THE SAVE (Chapter 18)



Coop managed to wake Timber long enough to eat dinner with Scott and himself, in which she managed to down a reasonable serving of Pasta Alfredo and two pieces of Italian bread which he made without garlic for her and then cut up in small pieces to sneak past the sores in her mouth. The salad was a no go, but she did eat three of Coop’s mother’s sour cream cookies from a batch he said she made especially for Timber. Scott – via his brother Miguel – was right about the headache, and shortly after dinner Timber went looking for her in house medical authority to get him to dole out whatever “take at bedtime” pills he had for her, only to find him in the rec room reading a paperback copy of The General’s Daughter.


“Coop mentioned it was a real good book,” Scott said looking up into her expression of disbelief.


“I must already be asleep,” Timber said to the ceiling, and walked out feeling something primal must have shifted in the universe if Scott Avila was reading for pleasure.


In her room it was like Christmas with a box of shoes and two boxes of clothes. Everything except underwear. In the bathroom Scott had stacked a dozen New York Yankees night shirts and two towers of green hand towels on which he had propped an index card which read in blue felt tip pen: “I thought these shirts would be good for your modesty needs and still let me change your dressing while you are asleep or drunk or otherwise unable to assist. The green towels are my drapes, please don’t use them for your showering purposes.”


Who could not laugh at that?


A more enigmatic communique was left by Pete Puckett, whose barf stained shoes and pants had been removed, but whose wad of cash wrapped in an ATM receipt was now sitting in the soap dish by her bathroom sink. Scrawled across the receipt in Puck’s chicken scratch printing was the message: “If you wanted the money Timber, all you needed to do was ask.” Still no hairbrush but he had added body lotion and Visine eye drops to her toiletry collection.


Timber chose the nightgown on the top of the stack and fell into bed on her back. Seven minutes later Scott brought her three white pills of varying sizes to swallow with a glass of ginger ale which he made her chug down because Miguel had told him Timber should drink more. He then made sure she flipped over on her stomach, lined pillows around her to make it harder to roll, tucked a soft blanket around her incredible shrinking body and whispered goodnight. But Timber was already fast asleep.


It was after 1 a.m. when Timber jerked awake from the crash dream covered in sweat. It was a dream she used to have almost every night, but in the last few months had managed to banish completely, until tonight. She was on her back, the pillows Scott had arranged lying haphazardly on the floor. Her failure to be able to do such a simple thing as stay on her stomach disheartened her, and she got up to wash her face and have a drink of water, which she drank from cupped hands, as there was no glass in the bathroom. Downstairs she heard the front door open and footsteps ascended the stairs. A key jingled in Remy’s bedroom door lock and the door opened and shut. She listened intently for any sound of conversation or bedsprings squeaking, but there was nothing. Looks like Remy struck out.


Two hours later Timber was still awake, and the urge to turn over on her back was so overwhelming she got out of bed, put the hideous orange Duck’s sweatshirt over the nightshirt Scott had provided for her “modesty needs” and crept down to the kitchen in search of any leftover Fudgy the Santa cake. She found him in the freezer with half of his face and all of his hat gone. When she turned around with the cake in her hands, Coop was there.


“I had the same thought,” he smiled conspiratorially. “Is there enough for two?”


Coop produced plates and spoons and even paper Christmas napkins that read: Noel.


“I heard Remy come home,” Coop observed. “Looks like we’ll all be sidestepping his bad mood tomorrow.”


“Do you know why she hates me Coop? Samantha? Dr. Heckert? I’m not even sure I what I’m supposed to call her.”


“Timber, I swear, Remy is the last guy in the world to talk about his private life. I cannot even confirm for a fact that she hates you.”


“She’s not here because I am, right? The hate thing would kind of follow.”


Coop ate Santa’s eye and made no further comment.


“So I I would guess you have your own significant other problems?” Timber changed the subject.


“What makes you say that?” Coop continued to spoon ice cream and didn’t look up.


“Uh, Supermodel Carolina No Last Name stood up in Turks and Caicos?”


“Oh that.” Coop said like there could be an assortment of significant other problems Timber could have been referring to. “She was fine with it. She’s working. No worries, ok?”


“I don’t know Coop, you could have been a superstar in the bullpen this year with all the guys passing around the candid shots of you and all the models like they took with Jeter.”


“I’m already the superstar in the bullpen,” Coop claimed, “And you know what I always say, ‘ya seen one swimsuit shoot ya seen ‘em all.’”


“Have you seen one Coop?”


“Not yet. But when I do I will have.” He winked.


“When I do I will have?” She giggled. “You’ve been hanging around Carolina too long. You’re losing your ability to speak English. How do you two talk to each other anyway? Whenever I see her on Entertainment Tonight she practically needs a translator.”


Coop let that one go by too, got up and cut them both another piece of Santa ice cream cake.


“Can we talk for a minute?” He opened.


“About the pool house?” She asked suspiciously.


“No. Although I’d like to hear about that some other time when you are ready to talk about it. About something Puck said: that someone should ask you why you are so scared of Dr. Avila and Dr. Chen. You know at first, I thought you were in trouble with the law and you were afraid they’d discover something and have you arrested. But then today, when Puck put you in my truck, you looked terrified Timber, and you asked me if I was taking you to the hospital.”


Coop got closer to Timber and lowered his voice. Timmie, what you are afraid of, is it a real threat? Or is it your imagination? Like Scott pranking you with the poop shake?”


“How would I know that Coop?” She countered. “The poop shake thing felt real at the time.”


Coop gave her a smile. “Can you maybe tell me? I would be glad to render my second opinion.”


Timber dug into her second piece of cake thinking. Coop ate in silence waiting.


“The part of the story you are talking about started four or five months ago.” Timber began quietly, unsure of where Remy and Scott might be. “We have medical marijuana in Michigan, and I went to try to get my pharmacy card.”


This admission surprised Coop, but he didn’t stop to put Timber on the spot about why she wanted to smoke pot.


“You have to see a doctor,” Timber explained, “but the doctors who have these pharmacy card practices must not be very good, because the one who saw me thought the lividity was bruising from being beaten up, just like you guys did. Only this doctor reported it to the police.


“So three days after I applied for the card, early in the morning, I was still in my nightgown, a man and female cop appear at my door along with a social worker, and they want to come in and talk to me about who is beating me up. And I say they must be mistaken, someone is using my ID and tell them to go away. But the male cop keeps at me, threatening that if I don’t let them in they will come back with a warrant that I am a “danger to myself” and force me to cooperate or take me to a mental hospital.”


“So I am freaked, but since they didn’t have a warrant, I told them to wait on the porch while I called my lawyer. But I didn’t think it through Coop. Usually I think these kinds of things through. I see all the sides. But I was so freaked, I called John Vanderhei, my Chief Operating Officer at World Wonders who is a very good guy; I trust him, and I asked him to send our in house counsel.


So the lawyer does what lawyers do, and the police go away, and they haven’t been back, but ever since then that cop threatening me with being  “a danger to myself” has been worrying me. Because I looked it up, and in Michigan it’s the standard for involuntary commitment, maybe in New York too, I’m not sure because I never thought I’d be here so I never researched it.”


Coop reached over and took Timber’s hand. “Timmie. I really think you are worried about nothing. Timber looked down and Coop could see she was disappointed he wasn’t more worried. “Is there someone out there you think would try to use this to have you committed?” He asked.


“Not actively trying Coop” she admitted, “at least I don’t think so, but there are people who would benefit from me being committed, people who would surely seize on it if they knew about it, and I have no way to know about what my COO and the lawyer say in the break room, you know? And there’s this man, Ben Guthrie, the Chief Financial Officer, I’ve had to smack him down twice now for trying to undermine our community capitalism structure, and replace it with a pay structure that maximizes profits and benefits the company executives at the expense of our street level programs.


Part of what we Coop is buy bad utility debt, and then we allow the debtor to pay it back by working at a job we provide that benefits the community, like tearing down vacant housing, or child care at night so the single mother can get the extra dollar an hour at the factory. We need to keep a large cash reserve to pay those salaries, and this guy, he wants to change the algorithm I came up with that determines the ratio of operating funds to profit, because profit increases executive salaries…” Timber could see she was losing Coop.


“The bottom line is if he has his way, it will slow hiring debtors and World Wonders will eventually collapse, and my whole Community Capitalism will be a failure. A joke.”


“But he can’t do any of that now, right?” Coop asked. “Because you own the company. You have the last say.”


“Now I do. Now I do.” Timber confirmed. “But if I were ever committed, the court would probably appoint a conservator, and the common practice is to allow the executives to run my company and send me my profits. I’d have no input.


“Then there’s door number two,” Timber went on. “My sister. She’s married to an English Duke. He has a title but no money and if she were appointed conservator, she’d drain off the cash in a heartbeat. They’re like a greedy Downton Abbey times ten. She takes care of our mom, and I pay the bills, which I don’t mind, I don’t mind at all, but if you could see what she charges me for you’d know what I mean. Things like five pounds a kilometer to go visit the home Mom’s in, or to go buy her an ice cream cone. She’d trash my business. She’d suck off all the cash and once again it would collapse and Community Capitalism will be deemed a failure.


So Coop, I don’t know if anyone is actively trying to commit me, but I know there are people who would if they could, and as long as I look like this, I’m in danger of that happening. So I tried to make myself better, but I couldn’t. And I was afraid to go to a doctor because he might see my back and my sores and how thin I am and say I’m danger to myself. And the more I tried to help myself, and the more I failed, I realized there was no one in this world who gives a damn about whether I’m in the loony bin or not unless I pay them. And if I can pay them to be on my side, someone else can pay them more to be against me. There was no one I could count on if I was committed. I’d rot in some nicely appointed dead end place until everything I built is gone and my economic theory is trash.


I grew up in Connecticut Coop, but there’s no one there I even send a Christmas card to anymore. Jay Metzger got traded to Arlington, so my best friend Dana’s down in Texas. Scott’s parents moved to Florida for a fresh start. And then I thought of you guys, and I sent that email, and I meant to come to Flint, but then I fell asleep and forgot about it, and I didn’t think you’d really come anyway. But I was hoping…” Timber teared up and Coop squeezed her hand.


“So the bottom line is Coop,” Timber got herself under control, “as soon as I can get well, the threat goes away. Because no one can say ‘Look at her, your honor, you can see what she’s done to herself.’ My lawyer can say, ‘yes, she went through a hard time, but look, she’s all better now.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do Coop, gain some weight and get rid of the lividity and the sores and get well enough that the danger to me and my business goes away.”


Coop got up and poured them both a tall glass of milk. “Wow,” was all he said as he took the gallon jug from the fridge. “Wow,” he repeated, as he put one of the glasses in front of Timber.


“So, as I understand this, you aren’t under any direct threat that you know about, but if certain people knew about your condition, they might be able to use it against you.”


Timber nodded at that assessment.


“And you feel getting well will end their threat?” Coop added.


“They won’t be able to say I am a danger to myself,” Timber nodded. “So yes.”


“And whatever it is that is responsible for your lividity,” Coop pressed her, “It’s not against the law? Something you could be sent to jail for? You didn’t shoot anyone with that loaded gun?”


