“Well, she’s stable.” The doctor said in a hushed voice. Boyd pulled himself to his feet, away from the bedside of his sleeping daughter. He let his hand linger a few moments on her arm before stepping back and joining the doctor. She assured him that she was only sleeping. “I advise you to let her rest Mr Spencer.”
“Yes, yes. Of course.” The retreated to the door with timid steps.
“But so far, things are looking very promising. She can speak, recognise you, remember names and even the events just before her injury. There is little indication of loss of higher brain function.”
“Thank you.” This was just too much to take in. “Thank you so much.”
“I hope you understand that until we can perform a thorough assessment we won’t know the extent of the damage though. Brains are strange things, she might remember your face and who you are but nothing before the age of ten. She might not be able to walk and need years of physical and psychological therapy. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but early signs show that things are really looking up. I’m optimistic that she will be able to make a full recovery.”
She was going to be fine. His daughter was going to be okay. The shock was beginning to wear off, and it was replaced with a feeling stronger than any drug. He felt lighter, like he’d just taken off a backpack filled with full field kit, and ammunition for a week. The world was sharper, more defined. Colours stood out, brighter.
She was going to be okay.
“I think you could do with a rest, too.” The doctor wasn’t wrong. Just like after his officer training: Sure, the backpack was off but he had dragged it around for sixty miles. Relief flooded through him, but exhaustion still gnawed at the edges of his mind.
He collapsed onto the chair.
“Is there anyone you want me to contact?”
Kim. He’d been too hard on her. She must be worried sick. “Her mother. Her number should be in the file.”
“Right. I’ll do that.”
The door clocked home. He didn’t even know the woman’s name. He should find out her name.
* * *
“Your friend is recovering. I suggest you give them a while. It’s late, you should take yourself home or if you want to stay go get some lunch for an hour or so. Give them a moment, and space.”
Late? Oh dear. Emma checked her watch. It was near eleven. The suggestion of food and the realisation how long it had been did get a grumble from her stomach. But the thought of eating after seeing that… It didn’t fill her with enthusiasm.
“I’m going to give a little lee-way with the visiting hours today, given the circumstances. I’m sure you’d be welcome to come back after you’ve had something to eat. But I suggest you call your parents and let them know.”
Parents. That would be a good idea. She hadn’t planned on staying so late.
* * *
“I’ll probably be a while. Yes, Mom, I’ve got something to eat right now.” Emma looked at the tired sandwich sat forlornly on the table in front of her. Further study did not make it any more appetising. “Yes, I’ll get a taxi home. I’ll put it on the credit you gave me. I’m sure Beth’s going to be fine, Mom. Bye.”
She slipped the phone back into the front pocket of her bag. What a day. Well, at least it looked like Beth was okay after all, and she’d found Haley was… well… whatever was wrong with her. She’d sure strung Emma along. Was it really that naive to think someone could change like that?
Maybe someone normal could change. And Haley certainly wasn’t normal. Her response, to Beth was illogical, bordering on incoherent. In retrospect, Emma should have seen it earlier. There were plenty of warning signs but she overlooked them simply because she was dumb enough to want her to have changed.
Well, nothing could be done about it now. It could have ended much worse.
She glanced at the clock mounted on the wall in the empty café. Ten past twelve. Was that long enough?
She could just go and see if she was awake, apologise to her father for bringing Haley anywhere near his daughter and leave.
* * *
Boyd jerked awake. He shoved his sleeve back to check his watch, but only a handful of minutes had passed. He had no time for sitting around taking naps. The detective’s warning rang fresh in his mind. As soon as they found out Beth was awake they’ll start asking questions. And who knows what Beth would say? She certainly isn’t ready for an interrogation. Though there’s every chance she won’t have any knowledge they want either because of her injury, or because she never knew it, and what would they do then?
And the small fact that they may well have worked out what she means to the one they are looking for…
He’d been planning a move, and now was the best time. Beth was stable, but awake. He could care for her now. Sure, he was going to check with the doctor first, but for now – time to prepare.
He hauled himself out of the chair and gave his sidearm a cursory check, making sure the safety was on but there was a round chambered. This wasn’t the time for mistakes. Beth was dressed in crude hospital pyjamas, they would have to do. He kicked his pack out from under the chair and picked out a thick blanket and coat packed. She wouldn’t be long outside until they got to the car, but she needed to be warm.
He began gathering what little gifts and objects that people had brought for, that she might want to keep, and began placing them in the bag.
Muffled steps from the hallways filtered through the door. They weren’t the hasty, direct footfalls of the medical staff. Hesitant, and quiet.
His hand dropped to his waist. He flicked the leather strap off the top of his pistol. The sound stopped. No movement. They were at the door. He pushed his thumb along the black steel, switching the safety catch he’d so diligently checked to live.
He relaxed. There was no way that nervous tap was anyone that could do any harm. And they wouldn’t knock at all.
“Come in,” he said. “Ah, Emma. I thought you had gone home.”
“No Sir, I thought… I thought I’d just. What’s that?”
His hand left his hip in a flash. He let his open dress-jacket fall over his gun. “Oh, don’t mind that.”
“Are you packing?” Her eyebrows furrowed as she surveyed the scene. “I thought you’d be staying the night, the Doctor mentioned that she didn’t mind that visiting hours were over.”
“Oh. This?” He couldn’t think of a plausible lie fast enough. Damn curious little girls. When you can’t comfortably lie, just stick to the truth. “I’m just sorting things out. I’m hoping to take Beth home quite soon.”
“Really? I thought she’d be staying a while longer.” The girl took a few steps into the room to look at his daughter in the bed. “She’s sleeping?”
He sighed to himself. He’d seen people get hurt in his life. He’d seen people die. But that first time? Misfire on a live firing range. Kid took it in the eye. Boyd was eighteen. First time he’d seen anyone really hurt.
Pain, injury. Kids are sheltered from it so much they can’t help but show fascination when it is forced upon them. It’s only natural.
He stood back and let her get closer. “She’s just sleeping.”
“Do you think it hurt?”
“What?” She could be referring to anything. Boyd didn’t doubt getting your skull fractured hurt.
“Being… I don’t know what happened really, but you know, being in a coma.”
“I don’t think so, they put you to sleep for operations don’t they?” he said. “The coma was actually induced. They decided that she’d heal better that way. I’m sure they wouldn’t do that if it hurt. It’s just she didn’t wake up when they planned.”
“I guess so.” But she didn’t seem satisfied, “But what if it did hurt, but it’s just no one can remember it afterwards?
“I…” Does that even count as hurting? Boyd had passed out before, after drinking a little too much one night. It was a blank, like it had never happened… but I suppose he must have been experiencing something at the time. His friends certainly told him exactly what he’d done. What a strange question. “I really don’t know.”
“Oh.” Kids. It won’t be long before this girl reaches the age when she realises adults really don’t know as much as they let on and are just trying to stumble through life just like they are.