Officer Brecky came to escort me back to her car where Allison was waiting. When the ambulance pulled back onto the asphalt, lights whirling flashes of red, she followed behind them.
With my wound shooting fresh spikes of pain through my arm and shoulder, I laid back and closed my eyes. I was relieved to be with Officer Brecky, as I trusted her, but I couldn’t help but think that Ritter was still out there. He occupied my thoughts as I hovered on the edge of sleep.
At the hospital, a doctor I hoped was a surgeon debrided and sutured the hole in my arm under a local anesthetic. Before the nurse wrapped it I took a deep breath and looked down. The dried blood was gone, and few lines of purple nylon knots crisscrossed the area. But it looked a hell of a lot better than it had. And it was numb. At least for now.
Allison sat on a hard chair along the wall. She kept quiet and watched the process with a child’s fascination. I was so proud of her strength, but I hoped it wasn’t just shock that would wear off and leave me with a shell of a girl carrying a basket of mental rubble. Sure, she had lived through and dealt with the accident and her father’s handicap, but this. . . This was so much different. She had looked the devil in the face and taken him down. Hopefully it wouldn’t take her down, too.
The nurse handed me a few papers and a bottle of pills. “Keep the stitches clean, but don’t get them wet. You’ll have to come back to in seven days to have them removed.”
“I don’t live here,” I cut in to monotonous regurgitation of the doctor’s instructions.
Her tone became a bit more irritated, and I caught myself wondering what her problem was. Had she had a bad day? Did she not like working with Dr. Dolchez? Did she not like her job at all? “Well then, you can make an appointment with your regular doctor. But Dr. Dolchez will want a report of how the wound looks. If you like,” her annoyance brought me back to the room, “the receptionist can give you a list of surgeons in your area that can remove the sutures and examine the wound. That way any issues can be dealt with right away.
“The prescription is for Percocet. Dr. Dolchez has given you ten to start, but you should fill the prescription right away. Take one tablet every six hours regardless of your pain level. You can take it as close as every four hours if you need to. It’s for pain management not a pain killer, so don’t skip a pill just because you don’t feel any pain.”
I looked at the amber bottle in my hand. “Okay. So should I just take it until it’s gone?”
I could tell she was trying to keep her exasperation in check. “For the next three days, don’t skip a dose. After that, if you’re feeling okay, you can try to decrease it. But, if your pain increases again, you need to go back to taking it as directed. All the instructions are on the papers. Do you have any more questions?”
I thought nurses were supposed to be the friendly side of healthcare, but this woman sounded like she couldn’t wait to get away from me, and the last thing she wanted do was answer any more questions. So I said no and slid off the table as she walked out.
Officer Brecky was waiting outside my little ER stall as Allison and I parted the curtain and stepped out.
“How’re you doing?” she asked looking at my arm.
I shrugged. “Better than most, considering.” I wrapped my good arm around Allison’s shoulders. “I could use a drink. Do you want anything, baby?”
She nodded. “And a snack, too, Mommy?”
I gave her a squeeze. “Of course, honey. Anything you want.”
“There are vending machines this way,” Brecky said with a tip of her head as she turned and led us down the bright hallway.
“Dominic is in surgery now,” she said as I walked beside her. “From what I gather, they have to stitch his muscles back together. He’s lucky, though. The bullet missed any major blood vessels.”
I took a deep breath and huffed it out. “Will he have to stay here?”
Her green eyes fell on me and searched my face. “Overnight, at least. They want to make sure he’s okay, you know?”
“Yeah. But Allison and I can’t stay here. We can stay in a hotel or something, but I’m not subjecting her to any more trauma than is necessary. Staying overnight in a hospital is more than necessary.”
We stopped in front of a row of vending machines with sodas, sandwiches, chips and candy. One even had ice cream. I told Allison to pick whatever she wanted. After looking at all the options, she chose a soda, a turkey sandwich, and a bag of chips. I got a soda for myself.
“You don’t have to stay here at all, Ella,” Brecky was saying as I punched buttons and retrieved cellophane-wrapped food and plastic bottles of soda. “I can take you and Allison back to Church Hill now if you want. Of course, you’d still have to stay in a hotel, but at least you’d be in familiar surroundings. Maybe you could stay with a friend?”
We walked back to a waiting area and sat with our food. Allison found a magazine to browse while she ate, and she sat a few seats down so Officer Brecky and I could talk more. I hated having her that far away from me now. I just wanted to cradle her on my lap and never let her go.
Pulling my gaze from Allison’s small face I looked Brecky in the eyes. Unless you can verify that Ritter is either locked up or dead, I won’t ask a friend. I can’t. Besides, my best friend is already dead, and I don’t have many others after Michael’s accident.”
“A hotel, then? You don’t have to stay here.”
“What does the public know? Is this a big media story in Church Hill and Summerville? Are we going to be attacked by reporters if we go back?”
A big fiasco was the last thing we needed right now. Without knowing where Luke Ritter was, I would not risk my daughter’s life by having the media plastering our faces and location all over the news.
“The murders are a big story, but names haven’t been released. I could put you up in a hotel on my own, without the police even knowing.” Her voice dropped to a barely audible whisper. “Look, Ella,” she said with her lips barely moving. “I’ve been through this before. I can help you without using my police status.”
I stared at her with wide eyes. Who was this woman? From the time I first met her on Cassie’s front porch she had been the one person who’s assistance I had never questioned. I didn’t trust her gruff partner. I had questioned Dominic several times since he was the reason I was in this mess to begin with, and it hadn’t helped his case that the FBI agent he’d been working with turned out to be one of the bad guys. Obviously I didn’t trust the FBI either.
So why had I never questioned Samantha Brecky? Was there some sort of kindred spirit that bound us. A power beyond the perceivable world of good versus evil? What had she been through that joined us in the survival of this battle against darkness?
“I can’t talk about it here, but we can go to a hotel. Here, or closer to home. Whichever you prefer. Just know that I can help you in ways the police can’t. Maybe you should wait until Dominic is out of surgery and we can talk to the doctors. Make a decision then.”