Timber shook her head no. “I bought some Internet drugs to see if it made things better, but I don’t think that would be a prison type crime.”


Coop smiled at her his big toothy “We’re in the Series” smile. “Timber, Sweetheart, you can be out of this tomorrow morning.”


Timber looked skeptical with a touch of hope around her bright green eyes.  


Coop took her by both hands, still smiling ear to ear. “Think about this. If you had to go to court to defend yourself today, it would look bad. I can see that. But all you have to do is say yes to Remy tomorrow when he presents our game plan for you, and all your problems go away.


“Timmie, if for some reason you had to go to court, your lawyer would say, ‘Your Honor, my client had a medical problem, but now she’s going to a doctor every week and following his advice, and she’s working with a nutritionist and gaining weight, and she’s seeing a physical therapist, and a grief counselor, and she’s strength training with the four hottest Yankees on the team,” Coop winked. “And we’d all be there, standing right behind you, to tell that judge how hard you are working and how much better you are every day, So what’s that judge going to do? How’s he going to send you anywhere that will give you any better treatment than you are getting right here, with us? With the people who love you, Timmie?”


Upstairs, the door to the guest room opened and they heard Scott make his way down the hall to Timber’s room no doubt to check that she was sleeping on her stomach.


“Think about it,” Coop urged, squeezing her hand. “All you have to do is say yes, and you don’t have to live in fear of being found out anymore.”



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THE SAVE (Chapter 17)



The very first meeting of the Timber Lilley Task Force convened about an hour after Coop and Puck Puckett brought a depleted and virtually silent Timber home, where Scott Avila took responsibility for changing the bandage she had dunked in the sleet when she fell on the sidewalk and for settling her on her side on the couch in the den. Coop tried to tempt her with a piece of a Fudgy the Whale cake Caravelle turned into a Santa head for the season, but Timber was fast asleep before he could coax her to take more than three bites.


Scott, who had checked things out with his brother as soon as he heard what had transpired, informed Coop and Puck that his this was a natural reaction to what is known as a “catharsis” and they should let her sleep, but be prepared for her to awaken with a headache, so Puck went down to Walgreen’s and bought her a bottle of Advil, because he once heard a girl in a club say it was the best brand for women. At the register there was a Christmas display of perfume with a sign over it that encouraged “Last Minute Shoppers” and on impulse Puck picked up a bottle of Ralph Lauren’s Romance as a little surprise, but on the walk home he changed his mind – or perhaps lost his nerve – and put it in the pocket of his jacket instead.


The meeting evolved in Remy’s home gym, where Scott was working on his pitching shoulder doing curls with a 20 pound Kettlebell, part of the low weight/high rep program his trainer had him on. Every ten minutes he would check to make sure Timber hadn’t reverted to form and turned over on her back.


“It’s like the couch is metal and she has a magnet in her butt,” he complained to the others.


The room was dotted with bags and boxes of all sorts, all of them Timber related. Puck sat reading the instruction book for a tandem rowing machine he had found, a specialty item college rowing teams use to train on, while Coop experimented with its settings. “It says here you should be able to change the amount of resistance on each seat” Puck told Coop. “I figure I can put her in front of me and gradually increase her load and decrease mine until we’re pulling about the same.”


“She can’t do that with that thing on her ass,” Scott warned him. “Friction is not our friend.”


“I thought of that,” Puck replied pulling a bag toward him. “I got her sliding shorts to wear under her clothes.”


“Speaking of which, how are we coming on the workout clothes for her?” Coop inquired.


Puck pointed to two large boxes with the Adidas logo on the side, the company he had represented in print ads for the last two years. “They sent over all kinds of stuff size Small and Extra Small. And there’s another box of shoes I already put in her room size five and a half, six, and six and a half. Cross trainers, high tops, there’s gotta be something she likes.


“What about socks and bras?” Coop pressed him.


“Four dozen pair of socks from Adidas and I’ll get her a bra when she grows back her tits.”


“Why do you have to always ay stuff like that?” Scott complained. “It’s disrespectful.

“It was a joke, Avila.” Puck answered. “There are sports bras in the Adidas stuff.


“How about the underwear?” Scott waved his new Timber Task Force cell phone at Puck, “You got the special instructions I sent you from the doctor?”


“Cotton panties large enough to cover the sore without the elastic touching it,” Puck repeated the clothing request Scott had sent him. “I’m working on it. But it would be a lot easier if you just let me take a look at the damn thing so I know it’s exact placement and how big it is.”


“No,” Scott refused him. “From now on, “I’m the only one who sees her sores”


Puck snorted. “You Avila? What makes you so special?”


“I’m in charge of her medical needs,” Scott told him. “And I learned how to change the dressing for real today.”


“What do you mean for real?” Puck scoffed.


“I mean you just don’t yank off one band aid and put on another.” Scott defended his statement. “From now on, we do it as clean as we can. I don’t wear the clothes I had on outside or in the gym, and even though I wash my hands with special soap, I wear gloves. Then I put towels around on her butt so that the sores are in a box inside the towels. They call that the “drape.” The place inside with the sores is called “the field,” just like baseball, so I figure I should be pretty good at it.”


“Wow Scott, I’m impressed.” Coop told him. “Did your brother teach you all that?”


“Yes. He did. You don’t mess around with these kind of sores,” Scott told him. “These fuckers took down Superman. Miguel doesn’t have office hours tomorrow because he and I were supposed to be flying out to British Columbia, so he’s going to show me how to do the breathing treatment the right way too.”


Scott put down the Kettlebell and wiped sweat off the grip. “Miguel also said we have to be conscious of Timber’s sensibilities, and not make her feel uncomfortable. You know, with her naked ass hanging out, for her modesty and all.”


“The way I heard it,” Puck sniped, “For Timber, modesty used to mean turning her pubes to the wall when she changed from her bikini to her shorts.”


“Yeah, well things change,” Scott shot back. “And now we all need to be sensitive to any body issues she may be having.”


“Really Avila?” Puck laughed. “No wonder you they say you wear an apron.”


Any further bickering was cut short by the sound of the front door; Remy had returned from his post session discussion with Sam Chen, and Coop used the interruption to turn the discussion back to brainstorming ideas to entice Timber to first, agree to stay, and next, to actually expend the effort it was going to take to get well.


Remy’s first stop was to check on Timber, who roused when he tucked a pillow behind her to make sure she stayed on her side. He took a knee to be at eye level with her.


“I guess you’re pretty pissed at me,” she said with a voice hoarse from crying.


Remy shook his head at her. “I’m eating my donuts?” He said, and they both broke out laughing, and Timber knew it was going to be ok between them.


“Did you tell?” She asked him.


“About the pool house? No. Timber. I wasn’t there to be his spy. I was there so he could give me some suggestions on what sort of things we can put in our program that will help you feel better.”  


Timber sighed like the weight of the world had just dropped from her shoulders, brought his hand to her lips and kissed it in gratitude.


“Thank you Remy.” She croaked. “So I’m safe?”


“Of course you are safe. No one wants to hurt you Timmie. Dr. Chen isn’t the enemy. And we’re all here, Coop and Scott and even Pete. Anyone wants to hurt you has to come through us. Now I’m going to go talk to the guys and finalize our plan for your rehab, and then I am going to take Samantha out to dinner at Balthazar, and I’ll be home by 8:00 tomorrow to give you our sales pitch and I expect you to be up and showered and brimming with Christmas cheer.”


“Brimming huh?”


“Ho ho ho, Fa la la la la, the whole jolly bit.”


“I will if you will,” Timber answered.


“Well, that remains to be determined,” Remy winked, his response not quite as cryptic as he meant it to be.


“She’s giving you another turn at bat huh?”  Timber teased.


“Got any advice for me?” He asked.


“Don’t swing at those pitches in the dirt 3-2. It’s your greatest weakness.”


“No Timmie,” Remy answered. “You’re my greatest weakness.” He kissed the top of her head and whispered, “It’s a well known fact.”


The teammates came together around a program they’d run in two phases. Phase One would last until Timber topped the scale at 100 pounds. Until then, everything she ate or drank, every exercise, every sleep period, would be directed by her Yankee trainers. When she reached that 100 pound milestone and she began to look and feel more healthy, she would be rewarded by some autonomy, and changes to her routine she would find attractive enough to work for. It was those changes the guys were brainstorming when Remy made his way to the gym.


“How’s everything coming?” He asked Coop who stood in as an informal second in command when Remy was away.


“Good. I still have to program her Fitbit and finish up the music I want for our first bike session, but other than that I’m good. Your IPhone is on the weight bench.”


Remy stepped over a box filled with water bottles and sweat towels still with their price tags on to retrieve it. Coop had set up an identical phone for each member of their group, with Timber’s schedule and contact information for each of them and for people like Monte White and Miguel Avila. Remy stopped on the Emergency Information page and read what had been entered there. ‘If you suspect Timber is running a fever, check immediately. If confirmed over 100 degrees, call Dr. Avila immediately.’


“You post this Scotty?” Remy asked him.


“That butt sore might get Superman, it’s not getting Timber.” Scott declared. “Miguel also wants her to have special underwear that won’t rub on…”


“I will get the damn cotton granny pants,” Puck cut him off.


“See,” Scott put down his Kettlebell and faced Puck. “That’s just the kind of attitude you are not supposed to have around Timber. We’re supposed to be building her self esteem, not making her feel like crap.


“Coop put the dentist on her schedule tomorrow,” Scott turned back to Remy. “But I think I should take her. Medical/dental. You always see those things together.”


Remy looked to Coop who shrugged his assent.


“That’s fine Scott,” Remy told him. “It’s good to see you taking this so seriously. But to tell you the truth, I’m not so sure Timber is even going to stay.”


“Because of that thing with Chen?”


“It was brutal,” Remy shook his head. “We were right to be ready for her to run.”


“So what did Chen say?” Coop pressed.


“I think he was in a different session than I was. He seemed to think it was a productive first meeting but that might be because he hasn’t noticed yet that she eviscerated him and his balls are laying on the floor.”


“Jesus,” Coop shook his head. “How were things up until the fireworks?


“Unproductive. You know how juvenile she can be. My feet are cold. I have to pee. She was like a two year old trying not to be put to bed.”


“You should have tried slapping her upside the head,” Puck put in. “It always worked for Jordie.”


“Fuck you, Puck.” Remy barked. “That happened one time. One Time!”


“That you know of.” Puck shot back. “One time that you know of. But that’s like seeing a rat in the cupboard and assuming you have one rat in your house, and not a whole shitload of them scampering around behind the wall where you can’t see them. And I’ll tell you something Robicheaux, it’s nice to hear you admit Timber got slapped, because as I remember it, when the police asked you, you said it never happened.”


“This is pointless,” Coop broke things up. “We’re here to find ways to help Timber, let’s just leave the past in the past.”


Remy and Puck looked away from one another and studied their shoes.


“So did Chen have any suggestions for what we should be doing?” Coop tried to get the conversation back on firmer ground,


“He did.” Remy shook off his anger. “He said besides the workouts, we need to be thinking of ways to get Timber back out into the world. She’s been holed up alone for two years now. So we all should be thinking about that. Especially doing things that won’t remind her of Jordie and the baby. I was thinking maybe we could get her a keyboard so she could play all that classical music Jordie always hated, but I don’t know about her hands. And there’s always MOMA.”


