This, however, was no ordinary building. It was St. Benedict's Infirmary: a place of hope and wellness for many people... but to Roxy, a haunting monument to death.
She was stood in its front courtyard, looking up at it - trembling at the very thought of going inside. But that's where Mac was. Within its walls... rushed there in the aftermath of their crime-stopping confrontation in a suburban basement.
Roxy didn't even know if he was alive or dead.
She had to do this. For Mac's sake. He needed her... and she needed him. The man had just taken a bullet for her. What did it say about their friendship if she was too afraid to simply see him in the hospital after he'd done that?
Drawing a deep breath, Roxy lurched forward and stepped into the foyer - moving so fast, the wicked, taunting voice in her head didn't even have time to question it.
She'd taken the first big step. She was now inside the hospital.
Blinkering her sight to ignore the laden stretchers and injured people around her in the waiting room - doing so out of necessity rather than a lack of compassion - Roxy made a beeline for the reception desk. She was greeted by an older woman with a soft smile upon her face... which alleviated her heightened nerves slightly.
"Excuse me, Miss," she said, "where can I find Mackenzie Miskin? Please?"
Her voice was like that of a timid child. The woman looked back at her - compassionate, but confused.
"Who's he, dearie? Staff? Patient?"
Of course, Roxy thought. How stupid of her. There were hundreds of people in this hospital. This lady was hardly going to know them all by name.
"A patient," Roxy explained. "A police officer. Greyish coat, green hat. He's... he's been shot."
"Oh, yes," the lady replied. "I saw him come in. They rushed him into the emergency room, but that was some time ago. I'll look him up on the system. Just two ticks, dear."
The next few moments felt like years to Roxy. As she watched the sweet old receptionist typing away on her computer, she repeated a frantic mantra inside her mind.
Please don't be dead - Please don't be dead - Please don't be dead
"Here we are, dear," the lady told her. "Intensive Care, I'm afraid. Ward 3. Just down there and to the left."
After mumbling a thank you, Roxy scurried off down the hallway - her pace quick, her hands still shaking. She was grateful to get away from the suffering people around her, but also, terrified of what she may be about to see.
As Roxy stepped onto Ward 3, she immediately spotted two familiar faces sat on a bench outside one of the private rooms. A man wearing a purple fedora - who was talking hurriedly into a mobile phone - and a lady with bright pink hair, lost in deep thought.
Mr. and Mrs. Miskin.
The second she saw them, Roxy burst into noisy guilt-laden tears once again. Hearing Roxy's wails, Zara looked up, and spotted her. Immediately, she stood up and opened her arms to Roxy, beckoning her to come forward.
Roxy ran desperately towards her, breaking down completely in her embrace. Mac's loving mother shushed her and stroked her hair... almost as if Roxy was her own daughter.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Miskin," Roxy wept bitterly. "I'm so, so sorry..."
"Hush now, Roxy dear - don't cry," Zara told her... although by this point, she was sobbing herself. "This wasn't your fault. You mustn't blame yourself anymore."
"Is... Is Mac OK?" Roxy asked her.
"We... we don't know, sweetheart," Zara replied. "The doctors are still with him.
Milo hung up his phone.
"Laura and Louisa are on their way," he said. "They'll be here as soon as they can."
They heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Looking up, they saw Lavinia and Richard Rhodes stepping onto the ward, making their way over to them.
"Forgive us for not coming sooner," Richard told the Miskins. "We had to give statements to the police. We got here as soon as we could."
Lavinia took a seat on the bench next to Milo.
"Has there been any news?" she asked.
"No," Milo told her. "Nothing yet. We think he's still being treated."
"Whatever he needs, whatever level of care he requires," Lavinia said, "it's his. We'll pay for everything, Richard and I. You don't need to worry about that for one second."
"That's most kind of you," Milo replied, "but we could never ask you to -"
"We insist," Lavinia said firmly. "Mr. Miskin, your son was injured trying to save our lives... and he almost certainly has saved the life of our beloved niece."
Roxy looked towards her aunt. Swallowing and trembling, she made her way to the bench slowly - taking a seat by Lavinia's side.
"I... I was so scared I'd lose you," she said.
Lavinia grasped her hand.
"Roxanne, darling," she began, "I know you and I have had our differences over the years... but don't you think for one moment that I do not love you. Your uncle and I both adore you - with all our hearts. Looking back, I do suppose I was rather strict with you - always wrapping you up in cotton wool, as it were. But after what happened to Charles and Kiyoko... I was just so afraid that you might get hurt. All I ever wanted to do was keep you safe... but really, I kept you a prisoner. Please... forgive me."
Roxy smiled, and nodded.
