Everything’s fine. She’s not dead yet, it can’t be that bad surely? Her eyes scanned the wound but she was scared to touch the girl now. She’d been shot? Jane thought, No. She must have been hit with something… pointy and thought she’d been shot.
“When did it happen? How’s your breathing, have you been coughing or coughed up any blood?” She asked.
“I’m not sure when, a day ago? I… really don’t know. I’m sorry. Breathing hurts but there’s no blood I don’t think.” She said, adding “I don’t think the bullet went in far.”
“Look, I can manage cuts and bruises but I’m in no position treat this you have to see a doctor, get a scan…” Jane was preparing to argue with the girl but she didn’t say anything, getting up from the couch. “Where are you going? You can’t just walk away Alexis this is serious!”
“I don’t want to go to a hospital. I can’t.” She said, louder now. She was starting to breath heavily and was clearly agitated. Jane racked her mind to think of something to keep her from running.
“Wait, wait, before you go – I have a friend, he’s a doctor. How about I ring him, talk to him and see if he will have a look at you?” Ideally she’d have the girl in the back of an ambulance but unless she wanted to physically restrain her she had to get her onside, to compromise.
Hopefully Jack wouldn’t mind getting a call in the middle of the night…
Aexis stopped moving towards the door, but stayed standing. Stayed silent.
Jane guessed that was a grudging yes and went to the kitchen and took her phone out of her pocket. The clock just went two thirty three when she selected Jack from the list and pressed dial.
It rang to voicemail twice before he picked up, sounding rather groggy. She’d just woke him up, hell who wouldn’t be asleep at this time.
“Hello? Jane? Is everything ok, do you know what time it is?”
“Yes I’m really sorry Jack I’ve got a really big favour to ask. Are you free right now?”
“If you count ‘in bed’ as ‘free’ then yes…”
“I’ve got one of my students come over to my house in the middle of the night really beat up, she thinks she’s been shot and it kind of looks that way. I’m totally out of my depth. She refuses to go to the hospital and I don’t want to scare her off… Would you have a look at her?”
“She thinks she’s been shot? Jesus Jane you don’t do favours in half measures.”
“Well, she’s pretty sure but she’s not dead so… I don’t know Jack, it kind of looks like it but there isn’t any internal bleeding that I can tell, no swelling.”
“Ok fine, but I’ll have to scan her to see where the bullet is if it’s lodged somewhere. Will she come to the clinic? I can open it up for a half hour.”
“I might be able to persuade her, I’ll try.”
“I’ll meet you there. I’d better set off. God Jane this is an odd one.”
The hum of the dial tone filled her ear and she slipped the phone back into her pocket and headed back into the living room.
Alexis was half sitting half lying on the sofa looking like she was dozing off again. In a panic Jane tried to get her to wake up – she didn’t think it was a good idea to let her sleep.
“Come on Alexis, I’ll drive you to go see… someone who can help.” She said.
* * *
“Well, it’s a bullet alright.” Jack studied the wall-sized display of the chest scan. The rib cage looked so tiny to Jane’s eyes. “Look, it entered here and broke this rib here. Lucky really – quite a clean break. It slowed the bullet down enough it didn’t get much further and damage the lung.
“The broken rib didn’t protrude into the chest cavity either. This could have been a lot worse, it must have passed through something else first or she’d be much worse off. In fact, given the surrounding bruising it looks pretty characteristic for a high-calibre round getting through a vest. Except this little thing is probably the lowest calibre round on the market.” He idly twisted the hairs in his beard around his fingers before adding. “Maybe it was a cheap vest.”
“She said she got attacked in the street, I can’t imagine why she’d have anything like that on though.” She said.
“Well it could be anything really, if she had a backpack filled with something reasonably absorbent… Like I said, I’d expect a bullet proof vest to stop this. That’s just what it looks like and I see it a lot.”
He frowned and gestured at the screen, making it zoom in.
“There are quite a few old hairline fractures here, and a few larger healed breaks. I noticed similar signs in her wrists and arms. How long have you known her?”
“Not very long, I’ve taught her maybe a year.” She said. “I’ve always assumed she was being abused though, she has that look – like she’s older than she should be.”
“Hmm, I wouldn’t say these were that kind of injury – maybe two of the rib breaks. The one on the wrist is probably from a fall. That said, it’s not that unusual for an active child to have a few falls.
“But these older hairlines? There are loads of them but they are all very well healed. I nearly didn’t notice them. They are usually associated with sporting injuries – lifting heavy loads… or osteoporosis of course. I’d have to measure her bone mineral density to be sure. Is very uncommon in people her age…”
“Is it bad?” She asked, worried.
“I wouldn’t say so. Given that there are no current fractures I’d say it’s improved. The underlying cause may have been malnutrition; hell she’s skinny enough for that to be it.”
Jane nodded and added. “Trust me, I think she’s actually put on weight since the last time I saw her without her top on.” Jack raised an eyebrow at her causing Jane to hastily add “Some bullies at school stole some of her clothes.”
“Does she have an eating disorder?” He asked.
“I don’t know. It might just be neglect. She refuses to let anyone do something about it.” Jane sighed. “So she’ll be ok? Won’t she have to have surgery or something to remove… that?”
“The bullet? No. It’s a common misconception, a lot of people die poking around pulling bullets out. I’d dress the wound and leave it in place. It’s not doing any harm where it is. Her body will just wall it off.
“When did you say this happened? Given how shallow it is I would pull it out but the fracture has already started the reparative phase.” After a quick look at her blank expression he rephrased, “Her ribs have already started to knit back together. The flesh is even healing. I’d do more damage than good tearing about in there now.”
“She said maybe yesterday, I’m not sure she remembers when…” She replied.
“Really? It looked a fair few days old to me, maybe longer.” He said.
“Definitely can’t have been, she was in school on Friday – no holes in her then.”
Jack replied with a thoughtful noise and some muttering. After a moment he cleared his throat and announced to her: “Well, she’s lost a lot of blood but there is no internal bleeding – I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem except she’s going to be tired for a while. With plenty of time to rest and recuperate she’ll be fine bar some nasty scarring. Can I go back to bed now?”
Jane smiled at him. Good news at least. “Of course you can.”
* * *
She ended up carrying Alexis up the stairs to her flat she was so deeply asleep. Jane didn’t want to stress her by waking her up and it wasn’t like she weighed much. She put her down in her own bed. Leaving as quietly as she could she turned the light off and went to get some spare sheets to try get some sleep on the sofa before having to set off for school in… She checked her phone, two hours. Fun.