light up as if she just noticed me. ’Uh oh’, I thought as I strode towards her. She had always been one of those people that expressed themselves too much. Ever since high school, she has been tackling me every time she saw me. That’s just how she was. She ran up to hug me, squeezing my head against her small breasts.
    “ Hi Olivia”, she shouted in my ear. I felt like I had just gone deaf. I pulled away from her, rubbing at my ear with my index finger. As soon as I could hear again, I smoothed down my suit jacket and tucked a fallen piece of jet black hair behind my ear.
    “ Hey Patti. How are you”, I asked as I eye-balled the donut. The Patti I knew would not even go near something with that much sugar in it.
    She sighed loudly as she looked down at the floor. In the silence, I took in just how much taller the 22 year old was to me. At barely five foot five, I got by. But being around people who were over six foot tall, it made me severely anxious. Finally, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “ I don’t like lying to all of those people… the audience.”
    “ You have no choice. None of us do. The orders coming from the higher-ups is to keep everything under wraps,” I explained as I crossed my arms over my chest. I had a really bad feeling about this whole situation. It seemed so much like one of those movies where an illness turns into something so much worse. Just waiting for something to go horribly wrong.
    “ Yeah,” she answered with a sigh. Her hands bean to shake slightly. Suddenly she grabbed my hand. I gasped in utter shock as her long, white fingers tightened around mine. Oh yeah, something definitely didn’t feel right. “ I….I went to the doctor yesterday,” she stuttered behind her perfectly straight, white teeth. She was scared out of her wits.
    “ What’d he say,” I asked as I slowly felt my hands go numb.
    “ I have it ”.
    “ The flu? ”
    “ YES,” she exclaimed. All of the people around us turned to stare. I felt heat rush to my face as I looked back at them. Then I looked back at her.
    “ Can I have my hands back please,” I asked as I looked her in the eyes. She released my hands and stepped away for a moment. I massaged my hands, feeling the blood coming back to them. “ Let’s go. I know someone who could help.” She nodded, and we walked towards the door. As we walked down the hall and out to my car, I kept trying to think of what to do. My best friend since I was fifteen was going to die in less than two days. I was scared, for her and for me. What if I caught it? I would die if I did.
    “ Get in,” I told her as I dialed an old friend of mine. Dr. Victor Fisher owned a private hospital out in the boondocks of the city. If anyone could help her, Dr. Fisher could. On the other side of the phone it rang twelve times before he answered.
    “ Yes?” A sharp southern accent echoed the word. I could just see him in my mind, in his white coat and small glasses. He was very handsome, with a slightly angular face and a deep Native American tan. I smiled softly as I pulled the door shut behind me.
    “ Hello Victor,” I said as I shoved the key into the ignition and turned the car on. The little Nissan roared to life and hummed as it waited for me to put the gear into reverse.
    “ Levy, is that you? ” His voice sounded like he was surprised to hear from me. I guess I would be too if I was him. We hadn’t been on the best of terms since we fought at the end of our relationship. I smiled bigger as I backed out of the parking spot and drove out of the parking lot.
    “ Yes it’s me, Victor. I have a favor to ask of you. Is your hospital still taking patients,” I asked as I drove towards the freeway. I heard Patti squeak when I mentioned hospitals. I glanced over to her and saw that she had turned pale. I mouthed to her that it was ok.
    “ Yes, why? Are you hurt,” he asked accusingly. I glared at the phone as I turned onto the freeway. My foot pressed down the gas pedal and we sped off.
    “ No. I’m not hurt, Victor. I’m not that much of an idiot,” I growled into the receiver. The reason I left was because I had been tired of him yelling at me for coming home with cuts, bruises, and a couple of gun shot wounds. It was the hazard that came with the job. And he couldn’t seem to see that. So I moved out and didn’t talk to him. That had been two years ago. “ Do you remember Patti Nickels from high school? ”
    “ Yeah, I remember her. It’s kinda hard not to, ya know? Why? ”
    “ She’s sick and she needs help. And you’re the only doctor that is trustworthy,” I said as I turned onto the 74 exit. In ten minutes I would be face to face with the only man who could send electricity through me with only a look. I was immensely frightened of him, but for a friend I would walk through the fires of hell.
