How Many Straws On The Camel's Back?
By Maquis Leader
Author’s notes: This story is set in the Season 6: Reloaded universe. It stands alone and you don't need to read the other chapters before you read this one. Please see the note on the main page.
Previously on Third Watch:
Episode 8: How Many Straws On The Camel's Back?
Everything was foggy and gray. Her throat and chest hurt. And her arm felt heavy. Throbbing and stinging.
Something was clogging her throat and Rose tried to clear it. Pain raced down her throat and she gasped. There was something over her mouth and she reached for it, trying to feel for what was blocking off her air. Panicked, she clawed at it when she realized that there was something in her throat.
“No, no, leave it.” Soft hands caught her hand and laid it back at her side. “There’s a tube there to help you breathe.”
Blinking, Rose looked up at the fuzzy person standing over her. “Mmm – “ She couldn’t talk around the thing in her mouth.
“Just relax. You can’t talk just yet.” The hand patted her shoulder. “You’re going to be fine. We’ll be taking the vent off later. Right now your throat is still swollen and we’re trying to let it heal.”
“Mmm – “ Where was Maurice? Rose tried to focus on the room. She must be in the hospital, but where was Maurice? “Mmm – “
Something was pressed into her good hand. Cold and hard. Lifting it up, Rose saw it was some kind of button with a cord attached.
“You can hit the button anytime there’s too much pain and it’ll give you some relief.”
The pain wasn’t the problem and Rose dropped the button, reaching for the fuzzy person next to the bed. “Mmm – “ Tears of frustration sprang to her eyes as she tried to talk around the plastic in her mouth. Damn it! Where’s Maurice?
“You’re going to be fine.” A cool cloth was pressed to her forehead. “Just rest.”
The person left and Rose felt tears sliding down her face. Where was Maurice? Was he hurt?
Think, Angela Rose! Think! Sucking a deep breath through the breathing tube, she winced at the pain, but used it to help herself focus. There’d been crashing – then nothing. And then… a woman… FDNY… sirens and the room had been swaying... that must have been an ambulance!
A whisp of a memory came to her, Maurice leaning over her and telling her to hang on. She sighed and relaxed. He was okay, her baby was okay. Where are you, Maurice?
How long had she been here? Rose reached across her body with her good arm and touched the arm that ached. It was heavily bandaged and she scratched under them, feeling stitches. Hours could have passed since she’d been brought here from the funeral home.
“Ohhh –“ Pain that transcended her physical pain filled her heart. Michael! Oh my God, Michael! How could she forget her baby?
Tears ran down her face and into her hair. They’d had to have a closed coffin, there wasn’t enough of her baby to have a proper funeral. She couldn’t even kiss Michael’s face one last time.
Maurice must be at the funeral now. My poor, Maurice! My poor baby! He’d had to be so strong – she just couldn’t handle it. A mother wasn’t supposed to bury her children.
A guilty part of her was glad she wasn’t able to go stand at Michael’s grave and listen to the priest say his bullshit about God and heaven. Some crazy monster had chopped her baby into pieces – where was God then? Where was God and his mercy when her baby was being murdered?
It wasn’t fair to lean on Maurice like she was doing, but she couldn’t help it. Rose wiped at her eyes. He had Faith, she’d been his strength for so long. She’d help him through this.
The door opened and Rose struggled to see her visitor. Someone in dark clothing moved closer and she blinked, trying to clear her vision. Faith?
Faith sat down in a chair next to the bed and Rose noticed her clothes were dirty and rumpled, and she’d been crying. A ripple of fear ran down her spine. Where was Maurice? Why was Faith in here without him?
“Something happened downstairs.” Faith’s voice cracked and wobbled. “Maurice…”
No! No! Rose moaned. Not Maurice, too! Faith never called him by his name. Bosco – always Bosco – even when she was talking with her – always Bosco. Not Maurice – please, God, leave me one of my babies!
“These men came into the hospital. They were – they were looking to hurt us.” Faith raked her hands through her hair. “And um… they shot him.”
She closed her eyes and tried not to hear what Faith was saying.
“And he’s in surgery. I’m so sorry.”
Sorry? She was sorry? He’d probably been protecting her! Rose opened her eyes and looked at Faith. Her anger died in an instant. Faith was crying and her cheeks were red and splotchy as if she’d scrubbed them raw.
There was dark splotches on her shirt and Rose realized it was blood. Maurice’s blood. She reached her good hand out and Faith took it. Only Faith loved her Maurice as much as she did. Over the years, she’d become part of the family. Her heart had to be breaking too.
