Bella Goes Home
“Let’s go,” said Arms abruptly to Bella, who had said nothing so far, but now looked at him, her eyes welling up with tears and suddenly she was crying. Her whole life was turned upside down in a moment weeks ago and neither of these two men had thought of even talking to her in a caring way when she was found in the cold storage unit. She had been waiting for Jack to return and in strode Hog instead, covered in blood. She knew who he was but he frightened her all the same. He was so glad to see her, but instead of offering any real warmth, he said, “here you are, finally. I’ve been searching for you for a long time” and then he motioned for her to take off the fur coat she was wearing and to come along with him. She obediently following him; there was nothing to fight against and nowhere else to go.
When they stepped outside of the cold storage unit, she almost fainted from the change in temperature, which was a shock. She had been in there for a long time; she lost track of the many hours of waiting for Jack. “Where’s Jack,” she asked Hog, “why didn’t he come back for me? What happened to him? Why are you here instead?” All of these questions came tumbling out of Bella as she adjusted to the heat of the warehouse and began to come to her senses. She stood looking at Hog, wondering at the blood that was oozing from his shoulder. He didn’t answer her questions or speak to her, he was so preoccupied with his own pain, and trying to stop his bleeding. In that moment Arms appeared through a door and rushed to help Hog; to Bella it seemed that he barely saw or took notice of her. She had lost Alice and was bereft of that companionship, and these two men were treating her like she had just been chatting with them or standing and waiting for the bus. They didn’t seem to realize how awful her whole ordeal had been and now Arms was being abrupt with her and quite unkind, though he didn’t mean to be. She was distraught and hungry and young; she didn’t think she could take one more step, she was suddenly so tired.
The two men were exhausted themselves from their own adventures, but here was Bella and she deserved more than she was getting from them. Arms was suddenly struck by her childlike appearance. Hog was especially stung by her sudden crying, bringing him to his fatherly senses; he reached over with his good arm to hold her. She accepted this and leaned on him as she cried, letting out all the pain and anguish she had held inside her since she was abducted. Hog didn’t want to tell Bella that Jack had been shot by the Empress, but what choice did he have; she had asked him reasonable questions and she had already been through enough. She deserved the truth. Quietly and gently, as if he was speaking to his own daughter, he explained that Jack had been killed, shot dead in cold blood by the woman everyone called the Empress. Hog couldn’t have known that Jack had professed his love to Bella or had saved her out of sheer devotion. Upon hearing his explanation of Jack’s demise, she wept even harder, not because she loved him but because he had saved her and she thought of his young life taken before he even had a chance to live it.
Arms stood by watching helplessly, marking the information given by Hog to Bella, and understanding just how far away Rose really was to him. He wasn’t shocked by her devilish actions, only that she hadn’t shot him in the back and left him for dead on the sixth floor of the warehouse. He knew then that her love for him ran deep, but that they never could be together. Killing just to kill was not something that Arms could abide by in life, after all the Swine’s Detective agency’s motto was “think first, shoot later” and this was an ethical rule that he swore to uphold in his life always. These thoughts and brief emotions passed quickly, and now as Bella cried, weeping onto Hog’s good shoulder, he realized the urgent need to leave; ever the practical man, he wanted to get to the hospital for Hog’s sake, and to find out about Foil’s condition. As much as he wanted Bella to be comforted, he could tell from the look in Hog’s eyes that they needed to go, so he nodded to Hog who started walking with Bella towards the stairwell as she cried. Hog felt like he was comforting his own little girl then, and knew that he should have been kinder when he first saw her despite his own wound and the pain that he was experiencing.
Coming out of the warehouse into the bright sunlight of Tuesday afternoon seemed like walking into another world, one that barely noticed them, it was so busy and chaotic around the port. Bella was starting to calm down and as Arms got her into his car, he could tell that she seemed more relaxed; he was going to be taking her directly home, immediately. Hog was a bit woozy, but made it clear to Arms that Bella came first in this instance and he needed to bring her back to the Scorvino family. It had been he who carried the brunt of the search for Bella, and he wanted to see everything through to the end, wounded or not. His pride did not allow for anything else in the moment. Arms left the port and drove north to Pasadena, where Mama and Papa Scorvino lived.
