HE screamed as he woke.
Nathan sat upright with a start, his body still trying to get away from whatever it was that was chasing him in his dream.
He gasped for air, clumsily flailing about himself, reaching for the glass of water on his cabinet. Finding it, he paused, his mind making him stop to check the details. The clock reading 3.42am. The moonlight filtering through the blinds, picking up the sheen of sweat on his dark skin. The silence in the room. The silence.
One hand reached across to the other side of the bed. To Annie. But only finding empty space. Gone. Of course, she was gone. Business, his mind remembered. Chicago.
He could feel the breath heaving through his chest. It felt as if he'd been running for hours, he was so exhausted.
Running. He could remember running, in the dream. What else? Already, the dream was starting to slip away. He tried hard, but all he could remember were fragments. The running, but running from what? No, wait, he was running to something – or someone. A coat. He remembered a coat. Red, it was red. It had been up ahead of him. But... that was all. All he could remember.
Nathan raised the glass to drink it, and realised it was already empty. He'd drunk it without realising.
He looked back at the clock. 3.44am. What kind of time was that for a man to be awake? That damn dream. It felt... he wasn't sure how it felt. Was he scared? Excited? A little of both, now he came to think about it.
His mouth was still dry. Nathan got up and padded barefoot across to the bathroom, no more than six steps in the small apartment he and Annie shared. New York prices, that's all they could afford right now, even with his job at the force and her job that took her away to places like Chicago all too often. He could have done with her here now. Sure, it was only a dream, but it would have been nice to have her laugh at him and tell him to forget it. Though, at this time of morning, she'd probably have just muttered something while half asleep herself. Tell him off. Tell him to get back to bed. Back to sleep.
Nathan looked at himself in the mirror. He looked exhausted. Physically exhausted. He peeled off the vest he'd been wearing, which was soaked in sweat, and tossed it in the laundry basket. He looked back at himself in the mirror, at the tiredness in his eyes, but more than that, a jumpiness still there, still wired, still nervous of something he couldn't quite remember.
“Nope,” he said to his reflection. “Not going to be getting back to sleep any time soon.”
And inside his head, a voice half-whispered: “Not as long as that dream might be waiting for me again.”
He sighed, and turned the tap to fill the glass.
When the phone rang an hour later, Nathan felt thankful. He'd pretended to himself he was going to try to get back to sleep, but instead he found himself in the chair by the apartment window, peering out into the night streets below. He tried to put the dream behind him. He tried to think of other things. But the more he did, the more the sensations that had stayed with him into wakefulness scratched at the walls he tried to build around his thoughts. Scritch-scratch-scratching, wanting to be let in.
After a while, it got to him, so he poured himself a glass of vodka and then settled there, watching the first stirrings of the city.
And that's when the phone rang, loud in the quiet of the apartment. He had it by the third ring.
“Miller here, what's up?” he said.
The voice on the other end sounded a little surprised, a little asleep.
“Nate, you're up already? You sound as if you've been awake for a while.”
“Couldn't sleep, Joe,” he answered his partner. “Sounds to me like you're five minutes awake after a phone call yourself. What's going on?”
“More like two,” came the reply. “Desk just phoned in – there's a body, they want us to check it out.”
Nathan's eyes checked the clock.
“It's nearly five in the morning – some reason they want us to check it out instead of some of the uniforms?”
Joe's reply was weary. And touched by sadness.
“I didn't really follow everything the desk said when they called. But, ah Nate, they said it looks like another of ours.”
He paused. The silence hung heavily across the phone line. Finally, Nathan spoke.
“OK, Joe. Look, I'll come pick you up. Be there soon.”
A confirmation grunt came from the other end of the line. Nathan hung up the phone. He looked back at the window. The untouched glass of vodka. Hell if he knew what that dream was all about. Screw it. Time to focus on the real world. He went back into the bedroom to get dressed. And wished one more time that Annie was here.