“It has to be cyanide.”
Vivian couldn’t stop shaking as she huddled outside the emergency room in the hospital. “I could smell it on his breath before they hauled him off to the ambulance.”
Her stomach quaked and she balled up her fists.
Camilla wasn’t there to assuage her worst fears. She became unstable and belligerent when she learned about Elijah’s condition. In fact, security was forced to intervene and remove her from the hospital grounds. It was unlike Camilla to lose control, but she would have done the same if Vivian was the one dying of acute cyanide poisoning.
“It was intended for me,” Vivian murmured as the guilt crusted over her heart. “I’m certain that the Zizkov Fiend poisoned my drink.”
She knew how cyanide was rapidly absorbed by the body and led to symptoms manifesting within minutes.
The cytotoxic poison would invade the cells and shut down the ability to use oxygen, thereby suffocating the brain and heart.
She stared anxiously at the white door separating them from Elijah’s thirty-minute window of survival. If the cyanokits failed to convert the cyanide in his bloodstream into a vitamin, she would never know how she truly felt about Elijah. It was strange how the idea of losing made her want to stay overnight at the hospital and burst into his ward at the first sign of an opportunity.
That moment came several hours later when Elijah was discharged from the crash cart-littered ER to a small dorm in the northwest wing. Vivian was nearly walking in the doctor’s shadows as he led her to the recovery room. With a murmured “thanks,” she pushed past and entered Elijah’s ward.
She was instantly overwhelmed by a myriad of emotions. She gawked at the sight of her friend with his vulnerabilities laid bare.
The words sounded softly from Elijah, as if his voice was buried deep beneath the linens, multiple IV lines, and EKG wires. Elijah looked more pitiful than she could have possibly imagined.
She was surprised by the tears that sprang from the corners of her eyes. She immediately took his hand in hers and hoped he was too lucid to see her expression.
“Elijah, I’m so sorry. I don’t know how this happened.”
Vivian scanned the formidable technology and monitors arrayed around him. During her time as a student in the nursing program, these devices held her fascination. Now they held a more menacing tone, especially when they were hooked up to her friend.
“How did it happen?” Elijah asked faintly, studying the EKG monitor.
“You ingested cyanide. You drank it from my cup, remember? The Zizkov Fiend was there, sitting alongside me. I can’t believe he was waiting for me in the club. I don’t know what I would have done had you not come over and grabbed my drink. I would be lying here in the hospital if not for you. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as lucky.”
Elijah gazed at the walls, listening as patiently as he could in his delirious state.
“I sensed something wrong with him.”
“The man you were sitting with. I noticed him before we even approached the bar. There was something unwelcome about the way he…”
“Take your time,” Vivian urged, squeezing his hand. “I don’t want to pressure you.”
Elijah inhaled sharply.
“He was watching you. From the moment we entered the club to the moment we sat down in the lounge, he couldn’t take his eyes off you. And then I felt like I took a tumble down the rabbithole and I didn’t know where you went or what was happening.”
Vivian felt wretched as she recalled his reaction to the potent hookah.
“When my wits returned, I saw you sitting with him at the bar. I panicked when I noticed you left your drink unattended. I didn’t see him put anything in it but…”
“Then why in the hell did you drink it?”
To Vivian’s surprise, he reached out and brushed his hand against her face. His eyes demonstrated a passion and hunger that paralleled her own on frightening levels. She had never seen such a desperate expression on Elijah’s face.
“The better question is why wouldn’t I? I’m already dead. It would harm you but it wouldn’t have any effect on me. Really, I’m blaming this emergency visit on the hookah.”
Vivian shook her head and hid her tears in laughter.
“One of these days, your stupidity is going to get you killed.”