I took a moment, trying to compose myself. I didn't expect we would get married, have a little house in the country, a white picket fence, a couple of kids, maybe a dog, two-car garage with a sedan and a convertible in it. No, I didn't expect that at all. But I did want to at least say goodbye face to face.
I noticed the P.S. at the bottom of the page. It said:
"The contents of the bowling ball bag are yours. You earned it."
Now, what the hell was I going to do with $250,000.00?
I continued reading...
"I know we only shared one night together, but it was magical. I will never forget it or you. You're an amazing man, Jake Randolph, in more ways than one. I'm going with my folks back to the East Coast for a while until I recover fully. But you know what, Jake? A huge part of me will always be Kerri. You can believe that, mister. I don't know if our paths will ever cross again, but rest assured you'll always be in my heart. Love, Diana."
I wiped something out of my eye at that point...
I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all that you did. You put your life on the line for me and you didn't even know who I was. I didn't either, but thanks to you now I do. My memory hasn't fully returned, but a lot has. I remember loving Vic very much. And now he's gone. I'm ashamed that I thought he was trying to kill me. I really should've known better."
I stopped reading for a moment as a warm breeze blew by nearly pulling the paper out of my hand...
I stuffed the envelope in my pocket, kissed Nurse Peggy on the cheek and thanked her, and then got in the cab. We waved to one another as the cab drove away.
I sat pretty much in stunned silence all the way back to my car. I paid the cabbie and got out, walking to the car. I climbed up on the trunk and sat down, pulling the envelope out of my pocket. I opened it up and pulled the single page out, unfolded it and just stared at it. After an eternity went by, I began to read it...
In another couple of days I was ready to leave the hospital and Las Vegas and head for home. They called a cab to take me to my car, which was still outside of Diana's now empty apartment. I was kinda looking forward to the drive back to L.A. It would give me a chance to collect my thoughts and try to put this whole situation into some sort of perspective that I could live with.
Nurse Peggy gave me an envelope on my way out the door. It simply said "Jake" on it. I knew who it was from.
"Her memory had partially come back," Nurse Peggy continued. "She remembered who she was, and she remembered her parents. She called them and they insisted she go home to Boston. She said she wasn't going to leave you, so they flew out here and demanded that she come home with them. After all she went through she just didn't have any fight left in her."
"I can believe that," I said softly.
"She cried so many tears leaning over you I'm surprised you didn't drown. But, in the end, she let her parents take her home. She was just defeated."
Once I was able to get up and walk, Nurse Peggy took me out to the tables on the outside of the hospital. It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again. Peggy gave me the rundown on what happened while I was out of the world. Diana brought me in, nearly dead from a loss of blood, not to mention a bullet lodged dangerously close to my right lung. While I was fighting for my life, Diana was struggling to come to grips with everything that had happened. I knew it must've been terribly tough and painful...
She pulled the thermometer from my mouth and looked at it.
"You're normal," she said with a wink.
"Hardly," I said under my breath as she prepared to check my blood pressure. "Do you know where she is?"
"Yes," she said softly. "She told me the whole story, Mr. Randolph. We had a lot of time together while we were caring for you."
"So," I said cautiously, "she told you about the amnesia?"
"Mmhmm," she said, continuing with the task of checking my blood pressure. "She held nothing back. I really think she wanted to get it off her chest."
The nurse, who according to her name tag was called Peggy, looked down at me as she pulled out her thermometer.
"Oh yes, Mr. Randolph. You lost a lot of blood. You were out almost two weeks."
My sensitive eyes widened. "Two weeks? How did I get here?"
She stuck the thermometer in my mouth and looked at her watch.
"A very pretty young lady brought you here. Very distraught and very sad looking, but she stayed with you for over a week, never leaving your side."
I looked around, but she wasn't at my side. I wondered what changed...
My mouth tasted like it was full of cotton. My muscles felt like they hadn't been used in years. My sternum ached like it had an overweight elephant tap dancing across it. The light hurt my eyes when I opened them. I looked up to see a pretty blonde nurse staring down at me. She had a round, angelic face with a smile that was more blinding than the lights.
"Welcome back to the world, Mr. Randolph," she said with a voice silkier than a glass of smooth whiskey.
"Thanks," I said slowly. "I didn't even know I was gone."
Diana screamed as Vic's eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling. She'd been through so much, and now she'd lost the man she loved. And as for poor Vic, he went to his grave knowing that the woman he loved thought he was trying to kill her. And that was something she was going to have to live with.
