5. All Mad Here
They drove to the hospital in silence. Lily tried to talk to her a few times, but Emi cut her off savagely. She would not, could not speak to Lily or to anyone else, not now. She was too sick, too horror-struck, too furious to even form words.
Besides, in order to speak she would need to think, and that was something she couldn’t bear to do.
Thankfully, Lily soon got the idea. Only when they had parked, and Emi had switched off the Toyota’s engine, did she try again. “Do you want me to remain here?”
“No. God no. I can’t do this on my own. I’m not even sure I can do it at all.”
“Shall we wait a little while?”
Emi sucked in a long, hard breath. “Nah. I’m guessing I’ve got about twenty minutes before I lose it completely. Maybe half an hour. If it’s okay by you, when that happens I’d really like to be back in the car where no-one can see me.”
“Which makes me the perfect companion,” Lily smiled.
Niiza Hospital’s reception desk was quite high. Emi had to stretch up a little to lean on it comfortably, but to be honest she was glad to take the weight off her legs for a few moments. “Um, excuse me?”
The receptionist smiled, bowed mechanically. “May I help you?”
“There was a woman brought in earlier today, a Miss Rin Tezuka?”
“Just let me check.” The soft rattle of fingers on computer keys. “Ah yes. Hm. May I ask your name please?”
“And your relationship to Miss Tezuka?”
“Cousin,” she said, slightly too quickly. Would the staff have detained her if she confessed to not being Rin’s relative? Emi wasn’t sure, despite having spent so long in various hospitals herself. She didn’t want to take the risk, anyway.
The receptionist looked at her a little oddly. “Of course. Well, would you like to follow me?”
Emi’s didn't think her heart could have dipped any lower at that moment, but she'd been wrong. There was no error, no chance of reprieve. Had the old woman made a mistake about the nature of Rin’s injury Emi would have been simply given directions. Instead, the receptionist was already up and out from behind her desk.
Emi took Lily’s arm. “Come on.”
They followed the receptionist together, not speaking. Emi listened to the sound of Lily’s tapping cane, and wondered if Rin’s parents had been informed of her death. They were probably already here, she realised.
When they met, would they be angry at her? Shout at her? Maybe Rin’s father would lose control and hit her.
She hoped so. It was nothing that she didn’t deserve.
“Here you are,” said the receptionist. “Please wait a few moments. A doctor will be with you shortly.”
Emi glanced about, slightly puzzled, as the woman trotted away. “Ah, okay…”
“Where are we?” Lily asked. “This sounds like Accident and Emergency.”
“How would you know that?”
“I’ve had a few of both.”
As far as Emi could tell, Lily’s assessment was entirely correct. They were at one end of a long, narrow ward, with open cubicles on both sides. Most were unoccupied, but a couple of beds were obscured by curtains.
Pulling Lily gently along with her, Emi padded to the nearest cubicle and peeked inside.
“Omigod,” she squeaked. “It's her she's in there oh god oh god Lily she’s okay!”
“I beg your pardon?” Lily’s hand was clamped tight around Emi’s upper arm. “Are you sure?”
Rin Tezuka was sitting up on the bed, propped up against a couple of pillows. She was wearing a hospital gown, hung rather loosely over her shoulders, and there was a surgical dressing, as long as Emi’s forefinger, taped above her left eye. The skin beneath it was a marred by a florid bruise, but otherwise Rin seemed to be completely, miraculously unharmed.
She was looking at Emi with a mixture of confusion, fear, and something close to loathing.
“Yeah. Pretty sure.”
Emi stumbled back out of the cubicle. A very young-looking doctor, tall and quite startlingly handsome, was standing by the door and watching her with his eyebrows somewhere up in his hairline.
Where she had been told to wait. “Hey,” she smiled nervously. “Sorry.”
“I see you’ve met Rin already.” He strode over to her, put his hand out solemnly. “I’m Doctor Higuchi.”
She took the hand, shook it. His skin was soft and quite cool. “Yeah, about that…”
“It’s quite all right. Are you here to take her home?”
“Is she well enough?” Lily asked.
Higuchi nodded, maybe unaware that Lily couldn’t see it. “There’s no reason for her to stay here, as long as she’s with someone who can keep an eye on her.”