Pulling her hand away, Rose pointed at Faith. “Yuu – “
Faith looked at her, clearly struggling to understand. Getting up, she searched the drawer of the bedside table. “They said there’d be paper in here.”
Rose took the pen and paper Faith handed her and scrawled ‘you okay?’
“I’m okay. Bos – Maurice pushed me down – “ She bit her lip. “He protected me. Just like he always does, Rose.”
It was awkward writing with her left hand and Rose struggled to write out the words ‘why why why’.
“The man who – killed Mikey. He’s trying to kill all of us.”
When Faith sat back down again, Rose tapped the pen against the paper, jabbing at the words.
“His son died in a pursuit. And I guess he’s trying to kill everyone he thinks is responsible.” Faith pressed her fingers to her temples as if she was in pain. “Mikey and now the team from 1PP. Our Anti Crime unit, and the car with the bomb in it – I guess he sent men here when he found out that Bosco and me were still alive.”
This was some criminal who was trying to kill them? Rose scribbled on the paper again. ‘you get him! you get this animal!’
“I will.” Faith wiped at the tears that had started again. “I promise.”
‘Maurice?’ She showed the paper to Faith and the other woman began sobbing. Not Maurice! Rose dropped the paper and held her hand out to Faith again. Somehow Faith had to tell her that Maurice would be all right. Not Maurice too!
“I tried – I tried, Rose.” Faith clutched her hand to her face and sobbed. “I had his gun – and I helped him – helped him breathe – and we waited – I tried – “
She couldn’t deal with this. Couldn’t deal with Faith’s grief on top of her own.
Rose pulled her hand away and groped for the button the nurse had given her. She jabbed it viscously over and over. A heavy weight settled onto her heart. Both her babies were gone.
Closing her eyes, she let the drugs turn the world off.
The room was less fuzzy the next time she opened her eyes. Rose looked around, sunlight was streaming in the window. Morning? Afternoon? The chair Faith had been sitting in was empty. What day is it?
Searching the side of the bed, she found the call button and pushed it. Impatiently she waited for someone to come to her. Was Maurice out of surgery? Was he alive? Where was the damn nurse? Rose jabbed the button again.
The door opened and a nurse walked in. “Mrs. Boscorelli?”
There was something familiar about the nurse, but Rose couldn’t place her. She tried to ask about Maurice, but the tube was still in her mouth. Frustrated, she moaned and reached for it.
“Wait, let me get the doctor.” The nurse took her hand and held it. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Mary Proctor, I’ve worked with your son a lot over the years. I wanted to come up and see you and let you know what’s going on.”
Rose stared up at her. Please, tell me Maurice is alive! Please! She clutched at Mary’s hand.
“Bosco – Maurice – is out of surgery and he’s in a room in CCU.” She squeezed Rose’s hand. “It was a long, hard surgery, but he came through it. He’s a fighter.”
Relief brought tears to her eyes and Rose let them fall. He was okay, her baby was okay.
“The doctor will tell you more about his condition in a little bit, okay?” Mary squeezed her hand again. “Right now, let’s see about getting the vent tube out, okay.”
Yes! get this damn thing out of my mouth! She didn’t want Maurice to see her with this thing in her mouth and worry about her. He needed his strength to get better.
The doctor came in and as far as Rose could tell did little more than supervise the nurses who removed the tube. He looked at her arm and told her how good it looked and how happy ‘we’ were with it.
Sipping at her ice water, she gave him a look that told him how good she thought it looked. It looks like Doctor fucking Frankenstein worked on it. We are not happy with it. Those scars better fade, buddy.
Rose looked up as another doctor came in. Faith and Lieutenant Swersky followed him in and Faith came to her side. She smiled up at her, putting her ice water on the table and letting Faith take her hand. Finally, someone would tell her how Maurice was doing.
“Mrs. Boscorelli, I don’t know if you remember me.” Lieutenant Swersky a held hand out to her. “I’m Maurice’s lieutenant down at the 55.”
“I – “ She cleared her throat and reached to take his hand for a moment. “I remember.”
“Mrs. Boscorelli, I’m doctor Conrad.” The doctor looked down at the clipboard he was holding. “I’m in charge of your son’s case at this point.”
“At this point?” Rose grimaced, her throat felt like raw meat. They’d warned her not to talk too much or that damn tube would have to be put back if her throat swelled. “He’s okay now.”
She caught the look that passed between Faith and Lieutenant Swersky. For the first time she realized Faith was still in the bloody clothes she’d had on the night before. “Isn’t he?”
