"She came in through the bathroom window"
I'm Karl. I'm six-four, 240. I'm fifty--a retired EMT. I live next to a busy street. I keep my sliding glass door open for ventilation and have my computer next to it. I was typing away at a story when I heard a shot. I snapped my head to the left, just in time to see a bicyclist dive off the road and headlong into a tree. They bonelessly tumbled down the embankment wrapped up in their bike only to come to rest in a heap on the lawn not ten feet from my door.
"Protected by a silver spoon"
I dashed across the room and grabbed my M3 medic pack, slammed open the screen door and raced to their side. Her side. No guy around here would be caught dead in a hot pink and silver lycra biking suit. One of those dinky it's-so-cute little perforated silver bike helmets was strapped to her head. I did a basic survey, gently felt along her vertebrae for anything depressed or mis-aligned. So far, so good. I gently placed my hands to either side of her head and gently pulled in line with her spine. Nothing grated or felt wrong. I could see no limbs bending the wrong way or in places they shouldn't so I began to roll her to her back. That's when I noticed the blood. She was copiously bleeding from a deep laceration in her head. I got her un-tangled from her bike and supine. I un-buckled her brain bucket and checked out the damage. It appeared that the shot I'd heard had given her a depressed fracture horizontally across the prefrontal lobes. Crap. I checked her eyes with a flashlight. They were dilated and unresponsive. No, there. I had some reflex. I heard sirens so I quickly ran back to my apartment for my wallet and responder ID. The gurney guys were coming down the embankment as I came up to meet them. I flashed my ID. and told them what I'd found.
"Depressed fracture 6 cm above ocular ridge. probable gunshot, compounded by bike-tree collision. Cervical vertebrae clear. Eyes dilated and minimally responsive." They got her velcroed down to a back board and into the ambulance fast. One guy stayed behind to get my ID as first responder. I heard the radio chatter over the sound of the siren as the crew called in the call. The sound faded in the distance as the guy who took my information headed for the fire-truck for a ride back to his crew. I sighed, coming down from the adrenalin hit. Now I hurt all over. This is why I got out of the business--the toll it takes on your body. It's a young man's game. I picked up the girl's bike and rolled it over to the bench I keep outside my apartment. Nice bike. It wouldn't stay long if I didn't lock it up. I had a padlock and fished around for some chain that I knew I had kicking around. Ah. Found it. I chained it through both wheels and the frame. The seat was on a quick-release so I pulled it off to take in with me. Then I found the little hold-out under the seat. It had a credit card, a driver's license, a passport and a small key ring. I sat down and looked over her ID. Andressa Oljesson. She was pretty--5'2", about 110 pounds and well-built. She sported a 'Blondie' skull-cap hairdo and had the lightest blue eyes I'd ever seen. She was a Danish citizen living in the U.S. on a teaching visa. The keys were to a SAAB. Not too shabby. My computer was still on so I Googled her name. Holy crap! This woman was a research biochemist with more degrees after her name than God's got Chicklets. She was in the middle of some really nasty controversy. Maybe she hadn't been shot by accident. I didn't want to tie anything to my cell phone so I drove down to Walgreen's and bought a pay-as-you-go phone and put ten hours of minutes on it with a few cards. I headed back home, Googled "Embassies", found a number for the Danish embassy in D.C. and called.
"Hello. One of your nationals just had a nasty accident and is in a hospital near Geneva Illinois. Andressa Oljesson. I believe she was shot while on her bike. I was the first responder and have her ID."
"Quickly. Does anyone else know who she is?"
"No. The EMTs took her away before I found her ID under her bicycle seat. I bought a disposable phone and called you immediately."
"Good. Very good. We will fly a doctor and a security team out as soon as we can. Thank you."
"I still have her credit card, passport and keys. How can I get them to you?"
"We will be there tomorrow early. Lars. Yes--look for an extremely large gentleman that likes--spotted ties."
"Polka-dots?" "Yes! That is the word. He is blonde and looks like a weight lifter. He IS a weight lifter!"
"OK. Tomorrow. I'll bring her bike in my jeep as well."
"Thank you. Good bye."
Well, that was that. I didn't want to stand out waiting around the hospital so I stripped the dry-cleaning bags off my old EMT uniform and checked it out. I filled all the little pockets and do-dad holders and cleaned up my utility belt, then stocked it. I found my old duty sneakers, had dinner and went to bed.