He pulled up in front of their house and Bella scrambled to get out of the car quickly; Hog moved more slowly since his shoulder was throbbing with pain, and the blood was seeping through his sling. But he readied himself to see the Scorvinos and to bring Bella back home, mustering all his strength just to stand and speak to them. But Bella didn’t wait on ceremony; as soon as she saw her house she shot towards the front door, bursting through it and yelling out for her mother and father who came from different parts of the house and grabbed their daughter, hugging her and shouting in delight at seeing her for the first time in many weeks. For several minutes there was much kissing, and hugging, and holding on to their child for dear life. Bella was sobbing on her mother’s shoulder, and her father was crying too. Even Hog shed a tear at this beautiful family reunion, which felt so satisfying. To bring a child home to their parents after being lost in the world is a wonderful feeling and one which Hog never tired of in his long career as a detective. Arms himself felt the gratification of the moment, but was somewhat agitated as he really wanted to get to the hospital. The job was done, the child was home, and now he had to turn his attentions to his partners. Arms was not an unfeeling man, but a pragmatic one and he felt the urgency of the situation acutely.
It was impossible for the Scorvinos to thank Hog and Arms enough. But it was clear to them that Hog needed care, and so they allowed the two men to leave. Hog looked back through the open front door as he walked to Arms’s car, and saw the Scorvinos still embracing Bella and crying over her return. “Yes, this was a good reunion,” thought Hog. Traveling to the hospital Hog let himself surrender to the abject pain of his shoulder wound, and by the time they got there he was nearing unconsciousness. Arms had to prop him up with the help of a nurse and practically carry him in to the emergency room. Getting Hog care was easy enough, as Arms handed him off to the doctors, but now he had to find Foil. As it turned out, Foil was still in surgery. His internal bleeding was so acute that the doctors had to give him several blood transfusions and it was unclear whether he would make it.
Arms found Big Sam and Alice, who was pacing in agitation in the hallway unable to really settle until she had heard some word about Foil’s condition. Arms stepped up to her and stopped her from moving, looking into her young eyes. She looked at him for the first time, steadily taking in Foil’s friend who had come to their rescue. And in that moment she realized just how tired she was after her adventures. “Come sit down. What’s your name?” Arms asked gently, recognizing his own error with Bella and determined not to ignore her friend. “Alice,” said she quietly, feeling a physical wave of exhaustion come over her. Big Sam walked up to let Arms know Foil’s family was on their way to the hospital; Arms moved away from Alice for a minute to explain that Hog had found Bella and that she was finally home with her parents, safe and sound. Upon this news, Big Sam felt elated, crying out for joy and almost hugging Arms, who probably wouldn’t have taken too kindly to being crushed in the grip of a big Italian guy in the middle of a hospital waiting room. Big Sam called out, moving away from him, “You tell me what happens to Foil, won’t ya, Arms, but I gotta get to my sister” and he disappeared through the hospital doors quickly.
Alice was standing staring at Arms, motionless and overwhelmed, with Foil’s blood still on her dress. He walked over and directed her to a chair where she sat down feeling like the world had come out from under her. And there they both sat together in silence, patiently waiting to find out if Foil would live.
On Wednesday morning Mildred opened up the Swine’s Detective Agency offices and began her usual routine of sorting the mail, making coffee, and readying a plate of sugary treats for the day. She expected at least one, if not two of the detectives to arrive this morning, but not Foil. She knew he was in the hospital fighting for his life. Arms had called her the night before at her home; when she picked up the phone and heard his voice, she knew in her heart that it was not good news. Arms never called her at home. Never, not once in all the years working for him had she received a call from any of the detectives at her own home. He seemed barely able to get the words out, but he told her not to expect Foil to come in tomorrow. Is it the ability of every woman to read in a man’s voice the whole tragic tale of pain, sorrow and fear in life, whether he says anything about these feelings or not? Yet, in just a few words from Arms, Mildred knew all she needed to know and even more besides.