I was about to bend down and help Diana up when my head started swimming. I felt like I was losing consciousness. I looked down to see a crimson pool on my own chest. Lanyard's shot at me hadn't missed me, unfortunately...
"So...," Vic said, blood dripping out of his mouth, "...you thought because you saw me... paying off Lanyard for the hit... that I was going to... kill you?"
Diana nodded her head, tears falling from her eyes like raindrops in a thunderstorm. "Yes. So... I threw my bags in the car... and took off."
Vic actually laughed a little, coughing up another wad of blood. "Including your... bowling ball bag. The one... I was using to take Lanny... the rest of his money... that's funny..."
He looked up at me, "That's... kinda funny... ain't it, Randolph?"
And then he died...
I rose up and walked to Diana, who was holding Vic as he lay dying. She was crying uncontrollably. I thought it was safe to assume that some, if not all, of her memory had returned.
"Vic... I saw you paying off Lanyard...," Diana said between sobs, "...then I heard you tell Rocco and Sal to take care of me... you had my bags packed... I thought you wanted... to kill me..."
Vic coughed up blood and said in a whisper, "Baby... I was making... plans for our...wedding..."
I didn't think she could cry any harder. I was very wrong...
As Diana sprinted to Vic, screaming his name, I saw Lanyard preparing to take aim and shoot her down. The rest went in slow motion:
I rolled out from behind the crates towards Sal's lifeless body. I grabbed his pistol from the floor and turned in the direction of Lanyard. Diana was in the way. I didn't have a clear shot. Lanyard was aiming at her.
She went down on her knees next to Vic as he lay bleeding on the floor. Lanyard fired in my direction. I squeezed off two rounds. Lanyard went flying backwards, crashing to the floor...
I actually felt cowardly. I was scared, sure, but that wouldn't have stopped me from facing what needed to be faced. But there wasn't just myself to consider. If I charged out in the open and got plugged there would be no one left to protect Diana. But I just couldn't sit there. I was about to pull open a crate and put Diana in it when we heard more gunfire and a thud. We both popped our heads out, seeing Lanyard there with a smoking gun and Vic lying on his back on the floor with a bloody chest...
"Time is money, Victor. It's gone beyond the 250 grand you owe me. Way beyond, friend."
Stane tried a little bravado, "Then you're a dead man, Lanny. I tried to reason with you."
I heard hurried footsteps. I knew both men were trying to get in a position to get the drop on the other. I quickly poked my head out from behind the crates to look down the center walkway of the warehouse. Nothing.
Diana was sobbing and I grabbed her in my arms.
"It's okay, baby. Everything will be alright."
Then I heard an echoing barrage of gunfire...
I heard Vic call out from behind the crates he was using as cover, "Lanny! Listen to me! Randolph knows where the money is! Let's just all calm down and we can go get it!"
I realized something at that moment. Vic Stane was a ghost, a legend in the underworld, a myth. The real Vic Stane was not the scary ogre everyone thought he was. He was practically begging for his own miserable life. I actually pitied him.
"Sorry, Victor. Not only have you neglected to pay me what was owed, you've delayed me from attaining any further work."
I saw Vic going for his gun. He gave me a look that said, Get Diana out of the line of fire. I nodded at him, grabbed her and sprinted for a high stack of crates.
Vic ducked behind some crates to the side of the office. Lanyard retreated into the labyrinth of boxes and crates. I figured I'd sit back and let the two of them try to kill each other. Whichever one survived knew I was the only one that knew where the money was that they both wanted.
My number one priority in this was protecting Diana...
I saw it in Lanyard's eye. He was about to pull the trigger, ridding the world of one Vic Stane when around the stacked crates staggered Rocco. He was holding his bloodied head and walking like a wino with gout. He must have broken the lock on the trunk of his car and crawled out. God only knows how he did it or was able to drag himself inside the warehouse. He called out for Sal, not knowing that if Sal wasn't dead already he soon would be. He looked pathetic as Lanyard spun around, shooting Rocco in the head...
"Wait, Mr. Lanyard!" I yelled louder than I intended. "There's no need for this. I know where your money is."
Lanyard never took his eye off of his gun sight as he stared down the barrel at Vic, who actually looked frightened.
"Well then, Mr. Randolph, you can take me to my money once I'm finished here. But business is business. I had a deal with Victor and he didn't hold up his end of it. Now, you were wrong about me, Mr. Randolph. I do have a code. I say what I mean and I mean what I say."