"I forgive you, Aunt Lavinia."
Leaning forward, she kissed her on the cheek, gently. Greatly touched, Lavinia now turned towards Zara.
"When Roxanne met your charming son," she continued, "I was so happy she had made such a nice, sensible friend. But, with all due respect... it seems you Miskins are a lively bunch. Roxy was bound to fit in better in your colourful, busy world than in ours. And so, Mrs. Miskin - "
"Zara... I want to thank you and your husband. For raising Roxanne... Roxy... for all of these years - taking such wonderful care of her. I do realise money is by no means the most compassionate gesture... but please be assured that whatever you and your son may need in the future, it will be yours. It is the least we can do to repay your kindness."
The noblewoman was interrupted by the sound of swinging doors. A doctor emerged from within Mac's treatment room, and approached the family, solemn-faced.
For a few moments, nobody made a sound. Then, Milo found the courage to speak first.
"Well, doctor?" How is our son?"
"Mackenzie... is stable," the doctor replied. "Thankfully, the bullet lodged in his shoulder - none of his major organs were hit. He's going to live."
Roxy sighed with relief as Zara embraced Milo, thrilled to hear this news.
"However," the doctor added, "at the moment, he remains unconscious. Blood loss and a previous head injury seem to have heightened the damage done. We have tried our best to rouse him, to not avail. He will, we know, wake up at some point... but we simply cannot say when. Hours. Days. Maybe even weeks or months. I'm so sorry."
The feeling in the room was like beginning a magnificent flight into the heavens - then crashing down sharply into the rocks below. Mac was alive, and for that, everyone was thankful - but knowing that it may be months before he was truly back with them was utterly heartbreaking.
"Please... visit him at your leisure," the doctor told them. "It may help Mackenzie if he hears the voices of those he loves."
With that, he walked away. Zara turned to Roxy.
"I think you should go in first, my dear," she said. "He'd want to know that you're safe. Talk to him a while. Let him know you're here for him."
Roxy nodded. Slowly, she got to her feet, and went into the room.
Mac had been laid upon the hospital bed - his fedora still perched on his head, his shirt still speckled with blood where the bullet had entered his body. His eyes were closed, and his body motionless - appearing to the whole world as if he was deep in a peaceful sleep, illuminated by soft lamplight.
Roxy had to smile. Were not the circumstances so tragic, the scene before her could have been described as beautiful.. almost like a scene from a Renaissance fresco.
A plain, plastic chair was beside the bed. Roxy sat herself down and reached her hand out to hold Mac's - entwining her fingers with his as she had done before. As for her other hand, she placed this gently over his heart - just as Mac had in their final moments together in the basement.
"Hi, Mac," she began.
For the first time in years, that sentence received no response.
"I'm... I'm so sorry... that you got hurt. Oh my God, you - you were so brave down there... you... you saved my life."
Damn. Now the tears were coming again.
"You're my best friend, Mac. You mean the world to me. More than anyone else I know... even my aunt and uncle. The thought of being in this world without you is... a nightmare. A pure and utter nightmare. Living hell itself. It makes me more scared than anything... even this damn hospital."
She laid her head on his chest gently.
"That's why you have to wake up, Mac. You have to come back to me. To your mother and father. To your sisters, your niece and nephew. We love you. We all love you. You can't leave us now."
"You can't leave me now. I need you here. I need you safe. Back home where we belong. No more doctors, no more hospitals. Just us, safe and sound, together."
She reached up towards his brow, stroking his hair gently.
"I... I had to borrow your computer. For work. I... I saw the Web pages you'd saved. It - it was an accident - please don't hate me. But I looked at the pages, Mac. I know what you saved them for. I know you want to become a father."
She tightened her grasp on his hand. Unnoticed, Mac's eyelids flickered.
"I... I can't promise to marry you, or anything like that, but... I'll do it, Mac. I'll have a baby for you. A son, I hope... to be your heir. A kind, beautiful baby boy... just like his father. I'll do it for you, Mac. I promise. You just need to wake up."
She started sobbing softly.
"Just wake up, Mac. Please... please...wake up..."
Suddenly, she felt a squeeze on her grasped hand. She looked up, shocked... and saw that Mac's eyes were open. He was looking at her lovingly - a small smile spreading across his face.
"Hello, Roxy," he whispered.
Roxy cried out in delight, wrapping her arms tightly around the now-laughing Mac. His relatives and visitors outside, hearing this shrill sound, all rushed into the room - whooping and weeping with joy when they saw that their beloved Mackenzie was awake once more. They rushed up to him, all frantically longing to speak to him and hold him... but for the moment, Mac was happy to be in Roxy's arms, and he didn't want her to let him go.