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396

"Shane's been on the phone for ages," said Roman, his tone of voice showing clear interest. "Something must be happening."

"Not your problem," said Kim immediately. He smiled.

"Don't worry. Right now my head is aching too much to do anything. I'm not staying in here forever, though."

"Just a few hours would do me." His sister refilled his water glass, then adjusted his pillows, making him laugh and wave her away.

"I'm not that much of an invalid. Doc... help me."

"I'm not interfering." Marlena was enjoying the show, and he was glad to see such a real and warm smile on her face. "It won't hurt you to be looked after a little. I'm just sorry that we can't stay with you for much longer."

"No you're not." He reached out for her hand. "It's okay. I understand. You must be pretty restless right now."

"I certainly don't feel as calm as I'd like, no." Her eyes softened. "I'm sorry. I love being here with you, Roman. I'd like to spend all day here, just chatting and keeping you company."

"But you'd rather be out looking for John." He nodded, and gave her hand a squeeze. "That's okay. I don't mind. I'd like to know what he's doing as well." He leaned back again against the pillows, his head obviously bothering him. "I'd like to know that he's okay, after that fight. He was pretty wound up."

"About the painting?" asked Kim. Roman hesitated, then smiled at her.

"Probably. That and the gang getting in the way, and him thinking they were behind the attempt on Marlena's life. Just as well he only knows about the first attempt. If he knew about all the others, he'd have been lethal." His smile faded away. "And that's another reason I want out of here. There could be any number of other assassins out there, Doc."

"We don't have any reason to believe that," said Abe, in an effort to reassure him. "Come on, buddy, you know how these things work. Somebody hires a killer, and they come in and do their job. This one's been put out of action. It could be ages before the man who hired him finds that out, and he might not even bother to send a replacement."

"We can hope. All the same, I'd feel better if I was lending a hand in keeping everybody safe." Roman sighed, seeing Kim beginning to object. "No, I'm not going anywhere. I'm practically seeing double."

"Good," she told him, and he laughed.

"I never thought of it that way before."

"You know what I mean." She sat down beside him on the bed, the sound of Shane ending his call making them all turn towards him, over by the window. He smiled a little distractedly, then put the phone away, and came back to join them all.

"That was my police contact again," he said. "I've been keeping the poor man awfully busy today. He's been taking a lot of risks forwarding me this information without authority."

"I'm sure we can find some way to say thank you when it's all over," said Kim, and he nodded rather vaguely.

"Another gunshot case has been admitted to hospital," he said after a moment. "A small place towards the outskirts of town. They're not really equipped to deal with him there, so he's been transferred over here. The description is a little lacking in detail, but he seems to be a middle-aged man, tall and slender, and probably in his sixties. I don't think I'd have given information like that a second glance, but my policeman friend tells me that the security cameras on site picked up images of a certain stolen black Lamborghini."

"Has John been seen?" asked Marlena immediately. He shook his head.

"No news on anybody answering his description. Our gunshot victim was checked in by a woman. Apparently the pictures of her from the cameras aren't great, but we do have a description of sorts from the hospital receptionist: 'Tall, black and beautiful'. Sounds like one of our thieves."

"So the man who's been checked in could well be van Dahl," said Roman. Shane nodded.

"He's pretty badly hurt, though. I don't think we'll be getting the chance to talk to him any time soon. Still, it's nice to know where he is. Maybe somebody can even turn up enough evidence to hold him for something."

"But that won't help us find John now," said Marlena. Abe was frowning.

"Maybe not directly," he said. "Any chance of following that woman, though? How many security cameras are there around town that might pick up images of that car? She could be a very interesting person to talk to."

"She could," agreed Shane. "I asked my contact to suppress the images last time, to make sure that she wasn't arrested, but it might be time to change that request. John doesn't seem to be with her this time, so we're not risking getting him arrested as well now."

"I wonder where they've been all this time," said Kim. "Why run off out of that house like that, and then wait so long before going to hospital?"

"Trying to avoid the police?" mused Abe. "They might not have realised how badly he was hurt. Anyway, with a bit of luck we'll soon get to ask the lady herself. What about John, Shane? Any idea on how long it'll take to get a fix on his transmitter?"