She had never told anyone, and why should she? But Foil was her favorite of the three detectives. She’s had a son once, long ago, who she lost to a horrible accident. She was a young mother and tragedy struck in a moment. He had run into the street and been hit by a car; he was her only child and she never had another. Her marriage had fallen apart after that, and somehow, she had found a way to survive and move forward. Foil reminded her of her beloved child; he looked so much like her Ronald and she warmed instantly to him when they met. She never told anyone, and why should she? But when Arms called her, she felt that pain again of a mother’s loss twice over and getting off the phone, she let herself cry. She felt the long dead pain rise up in her and she wept for her son, and for Foil and his young life that might be lost.
In the morning she opened up the office, and seemed to be her old self again. She arrived in her usual high bouffant, blonde coif, flowery print dress and heavy perfume with always a bit too much face powder; she bustled about waiting for one or two of the detectives to arrive to start their business day. But she felt in her heart a heavy sadness that she couldn’t shake off, and she knew it was because she was waiting for more news of Foil. “Not once in the hospital in so many weeks, but twice,” she thought to herself as she moved around the office straightening piles of papers that hardly needed straightening and opening and closing file drawers as if she was looking for something when in fact she had no idea what she was looking for or why. Her anxiousness was getting the better of her and finally she made herself a cup of coffee and sat down at her desk, pretending to be doing some paperwork but in fact simply waiting for someone to walk through the alleyway door and give her some news.
She was on her second cup of coffee when she heard the door opening and closing, and steps coming down the hallway. Whoever it was did not walk briskly or with much enthusiasm, and when Arms rounded the corner into her little front office, he looked tired, and worn out, like he had been sitting up most of the night and didn’t really see what was in front of him. “He looks glazed, or is it dazed,” thought Mildred. She didn’t want to let on that she was anything but brisk and busy, but she couldn’t help standing up when he came in and looking at him expectantly. He understood her concern to be the concern that she always showed for all of them; of course, he knew nothing of her mother’s love, and why would he? He never even thought of Mildred as a mother, no one in the office did, not even Foil who loved to tease Mildred and to make her laugh. She stood waiting, looking at Arms with eager eyes; she couldn’t help herself and finally said, “well?” with a note of expectation to let him know that it might be good to tell her sooner rather than later about the news that she dreaded to hear.
It seemed to take unbelievable amounts of energy for Arms to speak, he was clearly that tired from his previous adventures in Warehouse 1. He had not slept, or eaten, after Big Sam picked up Foil and raced him to the hospital. The words could barely form in his brain, but he managed to get them out finally. “He’s going to make it,” he said softly, and then he turned and walked down the hall to his own office. In a few moments, she heard the blues music that he loved to listen to, and she knew he would be in there with his Famous Grouse whiskey for many hours to come.
Mildred sat down in her office chair feeling relief flood her heart. She took a deep breath, and sighed. She felt the peace around her, and listened to Muddy Waters sing about the pain of love from down the hall. She could not have born the intense loss of Foil’s death and now she would not have to; he was not her child, but he was young enough to be her son. She understood this, and said a prayer for him and his family, crossing herself at the end and taking a moment before she rose to begin her day.
It would be a little while until Hog made it in, as was his wont, but by that time Mildred was her usual efficient self, nodding a brief hello, and handing him his mail before he walked into his own office and disappeared for the morning.
Foil stood in Arms’s office grinning in the natural way that he had with his friends. He looked tired, but healthy. It had been several weeks in the hospital after his emergency surgery, and then recuperating once again with his parents. He had tired quickly of that, but remained there out of sheer obedience to his mother, who was having none of it and would not let her youngest son leave this time too early. She put her foot down and he had given in, knowing ultimately it was for the best even though he felt like a child once again. That morning a taxi had called at the house and picked him up to go to the office for the first time since he walked out on the night he, Arms, Hog, Big Sam, Roy, and Billy went to Warehouse 1 to rescue Bella and found so much more awaiting them in that cavernous building.