“I assumed her parents would have been here.”
“They’re abroad, I believe.”
“Doctor, um, sorry…” Emi’s face felt warm. Don’t be an idiot, she told herself. He’s not that handsome. “Look, we’re pretty confused. Somebody told us Rin had been, well, shot.”
“Somebody was right. “
“That’s why I’m having any visitors accompanied here. Don’t want anyone from the press making a fuss.” Higuchi’s expression darkened. “Your cousin was very, very lucky. It looks like some maniac was playing around with an old rifle outside her apartment. Probably didn’t even know it was loaded, as if that’s any excuse.” He folded his arms. “The damn thing went off and put a bullet right through her window. Half an inch to the left, or if she’d not turned her head at that precise moment…”
“Was the gun recovered?” Lily asked.
“Thankfully yes. The police say it blew up after the first shot, may even have injured the idiot who fired it.” He chuckled. “We’ll be looking out for him, I assure you. In the meantime, Rin’s a little concussed and she’s got a nasty cut across her forehead. We’ve stitched it, but she’ll need help with the dressings.”
“I can do that,” said Emi quickly.
“Want me to show you how?”
“I’ve done it before, don’t worry.” Emi nodded at the curtain. “Is it okay if we…”
“Sure. I’ll sort out the paperwork.” He paced off. Emi found herself watching him go, and shook herself.
Lily must have noticed it. She was smirking. “My my, what a lovely voice he had.”
“Shut up, you. I’ve been on starvation rations since before the divorce started.” She nudged Lily back towards the cubicle. “Come on, let’s get this part over with.”
Rin had obviously been listening. She was sitting perched on the edge of the bed, legs dangling. Her eyes met Emi’s just for a moment, then her gaze slid away.
“Hello Rin.” Lily frowned. “Doesn’t Emi warrant a greeting too?”
“You can say hello to her if you like, but she’s standing right next to you so I guess you’ve already met.”
“It’s okay,” said Emi. “I told you she wouldn’t want to talk to me.”
“It’s far from okay,” Lily replied. “Rin, Emi has been very concerned about you. We both have. The least you could do-”
“Concerned?” Rin tilted her head. “Wow. Just when I thought today couldn’t get any more fucked up, along comes Emi being concerned. Sorry, Lily, I’ve had first-hand experience of Emi’s concern, and it didn’t work out so well for me.”
“Lily,” muttered Emi. “Please just drop it.”
“What’s wrong?” Rin asked her. “Haven’t you told Lily what happened the last time you got concerned about me?”
“She did,” breathed Lily. “You were ill. You went into hospital for a while.“
Rin blinked, slowly, her big, bottle-green eyes half-closed. “Oh. Right. That’s what she told you.”
“Not the part where she called the police and told them I was insane and needed to be locked up before I hurt someone.”
Lily paled slightly. “I beg your pardon?”
“What, didn’t you know that part?”
“I did not.”
“That’s okay, neither did I. Not until a policeman came into my studio and knocked me down and sat on me and broke two of my ribs.” Rin hadn’t moved. She was talking to Lily, but everything she said, every flat, lifeless, monotone word was directed right at Emi. “And I ended up in, oh, what are they called? You know, those nice government hospitals where they don’t steal your money and they take really good care of you and try to make you better.”
“I don’t know.”
“That doesn’t matter, because it wasn’t one of those.”
“Rin,” Emi whispered. “No-one ever meant for that to happen. You know that.”
“I don’t know that. I don’t know anything for sure. I’m crazy, remember?”
Emi bunched her fists. A cold, sick anger was flooding up from inside her, bitter as bile. “Can we at least not talk about this here?”
“Don’t you want to? You’ve never apologised for what you did, so I thought you’d be proud of yourself. Then again you’ve never admitted it either, so maybe not.” She looked perplexed. “It must be really confusing, being you.”
“Shut up, Rin,” grated Emi. “Why are you involving Lily in this? Just shut the fuck up.”
