The next day after watch, Malloy and Reed were allowed to see Bobby for themselves. They stood in the doorway of his hospital room for a moment to take in all the color. Someone had hung yellow curtains in the window, and the room was bright with sunshine. Bunches of flowers formed a pyramid atop the bedside table, and a round wreath, like those that decorate war memorials on Veteran’s Day, leaned against the bed.
Reed looked puzzled. “Is he famous or something?” he murmured.
Malloy raised his eyebrows. “You haven’t heard?”
Margaret sat in a winged chair in the corner reading aloud softly to Bobby from a dime-store book. At the sound of voices, the siblings looked up. Margaret broke the puzzled silence with a laugh. “Oh, it’s the officers!” she said. “I didn’t recognize you without your uniforms.”
“We’re technically off-duty,” Reed said, “but our supervisor said we could come on over to finish up the paperwork.”
Bobby blinked. “Paperwork?”
“Yes. Nothing happens but we write it down,” Malloy said. “Lose a tire? Write it down. Lose your hair? Write it down. Lose your mind? Write it down.”
“In this case,” Reed said, “we’ve written up the happenings. We just need Bobby’s signature.”
“Mac said you did well on the radio, Bobby” Malloy said. “You must have followed my instructions to a T.” He chuckled. “Or maybe you’ve had some practice with police radios?”
Reed’s puzzled frown returned.
Bobby grinned. He shifted in the bed to make room for them. His face scrunched up as he scooted his right leg.
“Does it hurt?” Reed asked.
“No; actually, I can’t feel it at all. Makes it really difficult to do anything… That’s the idea, I guess.”
Malloy sat on the bed. Reed stood by the table and eyed the Get Well Soon! cards.
“Sorry we couldn’t make it yesterday,” Malloy said. “Jim needed to see his wife.”
“Well,” Reed tilted his head, “she needed to see me, at least. Alive.”
“Yes!” Margaret said. “Bobby had to speak over the telephone to everyone at home personally.”
“Some of them twice,” Bobby muttered.
Malloy nodded. “That’s how it’s gotta be.” He turned to Reed. “You got the paper?”
Reed was frowning again at all the signed cards on the table. “Huh?” Oh!” He reached inside his jacket and brought out the statement. He started to hand it to Bobby, but he stopped, bent toward the table, and squinted.
“Well?” Malloy exaggerated his interest. “What is it, Jim?”
Reed picked up a postcard. A man in a cowboy hat and a red kerchief. Someone had signed it; the J of the first name made a long loop, like a lasso, in the corner.
Reed swallowed. “Is this from John Wayne?”
“Probably…” Bobby leaned forward and took it from Reed’s weakened fingers. “Yes. That’s him, alright.” He gave it back. “He’s a friend of my uncle’s.”
Reed’s jaw went slack. “Your uncle is in the movie business?” He breathed in slowly. “And… you work with him!”
“Now he’s got it,” Malloy said. He leaned back and spotted something on the other side of the bed. Piled around Margaret’s feet was enough mail to fill Malloy’s box for two weeks. “By the looks of things, Bobby here has quite the fan base of his own.”
Bobby rolled his eyes. “That’s my agent’s doing. As soon as he heard about this… adventure, he put out press releases and notified magazines… He thinks it’ll really boost interest before the opening.”
“Opening?” Reed asked.
“Movie opening,” Malloy said. “Bobby is starring in a cop movie.”
“You… You’re an actor!” Reed said. A big, relieved smile spread over his face. “That makes sense!”
“What do you mean?” Bobby asked.
“Pete figured it out, but I was…” Reed looked very serious. “I was really taken in by your ‘act’ in the warehouse.”
Bobby winced. “Thank you. And I’m sorry about that.”
Margaret looked gloomy.
Malloy turned to Bobby and raised his eyebrows. “Press releases are fine. Just make sure he doesn’t put our names in anything.”
“Sure,” Bobby said. “But why?”
“Well, we wouldn’t mind being famous, but we like being cops.” Malloy glanced at Reed. “Right, partner?”
Reed chuckled and nodded.
Malloy crossed his arms. “And the two don’t really go together.”
“Right,” Bobby said. “No names.”
“Until I produce the movie about it all.” Bobby snuggled into the bed.
Malloy frowned. “What?”
“Oh, don’t worry. It won’t be for some time. Likely years.”
Margaret raised one eyebrow. “That was also Mr. Parns’s idea…” She checked her watch. Her face didn’t seem able to settle into one expression. Was she excited? Nervous? Bored?
Malloy had seen it before. She was trying to act light, but she didn’t want to think about that movie. The events were too recent. He caught Reed’s eye and tilted his head gently.
Reed nodded. He held out the envelope and found a pen. “Here’s the statement. If you’ll just sign at the bottom, Mr. Hillesphry, we’ll be out of your hair.”
Bobby opened the envelope, glanced over the page, and scribbled a signature. He looked again at the top of the report. “Hey! You spelled my name right!”
Reed looked at it. “That was Pete.”
Malloy explained, “I saw the credits for your movie in the newspaper. Looks like a good picture. I’m planning to take my girlfriend to see it.”
Bobby nodded. “I hope you both like it.”
“I hope it’s the first of many,” Malloy said.
“Probably will be, thanks to you.”
“And we’ll get to see them, thanks to you,” Reed said.
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