Brad slowly opened his eyes and looked around. The Intensive Care Unit was dim and quiet, except for the soft beeps and whirs of the medical equipment. He felt the oxygen tubes in his nose, and when he looked down, he could see that there were IV valves in his wrists. He slowly moved his arms and legs. Good, they seemed to work. So did his fingers and toes when he wiggled them. He blinked a few times and tried to remember what had happened.
‘You’re back with us.’ The voice was distorted and sounded far away, but it was definitely a woman’s voice.
‘I guess so,’ Brad rasped. Then he added, ‘I sound like a croaking frog.’
‘We had you on a ventilator for a couple of hours. You might have a slight sore throat for a bit, but you’ll be OK.’ The woman moved closer. She was wearing light blue scrubs, so she must be a doctor or nurse or something.
Brad felt a wave of exhaustion, but he had to know. ‘What happened?’
‘They’re doing blood tests now, but it looks like some sort of drug or medication overdose.’
‘But I don’t use drugs.’
‘The doctor will be up in a little while to see how you’re doing. She’ll probably have some answers for you.’ By the time the nurse finished her sentence, Brad was asleep again.
Three hours later, Brad woke up with the strong feeling someone was nearby. He opened his eyes and saw a figure in a white coat. The doctor. She smiled and asked, ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Like a truck ran over me.’
‘Not surprising. Your blood tests showed high doses of opiates. Have you been taking pain medication?’
‘No, not at all.’ Brad tried to shake his head, but it hurt. Why the hell would he have opiates in his system? It made no sense. Then he had a mental picture – was it a flashback? Dinner. A restaurant. Italian, he thought. ‘Carbonara,’ he mumbled.
‘Car? You were in a car?’
‘No, carbonara,’ he insisted.
‘Don’t worry,’ the doctor assured him. ‘You’ll get a chance to eat later, or maybe tomorrow morning. It won’t be pasta carbonara, but it’ll be edible. Now, I’m going to let you rest, and I’ll be back later.’
As the doctor left, Brad flopped his head back against the pillow in frustration. She hadn’t understood. He didn’t understand all of it, himself. But he knew it was important. Pasta, and a bottle of pinot grigio. Tiramisu. Definitely an Italian restaurant. Who was with him? If he could only remember that, he might be able to figure this whole thing out. Then it hit him. Jessie! She would know. He always told her where he was going when he went out. She had a good memory, too, which was part of what made her such a phenomenal assistant.
That evening, they moved him to a regular hospital room. ‘We want to watch you for a day or so,’ the doctor told him. ‘If everything goes well, you can go home tomorrow or the next day.’
‘Alright,’ Brad agreed. ‘But I really am feeling better.’
‘That’s good. Eat something, get some rest, watch some TV, and we’ll check on you later.’
As soon as the doctor left, Brad called Jessie. ‘How are you feeling?’ she asked.
‘Lots better, thanks. Did you bring me here?’
‘I called for an ambulance. They brought you.’
‘I know this sounds stupid but, were you there? I mean, at the restaurant. Sorry, but I don’t remember much.’
He heard Jessie’s soft chuckle. ‘Don’t worry about it. No, I wasn’t there. You were with Eleanor.’ He’d only been seeing Eleanor for a few months, but things were going well.
‘So how did you know to call the ambulance?’
‘Eleanor called me from your ‘phone. She said you had a heart attack or something, so I called 9-1-1.’ Brad wondered why Eleanor hadn’t called the emergency number herself.
They discharged Brad from the hospital late the next afternoon. He’d been very lucky, they said. He rested at home that evening, still trying to piece together what had happened. Eleanor stopped by to see if he needed anything (he didn’t), and he decided to come straight to the point.
‘You were there at the restaurant. Why did you call Jessie, and not the paramedics?’
‘I didn’t call Jessie.’
‘Don’t you remember? We had some wine, but then I had to go. We promised we’d have dinner the next night – Friday night.’ Wine, clinking glasses, Eleanor’s laugh. Yes, he remembered now.
‘Then who…’ he started.
‘I honestly don’t know, Brad. You didn’t say you were staying there for dinner.’
Who did he have dinner with? Brad tried to remember, but it just wasn’t coming back to him. And why would anyone tamper with his food or drink? He didn’t think he had any enemies – well, no-one who would go this far. ‘I just can’t remember,’ he muttered.
‘Don’t think about it now. It’ll come back to you. For now, just relax.’ Eleanor was right. That’s what he needed to do. He thanked her and, when she saw that he was getting tired, she left.
Brad was tired, but he couldn’t sleep. Flashes of memory kept coming back to him. Wine. Eleanor. Dinner. Carbonara. Pinot Grigio. Someone chuckling at something he’d said. Was Eleanor lying? Had she done something to his food? Thank God for Jessie. She’d remembered everything about that evening. He would talk to her about going to the police.
Jessie slowly put her ‘phone back on her desk. Brad had started talking about going to the police, which was the last thing she wanted. Not if he remembered she’d had dinner with him that night. She’d have to do something about it. The dose she’d put in Brad’s wine wasn’t enough. She would have to try again – and soon. She nodded and let herself dream about what it would be like to own the company herself. She’d get there soon enough.