Rin slid herself off the edge of the bed. She leaned down to Emi, her face very close. “You let me rot in there for eight weeks. Eight weeks strapped to a bed and pissing into a diaper. Eight weeks without sleep because of all the screaming. Eight weeks being force-fed, when they bothered to feed me at all. And if Dad hadn’t emptied his bank account and got me out, they were going to start giving me ECT just to stop me crying.” She shrugged, lowered herself back onto the edge of the bed. “So you’ll forgive me if your concern doesn’t really fill me with hope and joy right now.”
Emi’s fingernails were digging like blades into her palms. She was fighting to keep control, from lashing out and physically striking Rin, and it was one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do.
“Yes,” she hissed. “It was me. I called them.”
“And do you know why I called them? Because when I went round to your place to invite you to my wedding, I found out that you hadn’t eaten for two weeks. You hadn’t drunk anything but cheap brandy in three days. You were wandering around your studio wearing nothing but a filthy dressing gown and when I tried to talk to you, you kicked me in the knee. You couldn’t speak, Rin!” She was shaking now, voice cracking, eyes tearing. “You were dying!”
Rin was watching her steadily, her head tilted slightly down and away, but there was an uncertainty in her eyes that hadn’t been there before.
“I’ve lost too many people,” Emi whispered. “My dad, that poor boy at school… I knew that if I didn’t do something, something horrible and cowardly like calling down the authorities on you, then I was going to lose you too.”
“You did anyway,” said Rin, very quietly.
Emi took a deep breath, and nodded. “Fine. I lost you. But the rest of the world didn’t, so that’s okay.”
“Then it’s okay to hate you for it.”
“If that’s what you want, yes.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “Come on Lily, let’s go.”
“Emi, please.” Lily’s grip on her arm tightened slightly. “Not yet.”
Rin closed her eyes. “Lily, it was nice seeing you again. But I think your friend has had a really good idea and you should probably run with it.”
“Very well.” Lily dipped her head. “But please, before we go, will you tell me something? Have you received any unusual correspondence lately?”
“I’m glad.” She sighed. “That’s a relief, Rin.”
“Unless you mean that death threat thing. Why, what do you mean by unusual?”
A sharp pain spiked up Emi’s arm; Lily was suddenly holding onto her very tightly indeed. She resisted the urge to wince. “You want to run that past us again?”
Rin’s face was a study in disinterest. “Some newspaper clipping. About that man who got stabbed, which was horrible, and then it had been photocopied on a really crappy copier which made it look worse. I don’t know why.” She yawned. “Sort of grainy. Like those dream sequences in horror movies.”
Emi glanced across at Lily. The other woman was tense, her face rigid.
“Was there anything else?” she asked.
“My face stuck on with glue. I mean, don’t people even know how to Photoshop?” Rin’s eyes opened, narrowed suspiciously. “Why? Did you send it?”
“Why the hell would I send you a death threat?” Emi scowled. “Before today, anyway.”
That earned her a sharp rap on the ankle from Lily’s cane. She didn’t feel it, of course, but the sound of it made her start. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Rin,” said Lily, “Emi and I have received very similar letters.”
“What, with my face on them?”
“No. They were, ah…” Lily’s voice dropped lower. “Personalised.”
Rin sat forward, her eyes suddenly very wide. “That’s bad. That’s a worry. I’m worried now. Is someone going to shoot at you too?”
“We’ll be careful,” said Emi. “Lily, we should-“
“No,” Lily snapped. “Emi, what’s the matter with you? We’re not children, and this is more important than your foolish arguments. Tell Rin what happened.”
“Something happened?” Rin was on her feet in one smooth, fluid movement, off the bed and standing right in front of Emi again. “What? What happened to you?”
“Liar. Stop lying, you liar.” Rin was tilting her head this way and that. For a moment Emi thought it was some kind of nervous tic, or side effect from her injury, but then she realised that the woman was checking her for damage. “Tell me.”
She swallowed hard. “I… I think someone tried to run me over.”
Rin’s expression crumpled. In one instant all her coolness and disinterest were gone. She was shivering, her eyes wide, her skin white.
“No,” she whispered. “No no no no. Not you.”
“It’s okay, I’m all right. Just some bruises.”
“It’s not okay. How can you say it’s okay? What could possibly be okay about this?” Rin shook her head. “No. Not okay. Help me get my clothes back. We’re leaving.”