At six I woke, as usual, took a shower, got dressed in my finery, loaded the bike in the jeep, pocketed her ID and stuff in a shirt pocket with a velcro closure and headed out. I stopped for a danish and coffee at Panera and headed for the hospital. I parked in general parking and made my way around to the Emergency room. God, it brought back memories, and not a lot of good ones. The sights, the smells, the sounds. I knew I had to tough it out. I slouched like I'd just pulled a 16-hour shift, put on a tired-bored face and walked up to the triage desk. The duty nurse noticed my wrinkles and grey crew-cut, then my uniform and service hash-marks. I glanced around. "Between waves. Quiet."
I got a smile. "Stick around."
"I'll bet. I triaged the bike-tree yesterday afternoon that came in from Randall near 64. Any joy?"
I got a distracted frown. "Not really. Jane Doe. Good call--gunshot across the lobes. Stable, out of surgery."
I nodded "Good." I leaned over towards him. He leaned over towards me with a question in his eyes.
"No Jane Doe. I found ID under the bike seat. Danish embassy coming today. It's gonna be a big stink. Keep it low and slow. We don't want to get caught up in the prop wash." He nodded and settled back. "Visiting?"
He looked at an LCD display, paged down a few times. "3100. It's an eight-bed." I nodded. Cheap room next to the nurse's station. "Call 3 and let 'em know an interested party's coming up?" "Sure." He was already reaching for the phone. I headed for the lift. On 3 I checked in and stuck my nose into the ward. There she was, flat on her back with her head swaddled up like a facial reconstruction customer. I checked her hands and found the road rash from the tree bark that I'd barely noticed the day before. Yep, same customer. I checked her chart. They'd done about all they could except pump her full of antibiotics to keep hospital-borne infections at bay. I nodded. She would be as stable as she was going to get in about six hours. I conned my way into the nurse's station in return for telling her story, pitched fifty cents into the kitty and drew a coffee. Bleah. Iron and copper. It never changed. The pot never got washed, either.
I hung around for a while listening to the gossip and complaints, watching the rhythm of the floor. After doctor's rounds and lunch it got quiet. Suddenly several things happened at once. The elevator opened and out came six really big guys, one with a blonde crew-cut in a suit and a green polka-dot tie. Ahh, my contact. I stood up and slowly started their way. As I was passing a door opened opposite the nurse's station and an arm came out with a pistol in it and began shooting. Everything slowed down. I grabbed the wrist with my right hand while I was pulling my windshield hammer off my belt with my left. I pulled the guy down before me and let him have it with a full-arm swing behind the ear. Crunch. He stopped moving. I noticed that there were two other guys shooting from the other side of the elevator. The guys that had just come up in it were all on the floor bleeding. I was pissed. I calmly picked up the pistol and shot both of the shit heads in the head. "Not in a hospital, you assholes." I realized that I was standing there with a smoking pistol in my hand. I forced it back into the dead guy's hand and massaged his grip back around it.
Blondie was slowly scrabbling at a brief-case. I approached him and dropped to my knees. I could see that he wasn't long for this world--he'd taken a spinal shot and was bleeding in deep heavy spurts. He saw me and gasped a bit, pulled himself together and said "Take this. Sat-phone. Get her out of here." He breathed a couple more times then stopped. Damn. They made that guy out of steel and rawhide. I shook my head. I took the briefcase and walked into her ward. All the nurses had run like hell. I looked up and down the hall. I couldn't find an empty room. I pulled her IVs, unlocked the bed wheels and rolled her into the big transport elevator. I took her up to 4. The nurses were gone there, too. I found an empty two-bed and set her up, pretty as can be. I found some blank forms at the nurse's station and faked up a chart for her, scribbled a follow-up for a jaw reconstruction and left out the front door looking as if I knew what I was doing.
I saw a St.Charles EMT that had just come off call and wandered over his way. I asked if I could borrow his radio. He saw my chicken-tracks, figured that I knew what I was doing and agreed. I changed the frequency to crew-2 and called out "Uncle Goose to all you little goslings. Over." After the chatter had died down I let 'em have it. "Guys, we've got a fairy flight here. I've got a woman that almost got aced yesterday and nearly bought it from a hit team today. I need her out of the pokey and at my place ASAP. I stashed her in 433. Most of you know where my crib is. Who's in?"