"They're expecting to be able to call me with an approximate location within the hour. It might take longer to get a precise fix." Shane looked over at Roman. "You were the last one of us to see him. Any ideas on where he might go?"

"I have an idea he might be the reason why van Dahl's only just going to hospital." Roman looked a little guarded, as though he did not entirely want to elaborate. "He was angry. He wasn't thinking straight. Like I said, he went a little... mercenary. I don't think even he knows what's going on in his head at times like that. He might have decided to try some kind of interrogation. As to where he is now, though... all I can think of is the museum."

"I'll give Lester a call and warn him, just in case," said Shane, reaching once again for his phone. "Seems unlikely that he'd go there now, though. It'll still be full of customers. "I'd like to follow up on this lead with the black Lamborghini. If John did haul van Dahl off after the shoot out, that woman might well have been there too, since it was her who took him to the hospital."

"This is a long shot," said Abe, "but I don't suppose she still is at the hospital?"

"She wasn't seen leaving. The most recent pictures showed the car still in the parking lot, but the police don't have access to real time images from there, so they're working with old information. I'd be surprised if she stuck around, though. I wouldn't, if I were her." He turned to head back towards the window, busy dialling Lester's number. "Still, the hospital's where I'm planning to start. There might be something in van Dahl's clothing or personal effects that will give us a clue. He's being transferred now, but that stuff isn't likely to be with him. What?" This last was to the telephone, Lester having clearly answered. "No, just talking to the others. Business, you know." His voice faded as he walked away, and the others turned towards each other to discuss the latest developments in his absence. Marlena looked at her watch.

"I wonder how long it will take them to get that man here," she said. "I'd quite like to take a look at him."

"Planning on a little interrogation of your own, Doc?" joked Roman. "This isn't Salem General."

"I don't mean it like that." She threw him an exasperated look, although she was clearly amused. "I don't know what I mean, really. I just want to find John."

"Don't worry. I'll get some of the nurses asking questions for me," he promised her. "They're quite taken with this whole ISA thing. I think they figure me for some kind of international secret agent."

"Well be careful," said Abe. "You never know who's on whose payroll. Meantime..." He looked at his own watch. "I can't help thinking about the museum. It'll still be full right now, but that doesn't mean that John won't be heading over there. He might plan to hide out inside until everybody's gone. He clearly has some kind of plan."

"Based around the work he did on the computers there," confirmed Roman. "I wish I knew a little more about that. Computers are just so much Dutch to me, though." He reached over for Kim's arm, turning it gently so that he could look at her watch. "One of us should probably head over there. Not meaning any disrespect to this guy Lester, but he's not somebody I know a lot about. Besides, it should be somebody with experience of John, who knows about... everything."

"I agree," said Abe. He looked across at Marlena, raising his eyebrows. "Fancy a trip?"

"Yes." She stood immediately, and he gave a brisk nod as though confirming the arrangement.

"Fine. Wait here a moment while I check the corridors. We'll have to take a cab, but in theory at least that's good security." He disappeared out of the door, just as Shane finished his call.

"Going somewhere?" he asked. Marlena looked businesslike and determined, and he smiled. "Don't worry, that was just an innocent question. I wouldn't dare stand in your way." She laughed at that.

"Abe and I are going to the museum, just to check up on the situation there. You'll call us as soon you hear anything from your people?"

"As soon as I know where John is, I'll be right on the speed dial," he promised her. "And if John turns up over there, you call us as well."

"I will." She turned back to Roman. "And you stay in bed."

"I will. For now at least." He smiled at her. "You'll find him, Doc. Don't worry."

"Thank you." Abe had reappeared in the doorway, and she turned to leave. Roman called out to his old friend, however, before they could depart.

"Look after her, Abe."

"You can count on that." As ever Abe sounded quietly confident. Roman nodded. He wasn't happy about not being able to go too, but he knew that he could trust the other man. Marlena would be as safe with him as she would be with anybody. All the same, it was a wrench to watch her leave. Lying injured in a hospital bed was always a hard thing to do; but when Marlena was in danger - or, perhaps worse, in pain - it somehow became ever harder still.