“How about a spa day? We could do that couples massage thing.” Scott suggested.


“Dancing!” Coop sounded excited. “She always loved to dance and Jordie hated it. They didn’t even have dancing at their wedding.”


“Sure.” Scott agreed. “I could take her clubbing.


“I was thinking more of dance lessons.” Coop said. “She always like that Dancing With The Stars show that Jordie made fun of. What if we hire an instructor to teach her ballroom dancing instead of the afternoon cardio program?”


Remy paused thinking it over. “I like it,” he finally decreed, but who is going to be her partner?”


“Can’t we just hire a male instructor?” Coop asked.


“I don’t think so,” Remy answered. “There are lifts and…twirls and stuff you need to practice. Like in Dirty Dancing.”


“I’ll do it.” Scott volunteered.


“Get out.” Puck guffawed.


“Why not?” Scott challenged. “How is that any different than training her to music on the treadmill?”


“Scott. Scott,” Remy broke in. “You can’t do it. You can’t be lifting Timber up above your head throwing her around with your shoulder. The Yankee docs are never going to allow it. It would be a breach of contract.”


“I’ll do it.” Coop surprised them. “There’s a woman in my Soulcycle class who used to be a dancer on Dancing With The Stars. I’ll see if she can help us find an instructor.”


Remy made a notation in his phone.


“What about we take her to a real gym?” Puck suggested.


Remy looked up at him. “The point of being here is not to embarrass her Puck.”


“Sure.” Puck agreed. “Now, while she’s skanky. But what if when she reaches 100 pounds, we start 2 days a week at the real gym. We arrange to hold the workout behind glass so all the lookie loo fans and the tourists can come in and gawk at the lucky woman who is getting all the special attention from four New York Yankees. She’s going to be the most popular woman in the locker room with everyone wanting to be her friend so she can introduce them to us.”


Remy sat thoughtfully trying to decide whether Puck was full of it or onto something.


“We could set up the sessions so that Monte could work with her while she’s there.” Coop suggested. “She seemed to click with him, that might be incentive.”


“I don’t think we need to do that.” Scott objected. “I was thinking I can do the PT with Timmie’s hands. It’s kind of a medical issue.”


“You’re right Scott, it is a medical issue,” Remy agreed, “and I think we should consider it a priority, but Monte is the one with the PT degree, so we need his input. I’m going to make her hands part of our weight training together. Start out with them every day before she gets tired. But maybe you can work exercising her hands into your treadmill routine too. That would be terrific.”


“So anything else from Chen on what we should be doing outside working out?” Coop asked.


“We have to help her mourn,” Remy answered. “Chen said we,” Remy made a motion to include Coop and Scott but exclude Puck, “we all had a chance to mourn together, to talk about Jordie and say goodbye, but Timber isn’t where we are, especially about the baby. So we are supposed to encourage her to feel whatever it is she’s feeling. From what she said to him, I’d say she has one foot in anger and one foot in guilt all under an umbrella of paranoia.


“Well, Timber always was a multitasker.” Coop observed.


“I better look up my cup.” Scott put in.


“Has anyone tried asking her what this paranoia is about?” Puck wanted to know. “Seems to me instead of telling her not to be afraid, we ought to find out if there is something she has reason to be afraid of.”


Remy looked at his watch, cognizant of the likelihood being late for his date with Samantha would not be good for their sex life which was already on life support. “On that subject, there is one other thing.” He old his teammates. “When she was going off on Chen, Timber said if we wanted to know what she was doing out there in the pool house, she would tell us.”


“Us?” Scott repeated.


“You, me, Coop and Puck.” Remy confirmed. “She used our names.”


“Well let’s wake her up and ask her!” Scott sounded excited.


“No. No, I don’t think so.” Remy shook his head. “If we do that, in her eyes we’re the same Dr. Chen, the grief counselor who didn’t care about Meghan, but kept pressuring her about how she came by the lividity thing. I think we wait for her to tell us, or at least for a time when it comes up naturally. We don’t need to know what happened to help her body heal. Let’s just start there.”


Remy rose and headed toward the stairs. Coop mounted the stationary bike and began to pump. Puck put on his jacket.


“Don’t forget her panties.” Scott reminded him.


“Jesus you’re a pain.” Puck answered and headed toward the front door.


“I think I know why she’s so afraid.” Scott confided in Coop when they were alone. Coop looked up at him curious. “Before we saw Miguel, Timber told me if anything happened I should call her lawyer. I think whatever she was doing must be illegal. And she’s worried if she’s found out she’s going to be arrested.”


“She was sleeping. What do you think could be against the law? Coop asked his friend.


“What if she was taking out of body trips to other places? Wouldn’t the government want to capture her to find out how she does it? Or if like aliens chained her to that cot to be an incubator. Wouldn’t the CIA want to know where all the little half breeds are hidden?”


Coop looked steadily at his friend. “Wow Scott. I never would have thought of that. I’ve known you a long time, but until now, I never quite understood the depth of your idiocy.”
“Fuck you too Cooper.” Scott barked, and continued the monotonous low weight curls with his shoulder.

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THE SAVE (Chapter 16)


Remy steered Timber through the office building’s revolving door and into the waiting elevator, thinking to himself, ‘she looks a little better,’ and immediately chided himself for wishful thinking, certainly two hours in the doctor’s office couldn’t render any immediate results.


“You holding up ok?” Remy asked.


“My feet are cold.” Timber complained.


“We’ll get you some socks tonight.” Remy promised.  “So how’d it go with Dr. Avila?” He asked as the doors closed.


“Pretty good for a first date I think,” Timber answered, “He didn’t ask me out again,  but I think he’ll call.”


That response heartened Remy. She was feeling a little better, he was sure of it.


“What took so long?”


“He gave me an IV.”


“You know what kind?” Remy inquired.


“Saline, Dextrose with a Zofran, Demerol puussshh.”


“You just made that up, didn’t you?” Remy suppressed a smile.


“I like to say ‘puussshh’. She told him. “I also like to say ‘stat’ but we didn’t do anything ‘stat.’”


Remy was heartened. Thank you Dr. Miguel Avila.


“So you remember what we talked about?” Remy turned serious.


“Answer all the questions truthfully and don’t be a bitch.” Timber answered.


“I think I said behave yourself.” Remy corrected.


Timber thought about that. “Yeah, the bitch warning was Scott.”  


“Well it applies here too.” Remy reminded her.”


The elevator door slid open and Remy hurried Timber down the hall to the door that read “Samuel Chen M.D. Bereavement Therapist.” There was no receptionist or check in counter, but there was a camera looking over the waiting room that Timber found distressing; like they were being watched and evaluated before the actual session.


“Kiss me.” She whispered to Remy.


“What?” Timber enjoyed the look of complete confusion on his face. “Kiss me.” She said again, pointing to the camera, “He’ll think we’re doing it and it will throw him off the scent.”


“Why would you want to create a false impression Timber, he’s not the enemy, he’s going to help us. And besides, I’m sure he’s not watching, it’s probably a security camera.”


“Then where is he? 3:05 Remy. He’s checking us out. Seeing how we interact.”


“We’re not here for marriage counseling,” Remy reminded her.


Timber stood and walked to the corner of the room making a face at the security camera, turned her back on it, the Demerol freeing her inhibitions enough for her to consider mooning it when the door opened and Dr. Chen bade them come into his office.


Remy and Chen shook hands, Remy thanking the doctor for seeing them on such short notice.


“Happy to do it.” Chen replied.


“And you must be Timberlain Lilley.” He smiled at Timber. “I knew your husband a little. He was a good guy, always helped me out, whenever I asked. I am so sorry for your loss.”


Timber nodded but made no reply.


“Would you like to come in?”Chen smiled a friendly welcome.


“And for the loss of my daughter.” Timber prompted.


“Excuse me?” Dr. Chen asked.


“Everyone always says they are so sorry about my husband. But no one ever says they are sorry about my baby girl.”


“Of course.” Chen answered. “That must be a terrible loss for you. Of course I’m very sorry you lost your daughter.”


I didn’t actually lose her, Timber said, “I know right where she is. Someone in a truck killed her. And just so you know for your pain assessment spreadsheet, dead baby, beats dead husband, so if you are a Star Trek Pain Sucking Alien as I suspect, and you are only going to acknowledge one of them, you should say sorry for your baby. It hurts more.”


Then turning to Remy she told him, “I warned you. All the classic signs.”


Timber sat down in one of the two chairs in front of Chen’s meticulously tidy desk looking at the desktop and not the doctor.


Chen ignored her outburst. “So, What do you like to be called? Timberlain? Timber? Timmie?”


“Not Timmie.” Timber answered.


“Ok.” Chen answered. “Is Timmie what Jordan called you?”


“Is this going to be one of those things where you poke at me to see if you can get me to cry?” Timber asked him.  


“Why would you ask that? Dr. Chen replied. “Have I said anything that made you want to cry?”


“Because it’s obvious that Remy has told you I don’t like people to use their names, and you thought you’d try it out to see how I’d react.” Timber came right at him.


“Timber, I never said…” Remy spoke up, but the doctor held up his hand to keep him from continuing.


“By their names I assume you mean your husband and daughter?”


“Do you know her name?” Timber asked.


“No, no I don’t.” Chen admitted. “What was your daughter’s name?”


Timber looked at him for a good five seconds. “Sarah.” She finally answered. “Her name was Sarah Rene, after Remy. He was her godfather.”


“That’s a beautiful name.” Chen told Timber.


“And it’s also a bunch of bullshit,” Remy cut in. “Her name was Meghan Graham Lilley.”


“Don’t say her name!” Timber lashed out at him.


“Why not Timmie? Like you said, she was my goddaughter. When she was born, they put her footprint right here on my arm,” Remy pointed at his bicep. I don’t want to forget her.”


“You see Remy. That’s not something I have to worry about,” Timber told him and stared at the manilla folder on the doctor’s desk willing herself not to cry.


“Timber,” Remy prodded her, “You were going to answer all the questions truthfully, remember?”


“I don’t want you to call me Timmie because that is what my friends call me, and we are not friends.” Timber said.


“Timber,” Remy warned, “Be civil.”


“No, no.” Chen told Remy, “that’s ok. We aren’t friends are we? How about I call you Timber? And if you don’t want to, we don’t have to use your husband and baby’s names for right now. Ok?”


“I’d say that was rather self-aggrandizing of you, making the assumption that sometime in the future you and your bereavement busting superpowers will persuade me it’s no longer painful to hear their names.”


“Do you believe there’s a chance that someday you’ll be able to hear their names and not feel hurt?” Chen asked.


Timber shrugged. “It’s not a goal I am actively pursuing at this time.”


“So you went to see Dr. Avila today?” Chen changed the subject. “What did you think of him?”


“He looks like Scotty.” Timber answered. “It was a little creepy.”


“Yes,” Chen offered a smile. “Identical twins, hard to tell apart.”


“Not so hard.” Timber answered. “Doctor Avila is the one who never asked to do a pelvic exam on me.”


