Colt Buchanan punched in the lock’s key code a second time, waiting for the familiar click as the door released.
He took a deep breath, tried to calm himself. He remembered the numbers. It was practically the only thing he did remember these days. But his hands were still weak, and his hand-eye coordination unreliable. His brain might be saying press the four key but his finger made contact with eight.
He had only one more chance. If he didn’t get it right on the third attempt, the lock would freeze and he’d have to go back downstairs to get Rafael, the doorman, to let him in. Which Rafael would, of course, but Colt needed to get horizontal as soon as possible. He was exhausted and he needed to get off his legs.
The doctors in Germany took the cast off his right leg last week, but it still hurt. He mentally flipped open his writer’s brain to search for a better word than “hurt.” One of the nurses at the army hospital had suggested he try crossword puzzles or sudoku to exercise his brain. She’d had another memory loss patient for whom that had worked.
Didn’t seem to be working for Colt so far. He’d gone through an entire paperback book of crossword puzzles on the redeye flight to New York while all around him his fellow passengers slept. He still had gaps in his memory you could drive a bus through.
He shifted his weight back and forth, trying to relieve the pressure on his right leg. It ached in the mornings but by now—seven in the evening—it felt like his calf was being hit over and over by a barrage of arrows. He took another deep breath and steadied his hand to try the apartment’s lock one more time.
He carefully pressed the first number. Even for New York, this level of security was unusual but he understood why Zee’s mother had insisted on it when she bought the place. Zee’s mother was … was … shit. He couldn’t remember her name, either. She was an actress, he knew that. No, make that “movie star.” Yeah, she was definitely on the level of a movie star. He was pretty certain about that.
But he wouldn’t bet the bank on it.
His finger hovered over the second number, then pressed it. He touched the third number. So far, so good. He held his breath as his fingertip pressed the last key.
Please let me have gotten it right. I am so tired. So very, very tired.
His breath whooshed out of him as the door unlatched and he was able to push it open with the last of his energy.
“Zee?” he called out as the door shut firmly behind him.
The apartment was dark. He patted the wall next to him until he found the light switch. He groaned and closed his eyes. After so many months in a dark, dirt cell his eyes were overly sensitive to normal levels of light. The nurses in the hospital in Germany had seemed incapable of remembering that.
“Zee?” he called out again.
Well, obviously she wasn’t home yet. The apartment was perfectly silent. But that was okay. She often worked late and he needed to sleep for awhile anyway. He had called her from the hospital so she knew today was the day he was coming home.
He had called her, right?
He rubbed his aching temples as he half shuffled-half limped down the short hall to the bedroom. He was pretty certain he had called her. Who else would he have called other than his girlfriend? His mother had passed away four years ago. His father—pfft—Colt had no idea where the hell he was anyway. Barely remembered him, even before he lost half his memory.
He had a sister, too, but the U.S. embassy in Germany said that the only phone number they could find for her had been disconnected when they called. At least he remembered his sister’s name. Carrie. That was something, these days.
The only thing he could think clearly about right now was a bed. And the woman he’d be sharing it with soon. Zee Maliszewski, the love of his life, the only thing that had kept him going all those months in the dark, had gotten him through even the times when he thought his death was imminent.
He paused in the doorway of the bedroom. Maybe she was already in bed? Zee was a sound sleeper—unlike Colt these days—maybe she hadn’t heard him come in. He squinted into the darkness of the room but their bed was clearly empty. Unmade, which was unlike Zee, but he didn’t care. All he needed was to sleep in his own bed again. It had been so many months since he’d been home. He’d lost track of how long it had been. It felt like years.
He stripped off his stiff new jeans and stiff new oxford shirt, without bothering to unbutton it. He could call Zee, only he still needed to get a new cell phone. His memory wasn’t the only thing those bastards had taken. His phone, his wallet, every last dime in his bank account. The embassy had gotten him a new passport and a new credit card. The rest he would start sorting out tomorrow.
His memory would probably come back, the doctors had assured him. He had suffered a concussion during the army’s rescue. Been roughed up by his captors a few times. PTSD was likely a factor too, the hospital said. He could expect his memory to come back in dribs and drabs, not all at once. Some of it might be gone forever, though. Too soon to tell.
But he was home. And right now that was all that mattered. He let himself fall face first into the pillow.