“Mrs. Boscorelli, your son took four bullets. Two in the torso. They passed through his body doing extensive damage to his right lung, stomach, liver, and spleen. A third shot entered the lower right leg and also passed through. The damage to the leg isn’t too bad although the tibia and fibula were both broken and had to have screws inserted into the bones.”
Rose looked up at Faith. “I don’t understand. I thought Maurice was all right.”
“Rose – “ Faith took her hand again.
“The fourth bullet is the one that did the most damage.” The doctor continued, either not noticing or not caring how his words were affecting her. “It entered under the left mandible and exited through the right maxilla. There was extensive damage to the hard palate as well as the orbital cavity. We’re looking at both an orbital rim fracture and an indirect orbital floor fracture – “
“I don’t understand! “Rose coughed as the words burned their way out. She took a hurried sip of the ice water Faith handed to her. “What does that mean? What’s wrong with him? What the hell is his maxilla?”
“The fourth bullet exited through his right cheek bone, Mrs. Boscorelli.” The doctor closed the chart he’d been reading from. “Right now, your son is a coma.”
“His face? Oh my God, his face?” This was more than she could bear. Maurice’s beautiful face destroyed? “You can fix it? You can help him? There’s plastic surgery – ”
“Mrs. Boscorelli, right now, our concern is if your son will make it through the next twenty four hours. The bullet caused multiple fractures throughout the right side of his face and skull. The impact would be similar to his face striking a car’s windshield during a car wreck, causing a concussion. His brain is swelling.” He gave her a look filled with pity. “If he lives through the day – it’s possible that he may never come out of the coma.”
“Get out!” Rose threw her ice water at him. “You get the fuck out! You don’t know my Maurice!”
The doctor wiped at the water on his face, shaking it off the chart. “Please understand that we are doing our best – “
“You better be!” She coughed and clutched at her throat. “I’m going to sue you son of a bitches – you let my baby die and I’ll own this hospital!”
“Rose – “ Faith sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand. “Rose, Bosco’s going to fight – you know that.”
“My baby – why did they do this to my baby?” Rose leaned into Faith and let her hold her. “Maurice is a good boy – he’s always tried so hard to be good – why did they do this to him?”
There was a hand on her shoulder and Rose looked up at Lieutenant Swersky. His eyes were red and his hand shook as he patted her shoulder. “Mrs. Boscorelli, if anyone can pull through this, it’s Bosco. He’s got more grit than anybody I’ve ever met.”
“I want to see him.” Rose wiped at her eyes. “I want to see him, I need to let him know everything will be all right.”
“He’s in CCU.” The doctor interrupted. “We normally don’t allow visitors.”
“Well, this isn’t normally, now is it?” Lieutenant Swersky snapped. “As you’ve said – Bosco may not live through the day – what good will it do to keep his mother from seeing him?”
“I’ll – “ Shaking his head, the doctor turned to leave. “I’ll see what I can do about clearing it.”
“You do that.”
“What if they won’t let me see him?” She clutched at Faith again. “I need to see my baby.”
“Don’t you worry, Mrs. Boscorelli.” Lieutenant Swersky told her. “I’ll call the Chief if I have to.”
“We work with a lot of the staff, Rose. We’ve worked with them on a lot of cases.” Faith tucked a strand of hair back from her face and patted her cheek. “They’ll let us in, don’t worry.”
“What about the monster who did this to him?” She leaned back to look at Faith. “Did you get him? Is he in jail?”
“He’s dead, Rose.” Faith looked up at Lieutenant Swersky and then back to her. “He won’t hurt us anymore.”
“Did he suffer?” She gripped Faith’s jacket. “Did you make him suffer?”
When Faith nodded, Rose leaned into her embrace again. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks and she sobbed while Faith rocked her gently.
The wheelchair slowed as they reached the doorway to one of the rooms. Faith came around from where she’d been pushing the chair and knelt at her side. “Rose, he doesn’t look good. He’s all bandaged up.”
“You’ve seen him?”
“I came in this morning, when I got back from – from taking care of Mann.”
“Is it that bad?” She’d been trying to prepare herself for seeing Maurice with his face torn open, but she hadn’t been able to even imagine what he could look like.
“He’s bandaged up, you can’t see anything.” The tone of Faith’s voice suggested that was a mercy. “But, it’s hard to recognize him.”
“Just take me in – I’m his mother – I’ll recognize him.”
“Okay.” Faith stood and moved back around to the rear of the chair, pushing it into the room.
Inside, there was beeping and hissing and sounds that only machines could make. Hoses hung down from a machine to a still figure lying on the bed. Bandages were wrapped around his head and face so that only one small portion of his left cheek and eye were visible.