Both Chen and Remy laughed at her joke.


“They told me you were funny.” Chen told her.


“Who are ‘they’?” Timber wanted to know.


“Well, Dylan Cooper for one, when he called to ask me to see you, and Dr. Avila for another. I was just talking to him on the phone. That’s why I was late today. I wanted to speak to him about you. Your situation is not something I run into very often.”


“Very often or never?” Timber was giving Chen no quarter.


“Well, I have certainly had patients who are so depressed they don’t want to get out of bed, but no, I have never come across another case as extreme as this.”


Timber looked at Remy to see how he reacted to this allusion to Dr. Avila’s diagnosis, worry etched on her face. If Remy decided to tell Dr. Chen about the cot, goodbye Timber, very quickly.


“I’m really very uncomfortable right now.” Timber told Chen.


“What makes you uncomfortable Timber?” Chen asked.


“My feet.” She answered. “My feet are cold because I don’t have any socks.”


“Timber, knock it off,” Remy knew the warning signs. When Timber got nervous she did schtick. “I told you we’ll buy you everything you need tonight.”


“It’s hard to concentrate on therapy when your feet are cold, Remy.” She told him. “That’s a well known fact.”


Timber turned to Chen to plead her case. “He could have lent me a pair of socks, but he’s not in charge of my feet. They divided me up and Remy got my head, and Coop got my stomach and Scott got all the good parts but I guess Pete didn’t want my feet.”


“Timber, Remy warned her. “We are here to talk about serious issues.”


“Sure, you’re sitting there with warm socks.”


Timber explained to Dr. Chen. “They bought me shoes that are too big and they let in snow, and now my feet are cold because I am not the women’s universal shoe size, and I really don’t think I can do my best therapy until I get some socks.”


Remy exploded off his chair. “Ok Timber. Your feet are cold? He reached down and pulled off her shoes without bothering to untie them putting her bare feet on the chair he had just vacated. Then he angrily kicked off his own loafers and yanked off his own socks. “Here Timberlain.” He groused as he pulled one of his socks onto her right foot. “Now you have socks,” he added as he pulled on the left one. He stood up to his full 6’3” and stared down at her like an angry parent. “Do your feet feel ready now?”


Timber stared up at Remy, silent for a few seconds while she worked on self-censoring a Demerol inspired comment about how his mood would improve if he only had a girlfriend who’d lay him, wiggled her toes and said instead “actually my feet are feeling rather grossed out at the prospect of wearing your stinky socks. And my hands are thinking you should put on my shoes for them so they don’t have to touch your previously owned hosiery. I eat with these hands and it’s almost time for my delicious high calorie reward snack.”


Remy, with his back to Dr. Chen gave Timber the scary “I am going to kill you later” look he usually saved for pitchers who had thrown a beanball at a teammate, bent down and roughly pulled on her shoes, again without untying them. “Ok? Are we good now?” He demanded.


“Actually now I have to use the bathroom.” Timber told him.


“Timber.” He growled.


“You jiggled me putting on the socks.”


“Hold it.” Remy ordered.


“Well that’s not going to work. If I can’t therapy with cold feet I’m certainly not going to be able to therapy with a full bladder. It is not my fault I have been pushed full of Saline Dextrose. And it’s not my fault you jiggled me. I try to keep down the liquids for just this very reason but Dr. Avila wants me to drink like a tea totalling sailor.”


“Timber,” Dr. Chen cut in. “Would you like to use my bathroom? It’s that door behind you.”


Timber looked over her shoulder at the door he indicated. “I don’t know, that’s awfully close. Do you have something a little further away?”


“I’m afraid not.” Chen told her.


“Well, I’ll give it a try.” Timber told him. “But I’m going to have to run the water, because Remy listens.”


“I don’t listen!” Remy objected.


Timber stood, urged them to “Talk amongst yourselves,” and headed for the bathroom.


The door closed and the light and fan came on and a moment later the water faucet began to run at full blast.


“I’m sorry.” Remy apologized. “She does this when she gets nervous.”


“Actually, I am glad to have this opportunity to talk to you, and with the fan and the water running I don’t think she can overhear.” Chen said. “You know Remy, I have done this before. Sometimes it’s just as important to see how a patient handles a question as to whether they answer it. So, try to chill. You don’t need to coach her. I have some experience at this.


“Now before Timber comes back, I want to tell you I have a diagnosis from Dr. Avila, and Timber was telling you the truth, she hasn’t been assaulted.”


Remy let out a sigh and looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know whether to be relieved or scared shitless. Is she sick?”


“Not exactly.” Chen replied.


“Then what is it?” Remy asked a lump of dread beginning to form in his stomach.


“I want to see if I can get Timber to tell us.” Chen said. “But I need you not to react in a judgemental fashion.”


“Oh fuck, this sounds bad.” Remy worried.


“It’s unusual. But it’s something I think she has a very good chance of recovering from.”


Inside the bathroom, the toilet flushed and the sound of the water changed as Timber presumably washed her hands. After a half a minute, the water turned off, the fan went silent, the light went out under the door and the lock clicked open. Chen and Remy waited but Timber didn’t appear. After thirty seconds, Remy sighed, crossed to the door and knocked at it.


“Timber.” He said. “What are you doing in there?”


“I’m eating my donuts.” Came her voice.


Remy swung open the door and Timber looked up at him from the closed lid of the toilet. “If you don’t listen Remy, how did you know I was done?”


“Come on, out.” Remy directed her. “Go sit down. Behave yourself.”


“Oh! That’s right, you’re the behave yourself guy! And all this time I was trying so hard not to be bitchy.”


Remy crossed to the chairs in front of the desk and pointed at the seat Timber had been sitting in. Timber sat in the other one and asked, “Now where were we?” smiling at Dr. Chen complete with dimple.


Chen seized the moment. “Actually Timber, we were talking about what Dr. Avila had to say in this report I asked him to fax me.” Chen opened that suspicious folder on his desk and pulled out a piece of paper. “You know, Remy and Scott and Coop all think somebody assaulted you.”


Timber still showed dimple but the smile wasn’t friendly. “Oh wow, you have some game there don’t you Dr. Pain Sucky Alien?” She said with eyes on fire. “After I went to all that trouble to distract from this very topic and here you are right back en pointe like a prima ballerina.”


“You’re very good at distracting.” Chen told her. “I was entertained.”


“Yes, it’s an inherent talent I discovered as a wee lass in Greenwich, and have since honed to the point of an art form. My goal is to have “Dramatic Distraction” instituted by the Academy as an official Oscar category. I already have my acceptance speech ready, would you like to hear it?”


“No.” Snapped Remy, at the same time Dr. Chen said “Sure.”


Timber glanced at Remy’s angry face, knew she had gone too far, and took a more ladylike pose in her chair.


“It’s not my fault that Remy thinks someone hurt me” Timber answered Chen’s last question. “I have told him over and over there wasn’t anyone hitting me and he thinks I am lying.”


“Yes, well I think you can appreciate how he could make that mistake,” Chen said. “Can I see your back, Timber?”


Timber was still for a moment as she considered the request, stood up, lifted the back of her Yale sweatshirt for a five count and let it fall back down. Remy gave a grimace and Chen shot him a warning look.


“I understand Scott Avila was in the meeting with you and Dr. Avila after your exam today, is that correct?” Chen wanted to know.


Timber nodded.


“So he already has this information, and by now he’s probably informed Dylan Cooper too.”


A shrug from Timber “Yeah, I’m sure they are discussing it as we speak.”


“So, when you and Remy get home, Remy is going to know it also.” Chen pointed out.


Another shrug.


“So would you like to tell Remy yourself, what that discoloration is on your back?”


Timber looked at Remy, met his inquiring gaze and looked back down at the floor.


“Do you know what it’s called Timber?” Chen asked.


Timber nodded.


“Did you know before you saw Dr. Avila today?”


Another nod.


“Because you saw another doctor before today?” Chen pressed.


“No. The Internet.” Timber said.


“Ah, you Googled your symptoms. And what is it called Timber?


“Lividity.” She answered, looking at the patch of floor between her too large shoes which fit a little better with Remy’s socks which were still warm from his feet.


“Lividity?” Remy asked. “What is… “ and before he could finish the question, the answer must have popped into his mind. “You mean like when the blood settles in a corpse?”


Though Chen had tried to warn him, Remy had a hard time keeping his reaction off his face. Timber looked up at him, saw disgust flash in his eyes, and started to cry.


“How did this happen?” Remy demanded of no one in particular.


“It happens from laying too long in the same position.” Chen told him.


Timber looked at Remy and she could see it in his eyes. He was thinking about that little box cave and her cot in the pool house where they had found her asleep on her back. She could smell the threat in the air.


“Did you do that Timber? Lay on your back for long periods of time?” Chen pressed.


Timber glanced at Remy again and saw no sympathy just shock.


“Can you at least tell us whether you laid that way of your own free will?”


Timber was irritated with Chen now and close to panicking. The man was like a dog with a bone, and any second Remy was going to tell him how he and Scott had found her. There weren’t many options left to her. Her only chance was to crack open that place where she kept her pain and let it fly, and there was danger there too because once she let it out she couldn’t always control it, and the emotions and memories that always flooded in made it hard to stay calm and think logically and especially keep from crying, and Chen was sitting there just waiting to catch her out.


“Timber,” Chen wouldn’t let up. “Did someone do this to you? Did someone drug you? Or tie you to the bed?”


Timber stood up, and faced Chen across his desk, and Remy did a double take on what he was seeing. It was as if Timber had grown taller. Her spine was rigid and her chin was held high, her arms planted on the edge of Chen’s desk so that she leaned toward him, her body language almost threatening, if a 90 pound woman could ever be perceived as such. And as Timber spoke, the volume soft but intense, Remy realized this was the Timber he rarely got to see. This was CEO at crunchtime Timber, and it was clear she felt in charge.


“I don’t think so, Dr. Chen,” Timber announced, closing up the manilla file on his desk and shoving it toward him as if she were closing a menu after rejecting the waiter’s recommendation for lunch. Her voice was steady and for a change, there was color in her cheeks and not a trace of a tear in her eyes.


“I promised my friend Remy that I would come here and talk to you today because you are supposed to be this big authority on bereavement and I am having a hard time working things out right now. But I just met you, and you want to know something about me that is a very personal thing. Now I understand why you are so eager to know, Dr. Chen: ‘Girl abducted, held for a year in a coffin underground fed through hose?’ It sure would make a great book wouldn’t it? On the other hand, ‘Woman lies like a statue in her bed for a year until she turns into a living corpse,’ well, American Journal of Psychiatry, here you come.


“Unfortunately for you, I am not going to tell you which of those things happened, because you haven’t earned the right to know. And as long as you are not sure enough to place your professional reputation on which of those things is the truth, my lawyer tells me that you aren’t a danger to me. And incidentally, if you guess wrong, and go public, I will sue you for sport.


“So Dr. Chen, if you are this noted bereavement specialist, why did you offer me condolences for the great Jordan Lilley and not for my baby? If her Uncle Coop was the one who called you about me, I know he would not have forgotten to mention her. So that means you knew I had a baby who died, and never bothered to find out her name so you could say, “I am so sorry about Meghan. And I am offended by that.


