After he tracks Kim’s man to the motel and kills him, Kellerman finds Sara face-down in the tub, submerged to her shoulders, dark hair fanned and floating on the surface of the clear cold water. He hauls her out and forces the duct tape restraints binding her wrists. His fingers are fat and clumsy and desperate.
“Sara?” He palms her cheek, pats it. Her skin is translucent, like gray opal, spotted with petechiae and her lips are the color of a desaturated photo. She reminds him of the homeless woman he found frozen beneath pond ice when he was a kid. He stood on the shore behind the police tape, wrapped in a blanket (even though he wasn’t cold or scared) and watched them fish her drowned corpse out of the hole they cut in the ice. Finding a dead body made him the coolest boy in class for a while, but Kellerman would have traded fourth grade fame to be rid of the nightmares. If Tancredi dies he’s going to have nightmares all over again. They’re worse when you’re an adult, because the horrors are real. You don’t grow out of them. There’s nowhere to grow to.
He lays her down on the tiles. His pulse is racing. He can’t even find hers. Kellerman presses his ear to her chest, but all he can hear is his own blood like a raging whitewater in his skull.
How long did she hold her breath before every cell in her body screamed for oxygen? How long was she under before everything became euphoric and dreamlike and deep like a heroin high?
He starts chest compressions and the irony of what he’s doing is not lost on him. The last time he was kneeled over someone, it was to snuff the life out of them, not bring it back. He was calm then. He’s close to panicking now. Kellerman tilts Sara’s head back and pinches her nose closed. He locks his lips over hers and exhales a long slow breath into her mouth: CO2 and oxygen and life.
“Breathe,” he orders. Wake up. Go to sleep. Live. Die. Don’t die. “Don’t do this to me, Sara.”
It’s a warning: if you die, I’m going to kill you. Danny warned him, once: “One day someone’s going to make you feel. One day you’re actually going to have to give a crap about these people.”
The cartilage in her sternum cracks under the pressure of the compressions, the weight of his frustration and despair.
“Breathe, you bitch.” He’s still angry at her for walking away from him in that supermarket back in Chicago. Why couldn’t she just have ignored her father like all the other times? If she’d just let him bake the damn chocolate chip cookies, she wouldn’t be here.
He kisses her again, hard, forcing air into her lungs; like trying to inflate a water-filled balloon, like the ones the neighborhood kids would chuck at each other during the summer.
How long has he been trying to resuscitate her? A minute? Two? How long before you can’t bring someone back? Before the electrical signals in the brain fizzle out like scratchy radio waves lost amongst the noise of stars?
He stops the compressions and the CPR kisses and – red-faced, the vein in his forehead bulging – screams at her, “Fucking breathe!”
Sara convulses like a marionette yanked into motion on invisible strings. She vomits the water into her mouth and it bubbles over her lips like groundwater from a shallow spring. Kellerman rolls her onto her side and lets her wretch and choke the rest of it from her lungs. He eases her onto her back.
“Easy. You’re okay.”
She’s in pain and shock and disorientated and shaking, so she doesn’t know him yet. Hasn’t recognized him as the guy her father warned her about. He shrugs out of his suit jacket and wraps it around her after he sits her up. She leans into him, still coughing intermittently. Her damp hair soaks his shirt, but she feels warm and alive.
“I’m gonna get you to a hospital, do you think you can stand?”
She doesn’t respond except to nod against him. Even if he could, he wouldn’t let her go. Not yet.
~ * ~ * ~
Kellerman pulls up outside Mission Gabriel, leans over and opens the passenger door. She, wearing his jacket and cradling her handbag against her stomach, looks toward the automatic doors of the ER, but she doesn’t get out.
“I can’t come with you, Sara. I’m one of the bad guys. Remember Lance?”
She’s willing to forget Lance and the whole sick charade.
“You saved my life.” It’s the first thing she’s said to him since Chicago. She lets him know that, in her book, he’s transitioned from villain to anti-hero.
She looks at him and he kind of wants to kiss her. The hero gets to kiss the girl. But, no, he’s never going to be any kind of hero, and he’s already kissed her ten, twenty times today. A kiss is an exchange of life breaths.
He’s already shared too much of his life with her. In the end he settles for a goodbye. “Goodbye, Sara.”
And like all the people he’s ever truly cared about, it’s better if he never sees her again.
~ * ~ * ~
They x-ray her chest, prescribe painkillers and call the police. Sara has to run again. Fast food, cheap motels and public restrooms. She empties her purse onto the bed.
The key. Her father’s key is missing from the set.
Kellerman. He must have taken it while he was clearing her stuff off the counter in the bathroom.
“Bastard!” she swears at the ceiling. The paint is bubbling with damp; the ceiling has its own problems, it can’t afford to be sympathetic to hers.
I’m one of the bad guys.
He saved her life.
And he’s still one of the bad guys.