“Oh my God!” Rose put her hand over her mouth. This mummy – this thing was her son? “Maurice? Oh my God, this can’t be Maurice!”
“Rose, here, put your hand on his arm.” Faith guided her hand to the arm lying on top the blankets. “Feel, he’s warm.”
The skin was warm and soft under her fingertips and Rose slid her hand up and down his arm, squeezing at the muscle in his upper arm. “Maurice has worked hard to build his arms up. He’s always been proud of being in good shape.”
“I know.” Faith laughed suddenly. “We raced one time to see who was faster.”
“Maurice won, didn’t he?” Rose smiled. “He was always so fast. I used to say ‘slow down, Maurice, you can’t run everywhere’ but he was always in a hurry.”
This was her baby, she could tell by the feel of his skin, as familiar as if it were her own. Turning his arm over, Rose ran her fingers over a scar on the inside of his elbow. “He fell when he was five, scraped the skin right off.”
“He told me that was a war wound.”
“Well, you know men. The like a woman to think they were doing something brave.” She felt the bed dip slightly as Faith sat on the end next to Maurice’s legs. “Has Anthony called? He should know that Maurice is hurt.”
“No, he hasn’t called? Or no, he doesn’t need to know that Maurice is hurt?” Maurice’s relationship with his father had never been good, but that was partly her fault.
Rose turned to look at Faith. There was a determined glint in the hazel eyes. Clearly, Faith didn’t think it would be good for Maurice for Anthony to be here. She nodded, giving over the power to care for her son to the other woman. “Whatever you think is best, Faith.”
“I think you’re good for him, Rose.”
“I hope so.” Leaning down, she pressed her lips to her son’s hand. “I’m here, baby. Momma’s here. You just hang on, you hear me?”
“Catch me, Mikey! Come on!”
“I can’t run that fast, Mo! Wait up!”
She couldn’t see them, where were they? “Boys! Maurice! Michael!”
Rose turned and saw two small figures running down the street. “Boys, come back here!”
“Beat you there!”
“Mo, wait up!”
“Maurice! Michael!” They were running so fast, she couldn’t catch them. “Come back!”
“Come on, Mikey!”
“Wait! Wait!” She ran after them, following them into the intersection of the street. Cars drove by her, people were walking down the sidewalk, but her boys were nowhere to be seen. “Michael! Maurice!”
Rose turned in circles, searching for them up and down the street. She heard faint laughter but they were gone. “Michael! Maurice!”
She woke crying, her pillow soaked with tears. “Oh my God, please, no more!”
Getting up out of bed, she made her way to the small bathroom and washed her face. “It was only a dream, Rose. Only a dream. Maurice is still alive.”
The walk to back to her bed tired her out and she collapsed onto it, searching for the call button. She pushed it and waited. After a moment, a nurse’s voice came over the speaker. “Do you need something, Mrs. Boscorelli?”
“I need to see my son.”
“He’s fine, ma’am. They would have told us if there was any change. Why don’t you go back to sleep? Do you need a sleeping pill?”
“No, I don’t need a damn sleeping pill! I need to see my son!” Rose flung the button down and stood up. “You either get someone to take me up there or I’ll fucking crawl if I have to!”
“Just a minute, Mrs. Boscorelli.”
“Just a minute, my lily white ass.” She pulled on the robe Faith had brought for her. Soft and a pretty pink, it brought tears to her eyes as she remembered Faith giving her the box and saying she’d found it at Maurice’s apartment. All wrapped up for Mother’s Day. He’d gotten her a robe for Mother’s Day every year since he was little, it was their own little tradition. Mikey had always gotten her slippers to match. A sob broke free.
“Get off your ass, Angela Rose.” Wiping the tears off her cheeks, she walked slowly toward the door. It might take her all damn night, but she was going upstairs to see Maurice.
Outside the door, she was startled by the police officer standing there. He smiled and held out his hand. “Let me get you a wheelchair, Mrs. Boscorelli.”
“What are you doing here?” Cautiously, she took his hand. “Am I under arrest? I didn’t do anything.”
“No, ma’am.” He smiled. “Lieu likes for us to be around in case a family member needs anything.”
“Were you here before?”
“I’ve been here and a few others have been here. Different shifts.” Waving at a passing orderly, he pointed to a wheelchair by the nurse’s station. “Bring that here for me.”
“I didn’t see you.” How could she have missed an officer right at her door? “I’m sorry – I didn’t even see you.”
“You were – well, you were a little upset the first time I saw you.”
When the orderly trotted up with the wheelchair, Rose sank into it gratefully. “What’s your name?”
“You work with my Maurice?” She arched an eyebrow at the nurses as she went past. See you later, bitches.