My daughter Meghan was three months and two days old. She never struck out any batters and she never won a Cy Young award, but she would coo back at me when I told her how smart she was. And when I sang to her, she would get excited and move her hands and feet like she was dancing. And the day that she died, she had her first cereal, rice, because babies have fewer allergies to rice than to oatmeal, and Jordie wanted to taste it because I made it with breast milk, but I wouldn’t let him, and he made a joke and called me a ‘heartless mother hen’ and said he’d forgive me if I let him lick the bowl. And when I put the little spoon in Meghan’s mouth for the first time it went “click,” and we discovered her first tooth was just peeking through on the bottom, which is very advanced for three months. Then Jordie took a picture and emailed it to his parents, and the tooth was so tiny, you couldn’t really see it in the photo, there was just a corner peeking through, but we sent it anyway, and they wrote back that they were putting champagne on ice to celebrate what a precocious granddaughter they had. And we were on that street with the truck that killed them because I wanted to stop at CVS to buy Meggie her first toothbrush, even though she really didn’t need it. And you just skipped over her life like you couldn’t wait to get to the salacious mystery of why Timber Lilley is half corpse.  


So no, Dr, Chen, Bereavement Specialist or Pain Sucking Alien,or whoever you are, if Remy wants to know, or if Coop or Scott or Pete Puckett want to know, then we will sit down together and I will explain to them what happened to me, because they have earned the right to know by always being my friend. But not you. Not today. And if you want to speak to me again, then I expect you to apologize to me for remembering Jordie and not Meggie. And now, I have had enough therapy. Talk amongst yourselves.”


And with that Timber turned her back and strode out, intent on not breaking character until she had passed what may or may not be a security camera in the waiting room, so Dr. Chen couldn’t watch the playback later and say “Aha! I spy an escaped tear there in her left eye.” She kept her game face on until she was back in the hall where it was finally safe to let her tears fall for the bittersweet memories of Meghan dancing, and cooing, and her sweet little baby tooth that went click on the spoon.


Timber pushed the elevator button and it open right away. She climbed aboard, pushed the button for the first floor, watching for Remy in the hall with her fingers crossed, her mind screaming, ‘please Remy follow me out,’ until the door slid closed and she shrank into the corner where she could finally let go the tears she was holding back for Meghan Graham Lilley, desperate to get back to her cot in the pool house, where she could dream about her baby and Jordan again in peace.


Timber exited the building through the revolving door with no sign of Remy behind her bereft with the fear she’d lost him as an ally. Remy would tell Chen about how they had found her; Chen would file a complaint with the court; the police would come take her away and she would lose control of everything forever, or at least until everything was gone.


The revolving door spit her out and Timber stopped and looked back through the window into the lobby willing Remy to appear. A woman coming out of the revolving door collided with her and Timber fell on her newly bandaged bottom onto the slushy sidewalk. “Are you alright?” The woman asked, and Timber said yes, she wasn’t hurt, she was just crying because her baby had died, and the woman gave her a strange look and hurried away. Then a man was helping her up, but it wasn’t Remy. It was Pete.


“We had a feeling you might make a break for it.” He told her. And then she was safe, like Pete had always made her feel safe back when Jordie was angry, and he put his arms with the giant muscles around her and pulled her to the curb where they were out of the way of the revolving door people who gawked at them as they entered and exited, and a man with a Yankee cap asked Pete if he was Puck Puckett and Pete told him to ‘fuck off.’


Pete took out his cellphone and made a call while Timber cried disconsolately for her baby into his jacket. “I’ve got her,” he told whoever answered. “We’re at the South door.” Someone with a cellphone camera tried to snap a picture of them, but Pete swung around so that his back was to the man, and Timber was hidden from view.


“Remy said you were awesome.” Pete told her in her ear. “He said you really stuck up for your baby. Fuck that S.O.B. Timmie. You need me to kick his butt, you just let me know.”


A silver Explorer with smoke glass windows pulled up and Puck opened the passenger door so that Timber could see Coop behind the wheel on his own phone.


“Yep. I have them.” Coop said as Pete ushered her into the passenger seat.


“Are you taking me to the hospital?” Timber looked at Coop with terror in her eyes.


“No, sweetheart.” Coop answered. “We’re taking you home.”

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THE SAVE (Chapter 15)



Finally the ordeal was over for Timber, She was allowed to put her clothes on again, but now the outline of two thick bandages on her left side showed through her pants. The nurse gave Scott a stack of papers and prescriptions and at least one little box of something and they were saying goodbye. Dr. Avila said “Don’t forget all the things we talked about Timber. And I will see you back here Thursday.” Then Relief Pitcher Avila answered, “I promise. We’ll be here bro.” Just before he opened the door to his office so they could leave, Dr. Avila put his card in Timber’s hand and told her his cell number was on the back, and that she should call if she needed anything.”


Then they were in the waiting room again, and Timber was floating from the Demerol Dr. Avila had put in the IV, and Scotty tucked her under his arm, where she fit just right, and they were headed for the door and freedom until a silver haired lady who had not been among those waiting when they arrived asked Scott to sign an autograph for her grandson. Timber stopped for what she had to come to think of as the inevitable autograph wait, but Scott told the lady he was sorry but couldn’t right now because his friend wasn’t feeling well, and Timber felt some relief that he still called her his friend. Then they were outside, and she was still free; there were no men in white coats waiting with a straight jacket size XS, and she felt like laughing and crying at the same time.


Scott opened the car door for Timber, helped her inside in silence, walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in. Timber sat in the passenger seat, clutching the papers from the doctor, waiting for Scott to say something. Instead he started the car without speaking, turned toward her as he backed out of the parking space without making eye contact and pulled out into traffic.


Timber braced for the Walking Dead  jokes, the “What do you get when you cross a corpse with an economist” riddles, because that was the kind of relationship she and Scott had always shared. They teased one another. They played practical jokes. She sent him a GPS unit with a note saying it might help him find the plate when he had a bad game in the Series, and as gift when Meghan was born, he sent flashcards and an abacus so the baby would learn math like a normal person, without terms like “leveraging consumer debt” and “negative amortization.”

Scott Avila did not wash her hair, or shave her legs, and if he cleaned up her vomit she would be sure to find it later in her best crystal bowls. Timber tried with her foggy Demerol brain, but could not recall a single serious conversation they had ever had, yet here they were and Timber felt it was all odd, and weird, and yet she felt completely comfortable being there with him.


Scott pulled into traffic with his mind racing about the cot in the pool house and why she hadn’t at least turned over every now and then. How does someone even lay still that long? But if it wasn’t Timmie alone on that cot, that left the unspeakable, and surely God wouldn’t do that to her. He knew Timber wasn’t much of a believer, but he was, he prayed before every inning, and in the Series, he had prayed before every pitch, and no merciful God would come back for seconds with Timmie. Surely she’d given at the office.


When he finally had his thoughts in order and turned to Timber to reassure her everything was going to be all right, he found her dozing on the Demerol, her arms tightly crossed over the papers from the doctor the same way they had clutched the pink baby nightgown when he and Remy had first found her in the pool house. Scott reached over and took hold of her left hand in his right, the one Timber had scrawled 666 on earlier, and eased it down onto the console between them. He held it until they pulled into the parking garage next to the office of Dr. Samuel Chen at precisely 2:56, where Remy was waiting for them in his black Escalade.


Timber awoke when the engine turned off, and managed to shake out some of the cobwebs in the time it took for Scott to come around to the passenger side and open her door. “We’re here.” He told Timber as he unbuckled her seatbelt. “You doin’ ok?”


Timber nodded.


“Listen Timmie, Remy’s here, but I’m not going to say anything to him for now. Whatever you say in there with Chen, I’ll back your play, understand?” With that he took out his phone and showed Timber where he had stored the phone number of John Vanderhei, COO for World Wonders with a notation not to talk to the CFO.


“I’m your wingman now, ok?”


Before Timber could do more than smile up at him in gratitude, Remy strode up, complaining to Scott about how close he was cutting it, asking if Timber had eaten lunch.


“There wasn’t any time Remy,” Scott pleaded, helping Timber from his SUV.


“Damn it Scott,” Remy cut him off before he could explain about the IV. Remy dug a package of miniature powder sugared donuts out of his pocket and handed them to Timber with orders to “eat.”


“So what did Miguel say? Is she being abused?” Remy asked Scott.


“We should talk about this later,” Scott told him “Miguel had to give her Demerol to clean out her ass sores, so she might be a little wacky, but it’s Timber, so you probably won’t notice any difference.”


“That’s all I have in my life these days Scotty, wacky women,” Remy groused, which Timber took to mean his morning with Dr. Samantha Heckert hadn’t gone so well and she wondered if she was sad about that because Remy hadn’t gotten laid, or was happy about that because Remy hadn’t gotten laid, and that made her wonder if Demerol could be the mind opening agent she was looking for, and she wished she could go somewhere quiet and try to dream instead of going head to head with this Dr. Chen who, now that she had survived Dr. Avila’s scrutiny, was the biggest threat to her freedom.

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THE SAVE (Chapter 14)


Back on schedule, Scott and Timber arrived at Dr. Miguel Avila’s office with four minutes to spare.


“So you nervous?” Scott inquired as he shut off the ignition.


“Yes. Would it be ok if I hold you hand?” Timber asked him.


“Sure you can Timmie,” Scott assured her reaching over and grasping hers just a little awkwardly because of its current state. The next thing he knew, Timber had seized his hand and written a big red ‘666’ across the back of it with a felt tip marker.


“Damn it Timber,” Scott complained, “The mark of the beast? I have a date tonight. What did you do that for?”


“Because everyone says your brother looks just like you, and I want to be sure I can tell you apart at all times.”


“Well couldn’t you just mark him? He’s lucky if he gets laid monthly. You know I just had shoulder surgery. You could just ask to see my scar.”


“And what if it isn’t you?” Timber argued. “You cannot ask your doctor to undress during a medical procedure, unless he’s George Clooney from his ER days. That is a longstanding medical practice Scott, going back to the time of the pilgrims.”


“The pilgrims eh?”


“Maybe longer.” Timber insisted.


“Are you trying to tell me you’re scared, Timmie?”


Timber closed her eyes tightly and shook her head yes.


“Hey, no worries. He’s going to look at your back, and that sore that ate New York on your backside, give us a prescription for some salve, and we’re out of there. Twenty minutes tops,” Scott predicted. “He’s seeing us on his lunch so he’ll want to hurry things along.


“So you know what you got to do here?” Scott prompted.


“Don’t tell any lies and behave myself.” Timber answered.


Oh hell, Timber, I don’t care if you want to write 666 across Miguel’s forehead. Just try not to be too bitchy.”


“Check.” Timber replied, and she was starting to do that wet puppy shaking thing again, so Scott gave her hand one last encouraging squeeze before he opened his car door, but Timber pulled him back.


“Scotty,” she said urgently, “If something happens, if they try anything, you have to call my lawyers, ok? Right away.”


“Timmie, nothing’s going to happen,” he reassured her.