He leaned on a cane, and walked stiffly but he was recovering well, his doctors said. Foil was a bit of a puzzle to them. He had lost so much blood, but he managed to survive. They were amazed at his physical stamina, but chalked that up to youth and perhaps even a miracle, though as medical men, they would never have actually said this out loud. To Arms and Hog, the miracle was Alice. They were not men who often gave women much credit, though Arms was learning that this could be a mistake of men and was trying to remedy his ways. But they were no fools, and knew that Alice had probably saved Foil’s life many times over. She certainly staunched his bleeding when he desperately needed it the most. She protected him, and made sure that he stayed alive, despite her own fear and shock at killing a man. And she stayed by his side first when no one was there to help, and then throughout his journey to the hospital; she would not see her way forward to abandon him even as he was rushed into surgery. When he came out unconscious but alive, she was there waiting for him. Such a young thing, so newly introduced to the horrors of life, she showed herself to be a strong woman who could withstand a lot of pain. When his parents learned of her heroics, they saw to it that she found a home, and she settled with Bella’s family happily.
She visited Foil every day at his parents’ house; she read to him and talked to him. He wasn’t quite old enough to be her father, but she felt that he was as good as since she had no parents of her own. He accepted her comfort gratefully and marveled at her devotion to him, and him alone. He had never felt such sincere and genuine love from someone so young and it affected him greatly. To him, Alice would always have a tender place in his heart.
In Arms’s office, Foil sat down now to talk to his friends who he was so glad to see. Hog sat there with his arm in a temporary sling that in just a few days would be removed for good. He had needed surgery on his shoulder, but he had benefitted greatly from Laura’s good care. In her hands, he was stronger than ever. Arms was the one in the best shape physically, though he said nothing to his two friends of his own heart longing, preferring to keep that to himself for now. They were not effusive men; they were close but no one shared that fact. Their bond over the nine-year period that they had known one another, since they first met at the university and subsequently worked together at Swine’s Detective agency, had only grown stronger as the years progressed. They would give their lives for one another and that was just an unspoken understanding. This had been a tough case but one that they had all survived because of the way that each man had supported the other. This would never change.
Life for the foreseeable future was going to be a bit slow for Foil, but that didn’t matter. Just being back with his two oldest and closest friends meant the world to him, though he hardly said anything of the sort. As they sat there together, Mildred came bustling in and handed round a plate of her homemade banana bread, a special treat just for Foil’s return that morning. How she liked to spoil those detectives, and when Foil praised her, she was secretly pleased and her heart swelled with pride, but she just said thank you and hurried out, leaving the three men to talk and share their stories with one another.
Foil wanted to hear how their cases were going, he missed being out in the streets chasing after criminals and he was itching to get going again. But none of them were taking any chances like the ones they took before. Yes, they were strong men and young, but the war and life had taught them that being careful and methodical was better than taking useless risks that just led to gratuitous danger. No one wanted to die. And at this point in their friendship both Hog and Arms found themselves somewhat protective of Foil. Having almost lost him twice, the second time being so close that both of them felt sure they would be attending Foil’s funeral in a matter of days after Big Sam carried him out of Warehouse 1, they weren’t taking any chances with their friend. The cases would come in time and then he would be ready for them, but for now he was going to take it easy.
Arms took out his Famous Grouse whiskey and three glasses. He poured shots, and said “a toast to our friend and comrade, Foil!” The three men raised their glasses and drank, letting the burn of the whiskey settle in their throats. They paused, feeling the camaraderie of the moment, and then Hog leaned over and put his hand on Foil’s shoulder; “it’s good to see you so well, Foil. For a time, we thought you were a goner.” It was a lot for Hog to say, and he looked down as the words came out. “Another drink?” said Arms to break the silence that had settled on the three of them; he poured the round, and this time Foil raised a glass and said, “to friendship!” and Hog and Arms echoed the sentiment, “to friendship!” Then all three men tossed back their shots and Foil smiled, feeling in his heart that everything was going to be alright.