    “ Bring her in, I’ll see what I can do,” he said in his professional voice. I nodded and looked over at Patti. She coughed and coughed. She looked terrible. I hung up the phone and turned my attention to the road. I was worried about her. “ How are you feeling, Patti? ”
    “ Not so good Levy,” she answered with a small smile and then wheezed. She was a fighter, and I hoped that she would live through this. I nodded to her and finally turned into the driveway of Victor’s hospital.
    It looked like an old home, one of those mansion looking ones. It was mainly made of red brick with vines crawling up the walls. I had always thought of it as beautiful in that otherworldly way. From my knowledge the whole third floor was for anything that could be contagious. Patti would probably be going there. That is if Victor doesn’t turn us away at the door.
    I sighed as I pushed open the door, the breeze floating inside. I stepped out of the car and slammed the door shut. I noticed that the trees here were so big and very green. I sighed and shook my head. My thoughts kept wondering back into the past, back to him.
    “ Hello Levy,” a masculine voice purred a few feet to the side of me. I turned and saw the devilishly handsome man that part of me regretted having to see. He stood there in his extremely white coat, a pair of dressy slacks, and a white shirt. He kind of reminded me of James Bond. Both were deadly and sexy as hell. I gawked at him for the longest time, and he raised an eyebrow at me. “ What’s the matter? Do I have something on my face? ”
    I blinked a couple of times and replied, “ No. I was just thinking.” I walked past him to the other side of the car to open the door. Patti winced for a moment before going into a coughing fit. This virus was so strange. Only in the past twenty minutes, she had gotten way worse. She worried me a lot. I wrapped my arms around her and picked her up bridal style. Victor stepped forward with a questioning expression. I attempted to shrug but was unsuccessful. “ She’s got The Flu. She’s gotten worse just on the drive here.”
    His brow furrowed, making him look twenty years older than he actually was. He nervously ran a hand through his long black hair. I felt a sharp pain in my back as the young woman’s weight began to take a toll. I cleared my throat and he jumped. “ Sorry. Here, I’ll take her,” he said as he poured her into his arms. She wheezed and turned even paler. Her forehead broke out into a sweat which made her look sicker. “ Let’s get her inside.” And with that, he turned and stalked up the drive and towards the house. Silently, I followed close behind.
    My thoughts wondered as we walked through the quiet halls. Memories flashed in my mind of better days, happier times. I remembered back in high school when Patti, Victor, and I use to come down here when it was a vacant lot. Everyone claimed the old place was haunted, holding specters of ancient murder victims and suicides. Rumor said that this old manor use to be an old lunatic asylum back in the 1800’s. We loved this place even then. It was sanctuary, somewhere where we could get away from prying eyes and have some fun. Now it came down to this : my closest friend would be dying in a place where we felt like it was the only place we could be alive.
    Unwittingly a tear fell down my cheek. I wiped furiously at my eyes. I had always been one of those people who was ashamed to cry. Yes, Miss Olivia Parker was too proud to even admit to cry. As I wiped at my eyes, I accidentally slammed into a wooden door. My head began to throb, a nice dull pain uncurling inside my head. “ Perfect. I’m going to have a migraine later.” I heard a low chuckle coming from in front of me. I opened my eyes to see Victor in front of me, holding his hand in front of his mouth. He was laughing at me! I glared at him and growled, “ Did you think that was funny? ”
    “ Sorry. I was just thinking how clumsy you still are. Even after all these years.”
    “ Ha ha. Very funny,” my retorted sarcastically. Nervously, I ran my hand through my long hair, playing with the ends. “ So what do you think? Is she going to be ok? ”
    “ Always back to business for you, eh Olivia? ” He sighed loudly and took off his glasses. He pulled out a small white cloth and wiped the lenses of his glasses. The whole time his eyes stayed closed. I could tell he was trying to think, thinking of ways to put the bad news into words. “ How’d she catch … It.” The way he said it was like he was sort of disgusted. Disgusted by what this freak virus could do.
    “ I have no idea. She didn’t tell me much,” I replied as I peeled of the suit jacket. I yanked at my shirt to get it out of the skirt. Then, I started walking towards what was Patti’s room. Suddenly, he grabbed my arm hauling me backwards. I gasped and slammed against his chest. My head throbbed harder making me wince slightly. I felt him wrap his arms around me, his head resting on my shoulder. It was perfect that he was only an inch taller than I was. It made it less awkward in this type of situation. Still, I tensed up nervously. This was not a good thing.