“Scott!” Timber grabbed his hand and squeezed it. “Listen to me, this is important. If something happens, call World Wonders ask for John Vanderhei, he’s the COO, and tell him I need representation right away. Promise me.”


“Timber, you’re letting your imagination run away with you,” Scott soothed her.


“No, Scotty, I’m not. And if it happens, Remy and Coop will side with the doctors because they’ll think it’s what’s best for me, so I need you to be my champion. You need to talk your brother out of doing anything. But if you can’t, you call John Vanderhei, right away. He’s Chief Operating Officer, and no matter what do not talk to the CFO.”


“Timmie, nothing’s going to happen. Miguel is going to look at your ass, that’s all. What is it you think he’s going to do to you?”


Timber gave him a small smile, no dimple. “I hope that he finds me a way to get better Scott, but if it’s something else, you’ll know it when it happens, and I am counting on you because I used to count of Pete but don’t think I can do that anymore.”


With that Timber gave a puzzled Scott a kiss on the cheek and opened her own car door before he had a chance to do the gentlemanly thing and open it for her.


If his waiting room was any indication, Miguel Avila’s Eastside practice leaned heavily on blue haired Jewish ladies, all four of whom looked up from their magazines as Timber and Scott entered. Only one of the women had a husband in tow, or perhaps he was a lone male patient, and it was toward the two vacant leather chairs next to elderly gentleman that Timber started when Scott tucked her under his arm and brought her to the window in the wall where the receptionist sat. Scott seemed to be acquainted with her, and as they exchanged pleasantries which ended in “come on back, Doctor is waiting for you,” Timber looked back over her shoulder at the curious faces that stared at her with open curiosity.


A door to their right opened, and Scott escorted her through it, but before it closed again, Timber gave the waiting room a little finger wave, but no smile. She thought for sure she and Scott would be the topic of discussion for the next few minutes and hoped no one recognized the Yankee closer, then realized the ladies might have mistaken Scott for their own doctor, ushering a homeless person inside.


Their journey down a Berber carpeted hall ended in Dr. Miguel Avila’s swanky private office where he sat on the phone. Timber noticed that he did indeed look like Scott, but there were obvious differences. Miguel’s shave was closer and they wore different aftershaves. Though Scott seldom wore jewelry when he wasn’t out on the prowl, he had a pierced ear that Miguel didn’t have. But the most obvious difference for Timber were their eyes. They were the exact same shade of brown, but when you met them, different souls stared back at you.


“Yeah, they are here now, so I will get back to you on that,” the man who looked like Scott said into the phone, and then the receiver was down, and the men were shaking hands, and Timber thought to herself this was her last chance to run, if she stayed, today could very well end with her locked up somewhere. Just then Scott squeezed her shoulder, and she looked up to see him wink at her. Timber took a slow deep yoga style breath, screwed her courage to sticking point, and shook hands with Dr. Miguel Avila.


“It’s nice to meet you Timber,” Miguel smiled Scott’s smile at her. “I was so sorry to hear about your husband, I met him once, and he seemed like a very nice guy.”


Timber nodded but said nothing further, letting herself fade away from the conversation, wondering if this is how it feels to be a shoplifter when you first come out of the store with your pants stuffed with cellphones, waiting to see if security is going to nail you. And then she was standing up to follow the nurse into an exam room. And the nurse was chit chatting, asking how she knew Scott in between taking her blood pressure and temp and pulse/ox level, and Timber answered, “Who?” and the nurse laughed like she understood the joke. Then there was the scale, every woman’s dreaded enemy, and the nurse wrote the number down without saying it out loud, which made Timber think she was probably a good nurse, a kind nurse who didn’t announce how much people weighed. Then the possibly kind nurse took vials of blood and gave her a plastic jar for pee, and finally it was over, and the nurse left promising, ‘Doctor will be right in.’ And sitting there staring at a jar of cotton balls, she wondered what it would be like to have to spend the rest of her life in a room like this.


Then the door opened, and the water came on for the ritual hand washing. Then came the inquisition. Although she felt confident she could now tell the difference, Dr. Avila looked too much like Scott to answer questions like, ‘when was your last period,’ and ‘are you sexually active,’ making eye contact, so Timber kept her eyes closed.


After the interrogatory came the medical foreplay. Eyes, ears, skip the nose, open wide, say ‘ah’. Feel up the glands behind the ear.


“Does your throat hurt when you swallow Timber?” Dr. Avila asked. Timber swallowed, thought about it and nodded yes. Wrong answer. That precipitated a long cotton swab down the throat. He listened to her heart for a long time, and her lungs for even longer, making her take so many deep breaths and cough so many times she thought about asking him if he skipped class the day lungs were discussed, but the one thing Scott had asked was that she not be bitchy, and this was not a good time to cross Scotty, not when he may be her only ally.


And then it was time, he was opening her gown and looking at her back, and she screwed up her eyes tight waiting for his reaction. She tried not to cringe when he touched her, and he asked her if it hurt when he did so, and she shook her head no. Then he asked her to lay down on her stomach, and the nurse put a sheet over her and she was trying so hard not to cry that it was impossible to answer the doctor’s questions anymore, even though she had promised herself she would.


Finally the man who looked like Scott but wasn’t told her to remain lying there on her stomach and that the nurse would be in to clean her pressure sores and that he’d be back to what sounded like “debrief” them, and she flashed on a picture of Scott’s brother shining a bright light on her butt demanding they “answer the question.” Then she was alone again and the countdown had started. Would he lock her up or help her? Timber lay humiliated and defeated waiting for the arrival of the men with the butterfly nets.


Miguel Avila returned to his office where Scott was reading the latest copy of Sports Illustrated, sipping on something from the Starbuck’s two doors down.


“So?” he asked as Miguel closed the door and took his place behind his desk.


“So we’re going to be here awhile Scott,” Miguel told him in a tone Scott recognized as displeasure.


“Why? Is Timber ok?” Scott put his magazine down and looked at his watch worried this would screw up the schedule.


“No, Scott, she is definitely not ok.” Miguel told his brother.


“So some guy has been beating on her then?” Scott concluded.


“No. No one has been hitting her,” Miguel answered,  “those aren’t bruises. It’s a condition called “lividity.”


“Lividity.” Scott repeated. “I know that from CSI. It’s like when blood sinks to the bottom in a dead body.”


“Right.” Miguel confirmed. “Gravity pulls the blood in an inactive body to its lowest point, which causes the discoloration that mimics bruising.”


“So what? Timber’s dying?” Scott was suddenly very concerned.


“No Scott. It means for Timber to have this amount of lividity, she must have been lying in the same position, on her back, for many many hours a day, possibly for many many months. I can’t be sure of how long because she is not forthcoming at all. But it’s substantial. Besides the lividity there’s a bald spot on the back of her head where she rubbed off the hair, and calluses on the back of her heels.


“She what?” Scott’s mind went immediately to that cot in the pool house Timber had been sleeping on when he and Remy had found her, on her back with her hands crossed over her chest, and how for a moment he had thought she might be dead.


“Like she was dead and came back to life?” Scott asked.


“Scott,” Miguel sighed, “This is not a movie. There are only two options I can see here. One is somebody took her, kept her in a box and didn’t feed her very well. The other is she voluntarily laid on her back while she withered away. And it’s hard for me to see either one as the answer because while I certainly see some classic signs of depression, she readily joked about you with me, and she seems mentally sharp, the depression just doesn’t seem profound enough for her to take to her bed. On the other hand, she shows none of the post-traumatic signs you’d expect if she had been abducted. So I don’t know what to think here, Scott. And I’ll tell you, if I didn’t know you were on your way to see Sam Chen, I would be on the phone to the police right now to ask them to make sure this woman wasn’t kidnapped.”


Scott thought about Timber telling him he had to try to convince his brother not to “do anything.” He knew he should tell Miguel about the cot they had found Timber sleeping on; show him the pictures of the pool house that were in his cell phone, but Timber’s last minute plea to him to be her champion stopped him.”


“So what’s happening now?” Scott was suddenly suspicious. “Why are things going to take awhile?”


“Because, to start with, she’s dehydrated, so I’m going to start an IV, and it’s going to take about an hour and a half for it to run.”


Scott looked at his watch. “Ok, we got that. “She doesn’t have to be at Dr. Chen’s until 3:00. I’m supposed to feed her lunch, so maybe I can bring something in while we’re waiting on the IV to drip.”


Miguel looked frustrated by his brother’s casual response.


“Scott, listen to me,” he ordered. “When you called me up and asked me to see Jordie Lilley’s widow because you thought someone had been beating her up, I was glad to do it. I AM glad to do it. But this is not that, and what you told me about you and Remy and Coop planning to take care of her, I’m telling you Scott, I have my doubts that’s a good idea.


“Well what then?” Scott asked.


“My choice would be a hospital,” Miguel told his brother, but I don’t think she’ll consider it. “So I think I need to talk to Remy or Coop about what care this girl needs.”


“No fucking way!” Scott objected. “I’m in charge of her medical stuff.”


“This isn’t a game Scott. Timber needs some serious attention right now, not someone to stop by and bring her a cup of soup between hook ups.”


“Low blow bro. I’ll have you know I care about Timber. I cleaned up her puke this morning. I washed it out of her hair. So are you going to do something for her or not?”


“Yes. Of course I am. I’m going to give her some medication to help her absorb the blood back into her system along with some pills to keep blood clots from forming. And most of all she needs Keflex for one of the sores which has become infected and Amoxicillin for her throat.


“One of them?” Scott questioned. “You mean there’s more than one of those suckers?”


“Yes, there is one on her left buttock and one on her left thigh that has become infected. Once I get the IV going I’ll give Timber something for the pain so I can clean and debride them – that means remove all the dead skin that can easily become infected. But she will need sterile dressings changed on both her buttock and leg at least 4 times a day.


“Ha! Timmie’s buttock,” Scott snorted.


“This is exactly what I’m talking about Scott,” Miguel scolded. “This isn’t funny. Timber needs a lot of attention at the moment and I am not persuaded that if left alone she is sufficiently invested in getting better so that that she will do all the things she needs to do.”


“Ok. Ok. Buttocks is a funny word is all.” Scott pouted.


Miguel sighed in frustration. “I’m also giving her something topical for the sores in her mouth but you might want to check with a dentist. It’s really not my field and he might have something better. And she hasn’t had a period in months, she thinks since the summer, so she needs to see an OB/GYN.

“I can take her.” Scott insisted.


“And someone will need to supervise her inhalation therapy twice a day.”


“No problem. I’m on it.” Scott said defiantly.


“Scott,” Miguel cut back on the outrage. “Timber’s going to need someone to make sure she takes all her medication when she’s supposed to and change her dressings and give her her breathing treatments. She needs someone to make sure she exercises and changes positions when she sleeps, and none of these things can wait until you get home from Whistler, so I think I should talk to Remy or Coop.”


“Well, it will have to be Remy then, because Coop is going to Turks and Caicos Wednesday.” Scott informed him.


“No, he’s not,” Miguel answered. “That was him on the phone when you came in, he’s cancelled his trip and is moving into Remy’s for a few weeks.”


“You called Coop?” Scott’s displeasure was evident.