“Yes, ma’am. I work with Bosco – er… Maurice.”
There was a chuckle and she looked up. “I know, not the most masculine name, but it was his grandfather’s. Maurice loved his grandpa.”
“It’s just hard to put such a soft sounding kind of name with such a tough guy.” His cheeks flushed. “No offense.”
“Ah, what the hell, none taken.” Turning back around, Rose relaxed in the chair. “He’d have a laugh, me getting my own police escort.”
When they reached Maurice’s room, Rose noticed for the first time the uniformed officer sitting in a chair outside his doorway. “Jesus, I’ve been out of it not to notice you guys. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, ma’am.” The other officer stood up and opened the door for McKeon to push the chair through. “I hear you pitched a fit down there.”
“They told me to go back to sleep and they’d let me know if anything happened.” Looking up at him, she winked. “I told ‘em I’d crawl if I had to.”
“If you’re anything like Bosco, I can believe it.”
Inside Maurice’s room, Faith was sitting on the edge of the bed talking to him. “I dunno what to do, Bosco. You know, I’m just so confused.”
Rose waved the two officers back outside. They closed the door quietly and she sat listening to Faith, not wanting to interrupt.
“I mean this promotion can maybe help me get Em and Charlie, but then when you come back – I don’t want you to be alone, Bos.” She had Maurice’s hand, holding it under her chin and resting her face against it. “I wish you could tell me what to do. We’re partners, and I can’t just leave you behind. But my kids, Bos, I need my kids. I dunno what to do.”
Blinking back tears, Rose got up out of the wheelchair and walked to Faith’s side. The other woman jumped and turned to look at her. Her cheeks were wet with tears and her eyes red and puffy.
“Sweetheart, don’t do this to yourself.” Rose wrapped her arms around Faith.
“I’m sorry, Rose.”
“For what, for being human?” Kissing the top of Faith’s head, she rocked her gently much as Faith had done for her a few nights ago. “Tell me what’s wrong, honey. Maybe I can help.”
“They offered me a promotion. To detective. But I want to be with Bosco when he comes back to work. Only the doctor said he’s never coming back to work.”
Faith’s voice cracked and Rose hugged her tighter. The doctors were telling her that Maurice would never wake up, and if he did by some miracle come out of the coma, that he’d never walk or talk again.
“Your asshole of an ex, he’s trying to take your kids, right?”
“Fred? Yeah, he took them and moved in with his girlfriend and now he’s suing me for divorce and full custody.” Faith laughed but it was bitter sounding. “Says I’m unfit. He’s the one who screwed around and he’s an alcoholic – and I’m unfit?”
“This detective promotion, it’s better pay, right?” Rose looked down at Maurice. At the mummy kept alive by machines that was her son. “You know what Maurice would say. He’d say you do what’s best for your kids, Faith. You take that promotion and you don’t worry about me. That’s what he’d say.”
“I know.” Faith sat back, wiping at her eyes. “I know he would. But, Rose, I just don’t want him to think I stopped believing in him. ‘Cos I know he’s going to wake up and he’ll be back on his feet – and then he’ll be all alone out there.”
“Faith, listen to me, honey.” She brushed Faith’s hair back out of her eyes. “It’s going to be a long, long time before Maurice is able to go back to work. By then, your divorce will be all settled and you can figure out what to do – who knows? They may promote Maurice. The papers say he’s a hero.”
“He is a hero, Rose.”
Rose watched Faith kiss Maurice’s hand before she laid it gently on the bed. “So you take your promotion and you come tell him all about it, okay?”
“Okay.” There was look of relief on Faith’s face as if the decision had been a huge burden lifted from her.
“Maurice knows you love him, Faith.” She smiled as Faith shook her head. “And he loves you, too. You’re both just blind as a couple of bats.”
“We’re friends, Rose. Good friends.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that.” Her arm ached and her legs felt wobbly. “Help an old broad back to her wheelchair, will you?”
“What are you doing up this late?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” Once she was settled in the wheelchair, Faith wheeled it next to the bed. “I’m worrying about someone I love. And you?”
“Same thing.” The smile was shy and Faith ducked her head in a way that Rose was becoming familiar with.
Rose smiled at her and picked up Maurice’s hand. “You hear that, baby? Faith’s going to be a detective, and when you’re ready to go back to work, she’ll be right there with you. Everything is going to be just fine.”
The lie went down easier every time she said it. Rose laid her cheek against Maurice’s hand. In her heart, she knew her son would never have a normal life again. Please wake up, Maurice. Momma loves you. Don’t run so fast to get away.