The responses were heartening, to say the least. We organized a blind ambulance transfer with a fake ambulance call at my apartments. Instead of pulling someone out, though, they brought someone in. Our Jane Doe. I got her stable on my futon bed, then asked a couple of guys to babysit her for a couple of hours while I got supplies. I picked up baby food in cases, rubber sheets, Butadiene, a bedpan, fresh pillows, pillowcases and sheets. I bought shampoo and a couple cases of adult diapers. I got baby butt-wipes and ointment. I bought a waterproof stool for the shower and a hand-held showerhead on a hose. I dropped her bike off at my storage garage. I'd cursed the expense many times but now it was a lifesaver. Her bike was very expensive--too expensive for my neighborhood. It would get stolen out of my jeep or it would be a neon sign chained outside my apartment.
When I got back I found the guys cleaning the hell out of my place. I guess I'd let it go to pot the last year or so since I'd retired. I caught some dirty looks, but just shrugged my shoulders. We got her in a diaper and a gown, a rubber sheet on the futon and fresh sheets, and shook hands. They took off. I was on my own. I installed the hand shower, puttered around and finally sat in a chair looking at her. She didn't need all the linen on her face so I gently cut most of it away while supporting her head. She looked peaceful laying there. She smacked her lips a few times. I slowly fed her ice chips. She licked her lips and sucked. I had a box of nitrile gloves around--I filled a finger with baby apple-sauce and cut a hole in the tip. When I put it in her mouth she sucked and swallowed. That was a load off my mind as to how I was going to keep her fed. Her learned infantile feeding responses were still there. Figuring a 2200 Kcal energy budget per day I figured out how much I had to feed her. I could see that I was going to stay busy. I gave her four jars of baby food and some water then let her sleep. I took my dollar-phone and the sat phone to a park a few miles North of town, sat down at a picnic bench and hit redial on the little cell.
"Yeah, this is the guy that found your bicyclist yesterday. We've got a problem."
"Please hold ser." Click-click. click-click-click.
"Hello. Is this the EMT?"
"Yes. Your team got whacked by three assassins."
"We understand. Where is our star?"
"She's at home with me. My old EMT teams helped and we snatched her."
"Thank God. We thought the drug company bastards had gotten her."
"Your blonde super-trooper gave me a briefcase before he died."
"Do you have it with you?" "Yes." "Good. Carefully turn it upside down. Do you have two pens?"
Me? Always. Two pens, two knives, two handkerchiefs. "Yes." "You will find a recess on both of the buttons covering the hinge. Press both in hard until you hear a click." Okay, I'll play along. 'Click'.
"Got it. Now what?"
"Turn it over, set the combination to 7658 and open it. Remove the contents and pull back the top lining with the black tab."
I found a sat-phone, a charger for it, a spiral-bound notebook, a pen and four bundles of 100 dollar bills, fifty per pack-- twenty grand. I pulled open the lining and saw flashing lights and some grey tubes. Uh oh, I was suddenly out of my depth.
"Let me guess. I'm looking at a bomb."
"Yes, a fairly large one. Now, pull the silvery tubes out of each of the grey bars and cut them free. Throw them away. The rest will burn without exploding. Take up the satellite phone. Open the binder to today's date. Look at the number string. Do you see the windows and pushbuttons at the bottom of the phone?" "Yes."
"Once you charge the phone, adjust the windows to match the day's code. A matching phone in a very secure place will be answered. If you need to use the sat-phone without encryption set all the numbers to zero. You have something rather special in your hands. That is a diplomatic satellite phone which switches through some very special circuits. It would be rather difficult to trace. Yes. Difficult. The money should help for now. Since you are medically trained we believe that you should not have much trouble with this. We apologize for involving you in this and plan to make it up to you. We need you to care for Andie for a month or so. You are anonymous and therefore safe for her and us. Please quickly discard the phone you are using as its tower signature has undoubtedly been compromised by now. Please check in at least once a week. Good bye for now." click.