“No, Coop called me.” Miguel snapped. “He wanted to make sure I knew about the sores inside Timber’s mouth.”


“I was going to mention that,” Scott defended himself. “Look I have it written down. I made a list of things we needed to ask about.”


Scott pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. “See?” Miguel squinted at the paper which read, 1. Food, 2. Hangover.


“Hangover?” Miguel inquired.


“Yeah,” Scott said. “Timber had an unhappy meet up with Johnny Walker last night, and I thought you might have something to settle her system. So Scott’s really going to stand up Carolina to stay with Timmie?”


“I didn’t discuss his holiday plans with him Scott,” Miguel sounded frustrated, “he just said he feels like he needs to be here for this window of time so he can get Timber back eating right and that he’d be staying at Remy’s to try to get a handle on it. And since Friday is Christmas and you will be gone, I want him or Remy to bring Timber back Thursday, so I can check that infected sore.”


“So you aren’t coming skiing?” Scott was blown away. Miguel didn’t even know Timber.


“Not this time, Scott.” Miguel told him.


“Why? You met her husband like once.”


“Because this is why I became a doctor Scott, for the patients who comes along when you least expect them who really need help. Now, this girl, right now, she trusts me a thimble full, and that’s only because she trusts you a shot glass full. My other patients, we have a relationship. They know that if I leave them with Dr. Goldman for a week while I go skiing, he’s going to take good care of them. I can’t tell Timber, ‘Bye bye see you in a week here’s Dr. Goldman’s number,’ when I just cracked the door with her.


“If I understand this history you gave me, three months postpartum, with her hormones still raging, her husband and baby die. Five days later she’s shipped out to a place where she previously lived for only a few months a year, with no neighbors, no family, no job, and if she did go back to work, she’s everyone’s boss. It doesn’t make for a good support system. It must have felt like everyone abandoned her. So now she’s reached out for help, but she’s so scared I can feel it coming off her. So no, I’m not going to abandon her too Scott.”


Scott stood thinking, jingling the keys in his pocket, looking at his shoes as if the correct answer was written there. “OK” He finally made his decision. “I’ll stay. I’ll move into Remy’s. The room Coop must be using has twin beds, and we bunk together on the road, so we’re used to one another.”


“Scotty,” Miguel cajoled his brother. “This is a serious situation. There is no room for error. Those sores on her buttocks? That’s what killed Christopher Reeve. She needs more than you taking responsibility for her, Scott.”


“That’s not fair.” Scott told his brother. “I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation before, but now that I do, I’m in charge of medical. And I am going to stay and do what I said I would. Now you should get that IV started because we have an appointment to keep at 3:00.”


“I’m going to give Dr. Chen a call while you are on your way over and talk to him about this,” Miguel told Scott. “He’s much better at getting people to open up than me. Maybe he’ll get some answers on how this happened. You make sure you get her there.”


Absolutely.” Scott promised. “And you make me a list of all the things I need to do. I’ll check them off every day.”


“And call if you have any questions.” Miguel added. And Scott, it will probably take some time for Timber to trust Dr. Chen and myself, but she trusts you and Remy and Coop at least a little. Maybe she’ll talk to one of you.


“She’s going to be all right though, right?” Scott wanted reassurance.


“I hope so, Scott,” Miguel told him. “But right now a lot of that comes down to you.”

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THE SAVE (Chapter 13)



Timber ended up consuming two soft boiled eggs, each laced with a piece of buttered toast. She also ate almost a whole banana, though she probably didn’t realize this as Coop very cleverly placed a dish of banana slices arranged to look like a Christmas star on the table where Timber and Monty could share them as he led her through a strength evaluation and did a range of motion with each arm, and then each wrist, and finger. Coop alo kept Timber’s Vernor’s Ginger Ale glass filled and icy cold so it felt good on her sores, figuring he had just managed to get her to drink an extra 250 calories.


Across the street at The Foot Locker, Coop scored with a Yale version of the Harvard shirt Puck had found, but he bought it in a size Extra Small so that she wasn’t swamped in it. He picked up a couple Nike long sleeve crew neck tees because the table was on the way to the ladies’ undergarment department, and a pair of XS women’s boy briefs that looked more like shorts than panties because he had no idea about women’s unmentionables and the assortment intimidated him. Then he sprung for a $250 Nike Aeroloft bomber jacket that had a snug fit but had padded rows in the front that resembled a six pack, so Timber wouldn’t look quite so thin. Standing in line he added a boy’s XL fleece sweat suit from a Christmas sale rack meant to temp impulse buyers, all black except for the Steelers logo, when he discovered the woman’s XS shirts he was buying were just about the same size as a Boys XL. Coop figured the black pants could be a versatile fashion item. Time in store, 14 minutes, including the wait in the Christmastime line.


Coop hurried back across the street through a slushy snowfall, thinking he’d find Scott and Timber ready to leave, but Timber was still sitting across from Monty White as he exercised her right hand, and a giggle floated up from the gym as Coop let himself into the apartment.


“Dude, you have to see this,” Scott beckoned him down the hall. “He’s like the Timber Whisperer. She hasn’t bitten him or called him a Cheese Hole Fucker or anything. They’ve been talking about some dude named Nelson DeMille for twenty minutes now. Listen to that, she’s laughing. It’s surreal.”


“Let her flirt a little Scott. It’ll be good for her.”


“I don’t know if I’d call it flirting,” Scott said, “but she didn’t bite his head off when he told her he met Jordie a couple of times and was sorry for her loss.”


“They just met and they’re laughing about Nelson DeMille” Coop pointed out, “that’s flirting.”


Scott found quite unexpectedly that he didn’t like that idea. “Who’s this Nelson DeMille?” He wanted to know.


A common interest,” Coop answered cryptically.


“What do you mean? Scott wanted to know.


“He’s a writer. Plum Island? Cathedral?”

Scott looked blank.

“The General’s Daughter? Surely you must have read that one? Books, Scott, they both like books.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little unprofessional?” Scott maneuvered for another walk by look at the two as Timber cried, ‘Ouch! That hurts!” And Monty apologized, saying “Almost done.’ “He’s got a girlfriend, you know. Shouldn’t we be like AA? No messing around til you get your six month chip?”


“No,” Coop said, “I think it’s very professional. Monty is just putting her at ease. Not every flirtation is an invitation to sex.”


Scott chewed on this, turning back to check on Timber and Monty to find him packing up his instruments in his briefcase to leave, so he and Coop made their way to the corner of the gym to join them. Timber did not seem at all glad to see them.


“So how did it go?” Coop asked making sure Timber saw the Foot Locker bags he put down on the weight bench.


“Good.” Monty answered. “Real good.” Then turning to Timber, “Like I told you Timmie, I am going to set you up a program and I’ll talk it all over with Remy, and I’ll be back tomorrow to get you started. Do you have any questions before I go?”


Timber did have one, the one she was afraid to ask, the one she was just about to ask when the guys came up, and if she asked it in front of Scott, no matter what the answer was he would make Captain Hook jokes well into the New Year. Monty was putting on his jacket, getting ready to leave. Timber closed her eyes and went for it.”


“Did I curve the bones?” She squeaked, finding just asking the question made her well up.


“What? Oh, noooo.” Monty reassured her, sitting back down across from Timber. “Your bones are still nice and straight. He picked up her hand, turned it over palm up and ran his index finger over her wrist. What’s happened is the ligaments in your wrist have shortened with disuse, and the muscles have begun to atrophy – they don’t have the strength to keep your wrist straight. So we’re going to have to strengthen them again. But we’ll get there. Six months from now, you will look perfectly normal, and a year from now, you won’t even know there was a problem.


“Now young lady, I know you have an appointment to keep, so I am going to let you get going, but I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” And with that he handed Timber a red and green stripes candy cane, in response to which Timber popped her dimple.


Coop walked Monty to the door while Timber dug into the clothes bags.


“So that’s for real?” He asked Monty. “You can fix this?”


“Yeah Coop. I think so. If she works at it every day. The one thing I want to warn you about is if you decide to take her to a specialist, take her to an orthopedist. Don’t start with an orthopedic surgeon. Surgeons like to cut, and the surgeon’s going to try to tell her surgery can give her in six weeks what physical therapy will take six months to accomplish. But there are a lot of downsides to surgery. The pain. She’ll be in casts for six weeks and the range of motion regained is usually less than if the patient puts in the hard work.”


“Got you.” Coop told him.


“Coop, this is important.” Monty stopped so that they could talk face to face. “The reason I’m telling you this and not Remy, is his girlfriend.”


“Samantha?” Coop puzzled. Then it hit him. Dr. Samantha Heckert was an orthopedic surgeon.


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THE SAVE (Chapter 12)




Montrose White, the physical therapist from the gym where Remy, Coop and Scott all trained, was sitting on an exercise mat tossing a 20 pound Rogue Medicine Ball with Dylan Cooper and talking baseball when Scott brought the protesting Timber down and stood her between them. Monty was a large black man with a bright welcoming smile, fit from head to toe, dressed like a Sports Illustrated ad, and to Timber, as he stood to greet them, he looked like John Legend, her very first rock star crush; the man who smiled down from a poster over her bed for three very formative teen years.


“Timber Lilley,” Scott did the introductions. “This is Monty White, he’s the PT who’s going to look at your hands. Monty this is Timber. Sorry we’re running so late,” Scott apologized to the trainer and the men shook hands like old friends. “We had some wardrobe malfunction problems.”


“Nice to meet you Timber,” Monty offered a hand for Timber to shake, and she could feel herself blush at the embarrassing thought of this handsome god of a man looking at her in her current state. Of all the trainers in New York, they go and pick the one who looks just like the first man – but certainly not the last man – she ever pretended loved her. She was horrified at the thought of him looking at her deformed hands. Ashamed to have his first impression of her to be the hideousness that Remy had driven home in his sales pitch earlier this morning; and now they had dressed her up like a freak for everyone to laugh at and delivered her to this gorgeous John Legend of a man.


And suddenly what was going on was all very clear to Timber.


Without warning, Timber turned on Scott, gave him a mighty shove, which had about as much affect as a flea trying to move a mountain. “You asshole!” She lashed out angrily while Scott desperately searched for what had changed from five seconds ago when he had made her giggle. Timber then turned on Coop and attempted to shove him with about the same result. “And you are an asshole too for going along with it.”


“Very funny.” She screamed at Scott. “I know this is you. Well, you got me. Bring on the Weekend at Bernie photos and the Sasquatch jokes. I’m going home, because know what? I just remembered. I own a company. I can call them up and they will send me a plane. So nice one, Scotty. You really got me. Laugh it up.”


With one more unsuccessful attempt to move Scott with an all out shove, Timber stomped toward the door, turning back a last time to remind them they were assholes, lest they had forgotten that she had just expressed that opinion a few seconds ago.


“I think she likes you.” Scott told Monty White. Then to Coop. “We should call Remy.”


Coop shook his head no. “Let me try. If the buzzer rings, take out the coffee cake.”


Coop followed the angry Timber up the stairs where he found her retrieving the wad of cash she had stolen from Puck out of the corner of a dresser drawer where she had hidden it. Though the fact she wasn’t supposed to have any money crossed his mind, Coop decided not to question where she had come by it.


