Mark had dozed off to sleep at his desk, and when the phone woke him he had the strange after-sense of plinking. Guitars sound-holes stuffed with socks and cold bones running up and down the length of his spine. He fought the urge to vomit and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"
The halls of the hospital were bathed in a cheery glow despite the hour, and a tanned nurse in squeaky Crocs showed him the way to the room. His hulking son-in-law sat crammed in the bedside chair, and his daughter Desiree (from his third wife and first love) barely made a wrinkle in the sheets on the bed.
"Hey." He spoke, and his son-in-law stood up to embrace him. His eyes quickly traveled to the bedside infusion pump and he followed with: "For god's sake tell me it's not morphine…"
"Nope," said Danny. "No calling the nurses 'chicken-fucking-astronaut-lickers' and challenging all of the short orderlies to one-on-one basketball games for us this time….She thinks everything is niiiiiiiiice."
"What is it?"
"Did you have them write it down? We may need this at home…"
Danny grinned amiably and gave up his seat to the older man.
The two sat quietly, alternately watching Desiree and the news of a grisly murder near Salt Lake on the room's tenuously hanging wall-mounted television. The only thing that broke the peace was when the woman gave a small gasp. The two turned to see her, the only change being a small furrowing of her brow. At that instant her right hand sprung to life and skittered across the bed like an albino jumping spider, pouncing on the button of the pump and clicking it several times. "Jesus Christ", whispered Mark.
Danny unfolded from his chair and walked to the bedside. He gently brushed hair off her forehead and lightly kissed the top of her head. "Hey, Diz. Your dad's here."
Desiree opened one eye slightly to look at him, and Mark was overjoyed to see none of the hardness that the pain usually brought to her face. She grinned and the jumping spider bounced on the bed beside her. "Hi, old man. Come see me." He gingerly sat on the bed beside her, trying to avoid any shift that would bring the pain back to the face that reminded him so much of her mother.
Danny took the chance to go get some coffee, and the father and daughter sat cocooned on the metal bed. "I thought we weren't doing this anymore…" he scolded.
"I know," she sighed. "Things were going really well and then…" the spider waved slowly around the room.
"Don't know really, I felt fine last night, bit of a headache, and then woke up with pain in my side and spent an hour barfing like Old Faithful before we drove in here."
"That sounds attractive."
"Yeah, Danny's gonna need to get his car detailed." She giggled softly and it was music to his ears. "So you made it home in one piece?" she asked, and he spent the next few minutes telling her of his trip and the discoveries of the demon guitar's history. Her face took on a pink flush as she peppered him with questions. Any opiate available in the world, and mystery was her drug of choice.
When the morning news showed a Detective Howell standing in front of a county meat-wagon and a trashed Boxter, answering questions as brusquely as a man who knew his waffles were cooling at home, both of them knew Mark Arthur needed to go back to Salt Lake.