The sound of the phone ringing jolted Lloyd awake. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep in the chair in the living area of his apartment. Since he’d got out of hospital he’d struggled to keep to any form of routine, and spent most nights lying awake. The doctor had offered him sleeping pills to help, another sign of their mundane approach to medicine, but ever since Melissa Ganaway, he’d had a real uneasy relationship with drugs.
The phone continued ringing, its shrill tone piercing through Lloyd’s thoughts even as he tried to ignore it. The landline – although seriously, who still used a landline these days? – was the other side of the room and Lloyd couldn’t summon the inclination to work his way over to it and even less interest in speaking to whomever was on the other end of the line.
Eventually the phone fell silent. Lloyd barely had a beat to appreciate the quiet before it started up again. This time after a couple of rings there was a click as the voicemail kicked in.
“Lowery.” Ray’s voice came loud and clear across the speaker. “I know you can hear me, answer the damn phone.”
A couple of months ago and the anger of Ray’s tone would have had him jumping and nervously running for the receiver, but now Lloyd just stayed where he was and listened as someone spoke to Ray on the other end of the line.
“I know he’s blind,” Lloyd heard Ray reply, frustration leaking into his tone, “but he’s not deaf and I know he hasn’t left that apartment.” That caught his interest. Had Ray been checking up on him? As far as Lloyd knew, the only person who’d been to see him since they’d moved him in here was the nurse that the hospital sent twice a week.
The last time he’d spoken with any of the team was just after he’d woken up in hospital, after they’d told him that the head trauma had caused neuropathy to his optic nerves and he was likely to never regain his vision. Erica had sat with him, holding his hand as the doctors had broken the news. Her uncharacteristic gentleness towards him when he’d woken up had been both comforting and terrifying in equal measures. Part of him had relished the idea of someone caring for him, but the logical part of his mind had known that anything that brought out Erica’s maternal instincts towards him had to be bad. Lloyd wasn’t sure what could have been worse.
“Lowery.” Ray had turned his attention back to Lloyd. “Don’t make me come over and get you.”
There wasn’t a doubt in Lloyd’s mind that Ray would follow through on that threat, and he wasn’t ready to face any of them just yet. Lloyd stood and fumbled for the white guide cane that he knew he’d left propped against the arm of the chair. After a couple of attempts, his fingers brushed against the cold metal and he grabbed it, gripping the cane tightly as he started to feel his way across the room.
He made the first couple of steps without any problems. Suddenly there was a thump and throbbing pain as his foot collided with something hard. Lloyd fell forward in shock, instinctively throwing his hands forward to try and break his fall. He didn’t fall as far as he expected, hands catching on the flat of the table top. He realized he must have tripped on the table leg. Pushing himself back upright, he ignored the aching pain and forced down the spike of disgust that flared at his own inability to do something as simple as walk ten paces to pick up a phone.
A small voice in his head pointed out that if he’d listened to the rehabilitation specialist instead of wallowing in his own depression, he’d have a better handle on his disability, but he ignored that too. No-one liked a smart ass.
He made it to the phone and grasped the receiver just as Ray started again. “Lloy – ”
“What do you want?” Lloyd wasn’t in the mood for niceties.
“We have a runner.” Ray cut to the point as always.
“And what does that have to do with me? In case you’ve forgotten, Raymond, I don’t work for the Marshals anymore.” They’d dropped him as soon as they’d decided he was no longer useful. A representative from the Marshal’s office had visited Lloyd in hospital, to thank him for his service on the task force, and informing him that given his current state, as a gesture of gratitude the US government now considered his sentence served in full.
He’d even had the gall to congratulate Lloyd on his early freedom, and for a short moment Lloyd had wished that he expressed his emotions through violence like Erica or Shea. Because he desperately wanted to punch the agent in his smug sounding face.
There was a sigh on the other end of the line. Lloyd could almost imagine Ray pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. “This con is on the run from a psychiatric detention center. Whack jobs are your specialty Lowery. We need your help.”
Lloyd laughed bitterly at that. Sure, they were his specialty; his PhD in behavioural psychology had been the main reason Ray had recruited him onto the task force in the first place. It had seemed like a good deal, he helped the Marshals catch fugitives in exchange for a reduced sentence in a minimum security prison. But where had it gotten him? Run down by a fugitive trying to make a last ditch getaway in a car. He’d hit his head so hard on impact that it had taken his vision. He hadn't even helped anyone in the process, just gotten in the way of an escape. He’d gotten out of prison twenty years early but the cost had been so much higher than Lloyd had ever expected.
“You really mean to tell me you’re not dying to get your teeth into this?” Ray tried again when Lloyd didn’t respond.
Surprisingly, he was. Ray’s call was the first thing to pique Lloyd’s interest since he’d been released. Despite how it had ended, the task force had given him purpose. For the first time in his life he’d used his skills to help people other than himself and he was good at it. Had been good at it, he reminded himself, with a sharp twinge of disappointment.
“It’s not that easy.” He said, leaning against the wall with the receiver gripped tightly in one hand, unsure how to continue.
“Come on, Lloyd. You got an IQ of what, 180 or something? A genius like you could work something out.”
“210, Lloyd muttered.
“Alright, 210.” Ray was definitely humoring him now. “Look, I’m not saying I’ll put you out in the field. But Jules tells me that we can hook you up with some kind of special computer, it’ll talk to you .”
Lloyd fiddled with his cane as he considered it. From a child prodigy to now, he’d fallen pretty far. From the moment he’d written that first prescription to try and cover his gambling debts he had destroyed everything. The first case he’d helped on with the Marshals, he’d got a rush from doing something positive for someone else. Maybe his life wasn’t over along with his lost vision. He could still be useful to them and he wanted to feel useful to himself. “Okay.”
“You’ll do it?”
"I'll do it." And hopefully he wouldn't regret it.