He didn’t need to question Timber about what had set her off; she ranted freely about what she believed to be their – mostly Scott’s – transgressions.


“I can’t believe I didn’t see it.” She told Coop, stuffing the cash in the pouch on the front of the Duck’s sweatshirt. “First you get me drunk and drag me back here. Then Remy does a slideshow from the past on how hot I used to be and how he wants to help me, and how he’s going to be there all the way. Where the hell is he? He’s part of the joke. And I don’t know if you are or not Coop, but it’s not funny. It’s not funny! It’s…” Timber paused searching for the world. “It’s cruel. It’s mean. And you’re mean for letting him do it.”


“Timber. Timber, Timber, just stop.” Coop said calmly. “Stop for a minute and tell me what he did. I swear I have no idea what you are angry about. What joke? Would I ever play a mean joke on you Timmie?”


“The joke! Let’s punk Timber. Paybacks are hell. It’s all a joke! Think about it. The poop shake to make me sick? Then Puck banging on the door every five minutes when I’m sitting on the john puking at one end and shitting out my intestines on the other. And he buys me a tiny comb for this mop of hair? And a mammoth jar of Vaseline, which is probably some gross man joke I don’t even get. And why was there a bandage on my foot? Can’t wait to see the candids from that joke!”


“Timber sweetie, I think you are reading in…”


“You don’t believe me? Look at these clothes Puck bought. A big bright orange sweatsuit to make sure everyone turns to look at me and how repulsive I am.That Mets suit to remind me, I’m not really a Yankee anymore, I’m nobody important. And I couldn’t wear it anyway because I don’t have any underwear. And I just got it! That’s part of the joke! Make Timber traipse all over the city commando style looking like a big orange pumpkin with a skeleton creature inside…”


“Timber, Sweetie, please take a breath,” Coop tried as she paced from one side of the room to another.


“And who the hell knows what crap they have planned for the rest of the day. That’s where Remy probably is right now, setting up the joke. Scott and his imaginary twin Miguel! Next thing I’m up in the stirrups and Scotty’s got his cell phone camera between my legs.


“I needed you! I needed you guys!” Timber cried plaintively, “I needed you to help me Coop, because I don’t know how to stop what is happening to me, and now you’re just making fun of me!”


This time Coop gave up on the verbal counterpoint and snathched Timber off her feet, letting her cry piteously with her head buried in his shoulder. Coop stroked her hair as she sobbed waiting until she had run out of steam. “You need us Timmie?” he asked quietly. “Is that why you sent that email?”


Timber looked down at the floor and nodded three times. A mournful keening noise erupted out of her following her admission and Coop held her tighter in his embrace, laying his cheek on the top of her head. “It’s ok, Timmie, go ahead and cry. Cry it all out.”


Coop stood patiently with Timber in his arms until her sobs faded into sniffles and she pulled away from the embrace. He kept one arm firmly around her, leading her over to the same spot on the bed where she and Remy had sat and looked at the pictures in his cell phone. Coop handed her the same box of Kleenex Remy had when she had broken down looking at how she used to look, and returned his arm to her shoulders.


“Ok, Timmie.” I can see you have had a really bad morning, haven’t you? And I can see why you may have concluded that a prank is being played. So let’s take all those things one by one. First, no one got you drunk. You did that all on your own. And yes, we brought you here, and I will admit it was my idea to do that. Not Scotty’s. Not Remy’s. But it was never to play a joke on you.


“Now Remy isn’t here because Samantha is coming into town for the holidays and he went to pick her up at the airport and get her checked into the hotel, which translates to there is a good chance they are having Four Seasons sex right this moment, but if you want to call him so he can reassure you we can do that. But why don’t you and I try to work this out first? Dr. Samantha is probably already pissed he’s leaving her to take you to Dr. Chen’s at 3:00. I have it on good authority she refused to stay here.”


“Well I don’t need Remy. You can take me Coop.” Timber said.


“I offered. He said he wanted to be there.” Coop told her. “Now let’s start with the poop shake thing,” Coop addressed her complaints, “I think you mean Remy’s protein shake right? It didn’t go down so well?”


Slight nod from Timber. “Now even if Scotty was punking you, he’d never serve you poop, right?” Timber seemed to think about, but not reject the idea. “He’d put Ex-Lax in it. And Ipecac.”


“Maybe he would in a different context, but I am sure he didn’t do that to you today. Don’t you think the half bottle of Black you downed might have something to do with your intestinal trouble? And your hangover is also something Dr. Avila can help you with when you see him.”


Timber looked like she was thinking things over.


“As it so happens,” Coop continued. “I am with you on those shakes. They suck. But Remy drinks them every morning. And you know Scott can be an adolescent jerk, but Remy wouldn’t make you drink something to purposely make you sick, right?”


Timber nodded this time.


“The good news is, you will never have to drink another one of those poop shakes because I am in charge of your diet now, and for the next few weeks while we fatten you up for the slaughter, you can have anything you want. Krispy Kremes. Cheesecake. My mom makes some out of this world sour cream Christmas cookies. The sky’s the limit!”


If the prospect of eating unlimited empty calories was supposed to cheer Timber, known for her sweet tooth, it had the opposite effect. “I can’t eat Coop.” She confessed to him. “I want to eat. Whatever is in the oven smells so good. But look.” Timber opened her mouth and pulled out her cheek so that Coop could see the canker sores there.


“Aw, Sweetheart. Ok. This is good to know. That’s what today is supposed to be about, gathering information. And now that I know about the sores, I can find some foods that won’t sting so much. And tomorrow, I will take you to this dentist I know. I think she has a crush on me. She might have something that can clear those right up and you’ll be scarfing down all the empty calories you can in no time.  


“I might not be here tomorrow.” Timber reminded him.


“Well, I’ll make the appointment anyway, so we’ll be prepared if you decide to go for it with us.

And today Scott’s brother might be able to prescribe something to get us started.”


“Scott’s twin brother is for real? It’s not just Scott in a white coat?” Timber asked suspiciously.


“Cross my heart. I met him a couple of times. It was surreal. He’s Scotty all grown up.” Coop assured her. “And Dr. Chen is for real too.” Coop volunteered. “He’s really smart about these things Timmie. I hope you will talk to him.


“Now as for Puck and these clothes, I think you are right, the man is a menace to society, but he’s also a .300 hitter so we’re stuck with him.”


“He’s not so bad.” Timber unexpectedly defended him. “He’s just angry at me because I ruined his life.”


“Ruined his life, eh? That sounds serious. Should we talk about that now? This have something to with him telling you he didn’t think it would have been ‘appropriate’ for him to go to the funeral?”


Timber shook her head no.


“OK, maybe we’ll talk about Puck at a less stressful time?” Coop tabled the subject.


Nothing at all from Timber.


“Well, I’m hoping Scotty didn’t hurt his shoulder when he threw Puck out of here today. So what set you off down in the gym, Timber? What made you so sure Scott was punking you?”


“John Legend. Everyone knows I love John Legend and you guys brought me a guy who looks just like him to look at my hideous hands. He’s hot, Coop, did you see how hot he is, and look at me,” Timber held her hands out like Jesus on the cross. “I look like a zombie dressed up in bright orange jumpsuit.” Timber wailed.


“John Legend? Coop was trying to follow. “You mean Monty? The trainer? Ok. Allright. I guess I see that. A little John Legend around the edges. You got a little crush there Timmie?”


“Don’t tease me. Not today.”


“Ok. I won’t tease. So the problem right now is you need something to wear that doesn’t trash you self esteem.” Coop picked up the hoodie. “This looks pretty good Timber. It would go with the pants you have on great.”


“It’s says HARVARD!” Timber cried, frustrated that she should have to explain why that was unacceptable on its face. Would you be seen in a Red Sox jersey? I cannot wear a Harvard shirt!” Timber insisted. “And Remy told me not to lie to the shrink. If he knows I went to Yale, he will see the Harvard shirt and make assumptions about me that are not true, which is the same as lying.”


“What kind of assumptions?” Coop wanted to know.


“Like I am the kind of Yalie who would ever wear a Harvard shirt! Doesn’t anyone get this?”


“I think I kinda get it,” Coop answered, And I can see this is important to you Timber, and the very last thing I want to do is to send you out into the city ot feeling less that self confident…”


“Self confident?” Timber stopped him. “I had diarrhea all morning Coop, and now I have to go out with no underwear!”


Coop had to work hard to squelch the laugh that was rising. “I see the problem.” He told her. “And I have some solutions if you’ll work with me,” he suggested. “How about you wear the Harvard shirt just down to the gym to meet with Monty. He’s a really nice guy who probably didn’t notice the girl in the orange Duck shirt go ape shit. And he’s not an Ivy Leaguer so the whole Harvard/Yale thing will probably not even come up.”


Timber shrugged, unconvinced.


“First things first.” Coop walked to the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, searched through the bottles and boxes stored there and came back with a bottle of Imodium AD. “We don’t want you laying on the examining table wondering,” he winked.


Timber clutched the bottle like it was a lifeline.


“Now I want you to put this on – just for a few minutes.” He handed her the Harvard shirt. “Just trust me on this.”


Timber rose, turned her back to Coop, slid off the Duck’s shirt and on the hoodie. Coop tried not to cringe at the sight of her injuries, or at how thin she was.


“Except for the Harvard logo, that’s a good outfit.” Coop pronounced as he rolled up her pants at the waist until the wrinkles of extra material disappeared and the pants were smooth below.


“So here’s my deal. You go down and meet Monty properly, and let him look at your hands. While you do that, I will make you a chopped up soft boiled egg, and I will cut off the crusts on a piece of buttered toast and cut it up in tiny little squares and mix it into the egg. This should help settle your stomach, and it shouldn’t hurt your mouth too much. I bought a case of that Michigan ginger ale you like, also good for your tummy, and I’ll pour you a big glass over chipped ice and after every bite you can swish the cold around in your mouth. And while you are eating, I will run across the street and get you a decent sweatshirt and a pair of panties.”


“And a coat? So I don’t have to wear that purple hooker coat?” Coop looked at his watch. “I don’t have time for a big shopping trip Timber, but how about this, I will cut up half a banana and if you get it down, I’ll get you a jacket. Then, while you and Scotty are out this afternoon, I will put a new lock on your bedroom door here, so only you and Remy have a key. That should give you an extra layer of protection when you are in the bathroom. Do we have a deal?”  


“I might not stay.” Timber told him.


“Well, I am going to put the lock on just in case you do.” Coop told her. “So do you still want to call Remy?”


“I guess not. He’s always a much mellower person when he’s been laid.”


“Aren’t we all?” Scott seconded the thought. “So we’re good here?”


“You won’t tell? That I sent the email?”


“Not if you don’t want me to.” Coop promised. “But I am very glad you did.” He added in a whisper in her ear.  


“So you can save me?” She asked.


“No, you silly screwball.” Coop answered. “Because I’ve missed you.”


Timber threw her arms around Coop’s neck smiling big enough for her dimple to pop.

“Oh, Scarecrow,” She told him, “I think I missed you most of all.”

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