Well. I gutted the dollar phone, built a little fire with found wood and sat back to watch the pretty yellow and green flames as I disposed of the plastic explosive, then I torched the cell-phone. The detonators seemed to be nickel coated copper. I twisted the leads together, I carefully scraped each one to expose some of the copper without blowing my fingers off and gently pushed them deeply into the ground along a fence-line, next wooden fence posts. I figured that within a year they'd oxidize naturally and die without going bang and making anyone suspicious. I had to get back to the apartment to watch over my guest. I threw my goodies in a shopping bag and headed home. I brought in a sheepskin from the jeep with me to put under her. It would help keep her from getting bedsores. She'd filled her diaper while I was gone. No problem--I'd changed diapers on three generations of spuds in our family. She was just a little bigger, that's all. I got all the supplies lined up including a bucket with a lid and a garbage bag inside. I pulled the diaper, wiped her clean, smeared ointment over the obvious areas and powdered her little butt. A new diaper went back on and I laid her back down. Just like down town. I lidded the bucket and put it to the side, got some baby oil out, laid her on her belly and gave her a massage--arms, legs and back. She went right to sleep. I covered her up, had a beer and picked up writing where I'd been interrupted two days before.
It was dark. My guest had turned over in her sleep. She was groaning and thrashing her head. This was a good sign, really. She wasn't a vegetable. I sat on the edge of the futon and took her hand she groaned and clutched it with both of hers. I stroked her cheek which seemed to calm her down. I tried talking to her.
"Andie? Andie, if you can hear me you have been shot. You are injured but you are safe. I will care for you until you are healed." Her eyes opened and seemed to catch my outline in the dark. She whimpered and clutched my hand harder.
I tried to soothe her. "It's all right, Andie. You're going to heal as good as new. You have some brain bruising which will heal. Give it time. You'll be all right." I saw a tear track down from her eye to behind her ear I kissed her forehead. She would not let go of my hand so I climbed into the futon bed beside her and held her as we both slept.
In the morning I showered and changed, then checked her diaper. Pee only. I changed her and then we had breakfast. I fed her farina and bananas, then made up some orange juice and gave her a couple glasses worth.
She took a nap while I cleaned. I was amazed. That depressed fracture must not have been as bad as I'd guessed. I gave her a full-body survey and checked the wound. I was amazed! The wound looked like it was over two weeks old! I pulled the surgeon's stitches and massaged the area with a little Bacitracin, both as an emollient and as a topical anti-biotic. I noticed that the road rash on her hands had disappeared entirely. "Young lady, you've been experimenting on yourself, haven't you?" No answer. However, that had to be the answer. Humans don't heal that fast. Hell, very few multi-cellular things healed that fast. I plugged in the sat phone and set the day code.
"Yes. What can we do for you?"
"A certain young lady with the initials A.O. seems to have been experimenting upon herself. Are there any implications or things I need to do to help her that are out of the ordinary?"
"We had no idea that it would manifest this quickly. What have you observed?"
"About a week per day, perhaps more."
"She will need vitamins. Prenatal vitamins would be good. She will need them quickly."
"I'll make a phone call to a lady I know. No problem. What about C and D? I can park her in the sunlight and I'll pump her full of orange juice."
"Good. Mineral supplements would be good as well."
"OK. Thanks. It worried me."
I picked up my AT&T special and called Lilly. She tended bar down the street and we'd spent more than a few nights talking and ... other things.
"Lilly, you awake?"
"Goddamit. It isn't even noon yet. Who the hell is this?"
"Lilly, it's Karl. Lilly, I need a favor. I promise to pay you back. I'll even cook breakfast. Please?"
"Umm. OKay. Bacon and eggs, OKay?" "No problem. Just one more thing. I need you to stop by Walgreens and pick up a box I'll have waiting at the pharmacy. It'll be all paid for. Thanks, Lilly."
"Yah, youbet. Let me wake up and shower first, then I'll be by." click.
"Walgreen pharmacy, Art speaking."
"Art, I've got a problem. I found a pregnant runaway girl outside my back door this morning. She looks like she hasn't been eating in a while. She's kind of gaunt. I need you to fix up a care package for me--boost, liquid prenatal vitamins, athletic rehydration salts, mineral supplements, anything you can think of. I've got an account with you under xxxxxxxxxx. I've got Lilly Greenwood coming by to pick it up for me. Can do?"
"You're the EMT guy, right?"
"Yup. Karl Webber. Gonna help me?" "No problem. I'll have a care package ready in half an hour."
"Thanks, Art. I'm not screwing you around. This kid's in bad shape."
"Don't worry--nobody tracks prescription vitamins. It's just pro-forma so nobody overdoses and blames us."
"Thanks--I'll make sure she gets the right dosages. Bye." "Bye."