    “ It’s been years, Levy. I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered softly in my ear. I felt my heart began to race in my chest, blood pumping to places it didn’t need to. He slowly turned me around to face him. I realized after a moment that I was blushing. “ Is the only reason you came here….the only reason you called was because Pat was sick? ” He looked into my eyes, searching them for the answer.
    I pulled away from him and turned my back to him. I didn’t know what to say. I would be lying if I said I didn’t long to see him. But I did not want to put us back through the ringer again after so long. “ Pat being sick….,” I paused, lightly chewing on my lower lip, “ is not the only reason why I called. It gave me an excuse not to chicken out.” I ran my hand through my hair nervously. I didn’t like being put on the spot, especially by the only guy who knew my weaknesses. He scared me because he knew how to get under my skin just enough that I would do anything for him.
    “ Really? ”
    “ Yes. But Patti needs us right now, so let’s get back to her,” I pulled myself together, telling myself that I needed to keep my focus on her. Can’t be distracted.
    “ Always business first. Fine. She is getting worse by the minute,” he said in his “ doctor ” voice. I watched him shove his hands in his coat pockets. “ I am afraid that I can’t due much for her but give her some penicillin and keep her hydrated. After that, I don’t know what to do.”
    “ Are we gonna lose her, Victor,” I asked as I leaned in against the door frame. As far as I could tell, Patti’s room was just the same as the day she had claimed it all those years ago. It was very spacious, making it seem very homey and warm. The walls were painted a sort of light golden yellow with a rough texture to it. There were paintings of Victorian ladies and life hanging about the room. The bed itself was the only thing new. Patti had bought it when Victor finally bought it. It was a queen-sized, canopy bed made from red oak and mahogany. The paneling showed carvings of geese and ducks. I guessed that Victor had chosen the bed spread to match the whole décor of the room. I thought it was lovely, matching perfectly to Patti’s personality.
    Victor had originally bought the place to make it our true sanctuary. This was the place where any of us could come here to escape our daily lives. After school, we would come up here in my p.o.s. truck (because I was the only one who could drive) to hang out and relax away from our parents. Everyday hassles and over-bearing parents disappeared once we entered those French doors. Here we were truly free. We each had picked a room for us to stay. We painted the rooms according to our personality. It was haven to us, and now it would be her death bed.
    “ I pray that we won’t. But realistically, we might. That virus is deadly,” he replied.
    I turned to him and gawked. “ How’d you know about it being fatal? I thought it was classified.”
    “ Oh, it is. But see, unlike you, Patti and I still hung out during the two years you avoided me like the plague. One weekend she told me about the virus that claimed two of her coworkers. So I looked into it,” he said calmly, yet with a hint of accusation. I glared at him then stalked over to the bed where Patti was laying under the covers. I took her hand in mine, shrugging off the nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Her hand was icy cold with sweat.
    She looked as if she had been one of those cancer patients who you could see dying for weeks. Looking at her made my heart ache badly. I tried not to cry, biting my lip to stop it from quivering. I felt her squeeze my hand tightly and her eyes opened to slits. “ Hey baby girl, don’t look so serious.”
    I laughed because I couldn’t help it. I laughed because it was better than crying. “ I’ll try not to, Buggie. How ya feeling? ” I stroked her forehead softly, smiling knowing it wouldn’t reach my eyes.
    “ Not so good, honey. I feel like crap,” she replied with a laugh. Then she began coughing. She continued till she began coughing up blood. I became so scared. I begged inside my head for her not to die. I begged the Lord not to take her from me. I felt Victor move up beside me, rubbing her back gently. “ So what’s the prognoses, Doc? Are you and Levy back together? ”
    I gapped at her. What the heck, I thought as I looked from her to him. Was I being played? Was this all a sick joke? It couldn’t be because she is really sick. “ No, little one. We are not.” He smiled sadly at her and left the room. I glanced at him as he left, watching his hair sweep behind him.
    She pulled herself up in the bed, patting the covers for me to sit. I smiled and sat next to her. “ I must admit I’m a little confused,” I confessed as I wrapped an arm around her.