"They… didn't. I managed to get here without them seeing me. Then"—Vic tried to pull away when Evan started to lift the hem of the dark sweatshirt he was wearing—"I crawled into your yard, hugged the shadows by the porch, and prayed."
Evan stopped what he was doing for the moment. "I heard someone in the alley, just after you collapsed against the wall."
"That was them." Vic barely smiled. "Guess they were blind not to see me. I wasn't exactly moving fast. But then, they didn't expect me to get away."
"Were they holding you somewhere?"
Vic gave a slight shake of his head. "They caught me, took me out behind my building, and worked me over… while they asked me… questions. Then… I heard someone coming. They did too, so they shoved me into their car. I suspect they were planning on taking me somewhere more… private to continue questioning me. They thought I was unconscious. I wasn't. As they drove I tried to open the door but it was locked. Then"—Vic looked puzzled—"they'd just turned a corner, very fast, and suddenly it opened. I rolled out. Remind me that it hurts when you land. But I was desperate. I saw the alley and managed to get into it before they knew what happened, I guess. The rest… well, I figure I lucked out."
"Probably more than you think, given the situation. I want to check you over, and before you get any ideas about that, I know what I'm doing. I was a combat medic in the Army." Evan started on the sweatshirt again. "Hold out your arms."
"I can do that," Vic protested weakly.
"I'm sure you can, but it'll be easier on you if I do." Evan pulled the sweatshirt carefully over Vic's head and off his arms, whistling low when he saw the damage to the man's chest. "They did—"
"A number on me. You already said that. Not that I don't know."
"Why?" Evan asked, while he gently ran his hands over Vic's torso. "Sorry," he said when he carefully felt Vic's ribs and got a gasp of pain from him. "I need to see if they're broken."
"Don't… think so."
"Me neither, from what I can tell, but we won't know for certain until they're X-rayed."
"No hospital. I told you that."
Evan moved away, staring at Vic. "Why not?"
"I have my reasons."
"No shit. That much is obvious, but if I'm now harboring a criminal…"
"You'd say that either way."
Vic almost grinned. "I would. So"—he staggered to his feet—"for your own peace of mind, I should get out of here."
"You're not going anywhere until you've gotten some rest. I doubt you'd make it even halfway down the street before collapsing. And that presupposes the men who attacked you aren't still out there looking." When Vic grabbed the edge of the table in an attempt to remain upright, Evan put his arm around his waist. "You're going to lie down. My sofa's long enough for you to sleep on."
With Evan's help, Vic made it into the living room, collapsing on the sofa. "If I thought I was hurting before…" He groaned, rubbing his knee. "I think the adrenaline rush has worn off."
"Did you land on your knee when you escaped from the car?"
"Knee, hip." Vic slumped back, looking up at Evan. "I'm a fucking mess."
"I'd say that's a given at the moment, but at least you're alive."