I wasn’t in the mood to accompany anybody. The fact that they had left me out of Sylvia’s funeral cut deeper with worry that things were working against me in faster base than I could control. I couldn’t sleep and what little I could steal was filled with nightmares that kept waking me up every other minute. I checked the clock like a mad man and when it finally began lightening, I was down on my porch, legs rocking over the edge of the bench, drumming hard against the wall in the back.
I knew Rasmus was home alone. Others had gone patrolling little before I came outside to sit and wait for Rasmus to step outside and dare look me in the eye and say I had no right to be in there. I had watched them leave – Janay had picked them Saul up together with Oliver. I couldn’t remember Malek return last night.
It wasn’t much after sunrise that I heard the door creek and Rasmus stepped outside, sipping from his cup. His feet shuffled across the small rubble and stopped right behind the redcurrants, waiting in silence.
“What do you need?” I snapped at him, listening him take another gulping sip from the cup. He always held it wrong. Not from the handle, but cupped inside his palm like small bowl.
“I’m out of sugar, now that you remind me.” he replied with a smirk. “Actually, have you got ice cubes and a broom?”
I jerked my head up, surprised. I turned around to see if he was serious. He hadn’t slept either. He had shadows under his eyes, but he looked cheerful and smirked like crazy. He was mocking me. As if it wasn’t enough to set me aside – he was now kicking me as well?
“Yeah, I got them.” I said slowly and watched him choke on the coffee. At least that was rewarding. “Come.” I signaled him to follow and went ahead. This should be interesting.
He came, setting the cup on the bench outside. He tried to look indifferent, scratching his short beard, eyebrows elevated. I was digging deep behind the frozen meet to get the ice cubes, when he arrived.
“So, what’s the plan? Ice hockey in living room until others come back? I have ice cream too for your Home Alone party.”
The phone rang and I was still grinning, digging it out, but then nearly choked, couldn’t get my breath back for another moment, when I saw Mykola’s name. The bastard was still using his old phone number? How careless!
“What do you want?” I reached Rasmus the pack of ice.
“Guess what I’m looking at?”
“Your thick ass with far thicker firewood stuck in it?”
“You’re – what? That’s just cross, Evelyn, just cross!” I could imagine him shaking his thick black hair
I cringed, realizing that wasn’t what I was supposed to say in front of Rasmus, but instead of getting all angry at me like I thought he would he stopped on the middle of the kitchen and frowned, worried.
“Who is it?” he mouthed to me, and I sighed, mouthing back “Mykola.”
The ice fell from my hands and he grabbed after the phone, but I pressed him away.
“I’m hanging up, you’re not interested!” he sounded nettled.
“Ok, ok!” I shouted. “We’ll play it your way!” Though I hated to do that. “What are you looking at?”
“We? You have company?”
“Yes, I have company.”
“Who is it?”
“Someone you don’t know.” I whispered.
“WHO IS IT?”
“Tell him!” Rasmus mouthed and I felt my throat dry up. I didn’t like his worried look.
“Rasmus, he came for tea.”
“He is now drinking tea, is he? Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.”
“Get to the point!”
“Easy!” Rasmus patted my hand, but I rasped it away.
“I can see why you chose him,” he began sweetly, “he does have some stamina. Too bad he is so sloppy with his thrusts with the knife – he should be reaching far deeper in the enemy circle.”
I staggered back against the cabinet, my feet giving in under my weight.
“They’re under attack!” I whispered to Rasmus.”Where are you right now?”
“Having the best seat in the house.” He murmured. “Oh! Now we’re getting somewhere! Right hand, shoved aside, left hand – ah! Straight way to stomach and oh! Full launch straight in the solar plexus! Ah!” He was clapping and shouted “Bravo!” making me think he was on top of a building somewhere. Something ricochet near him on concrete. “Whoah! That bearded guy really has hand with guns!”
The phone went dead and slipped down from my shoulder. It hurt under my ribs to imagine this, even more to know he hadn’t lied. The truth would hurt far worse than lying.
“What happened?” Rasmus shook me hard, trying to get the answers out of me, but I failed to say anything for a while. My chest ached with each breath.
“Saul is dead?” I asked him, dazed, mixing up the time sequence and hoping that he would give me the answer.
He puffed and was about to answer, when we heard car squealing before it crashed, turning on the screaming alarm. Rasmus pulled me roughly on my feet and we ran out.
It was Janay’s car, stuck in the back of my car. He was swearing hard, kicking his driver’s door open with the leg. The moment he got out, he pulled the back door open.
“Saul was attacked!” he yelled to us, pulling hard. Malek ran out from the other side and we saw Saul’s jacket hand flung over his shoulder as he tried to get a better position.
“W-what?” I stammered, frozen on my spot. I had to will my legs to move and follow Rasmus, who was already around the door and supporting Saul’s chest.
They howled him up and supported him between themselves. It was then that I saw fresh blood in pressing through the fabric on his stomach. His head sunk on his chest and I heard Malek’s strained voice say Saul being out. I kept thinking it was bad they had pulled the knife out. That was before my mind replayed images I’d created listening Mykola and decided there was no way deciding how deep the wound run.
Rasmus pulled me back in the house and I realized they’d passed me. I was still heaving for air, eyes watering up.
“Put him in the living room!” Rasmus called.
I ran past them, pressing my hands against Saul to stop them before pulling them away in sick wet sensation. Sofa was not a good place and the table would be too small.
I felt myself go on doctor mode, despite not having much trauma experience, being the dentist in a small clinic.
“No-no-no! Take him to the bedroom!”
“Living room is closer!”
“Yeah, but moving him later will be trouble!”
Janay and Malek turned to us both with anger.
“He is not getting any lighter here!”
I seek Rasmus’ approval before turning them a bit and showed towards the stairs, going right after them. His eyes carried terrifying message – you screw this up and I will make sure you won’t see daylight again.
In the bedroom, I slip pass them, got old cotton blanket and few sheets and made a quick makeshift bed on the floor.
“Flat surface,” I counted the emergency instructions, “lay on the side!” and encouraged them to lay him down in front of me.
His body lumbered down on the floor, with Malek losing his hold. He fumbled down with him, swearing. Shiver ran through our spines, when the ring of blood around his wound widened.
“What now?” Janay shouted while Malek was busy releasing himself from his hold. “Come on, doc, snap out of it! Evelyn!”
“I’m a dentist, not a doctor!” I shouted, adding with wheeze that pretty bad at that even, but Janay took one step over Saul’s body and shook me.
“You’re closest to doctor we have!”
“W-we should take him to ER!” I tried to reason with them, but Rasmus shook his head and I suddenly knew where Saul got all that dislike towards authorities. “He could be bleeding internally as far as we know! Do you want to risk that?”
“He’s not out because of the wound! They knocked him out!”
I gave him closer look. Besides his stomach covered in blood he indeed had nasty cut underneath his chin with red glow around it. It must have been something for Mykola to see him…
“Snap out of it!” Janay shouted again and we heard Saul groan.
“You two are like kids!” Rasmus said tonelessly.
“He should be in hospital –”
“I don’t want him to be taken to hospital!” he grunted.
“We’re not talking about experimenting! He needs medical care!”
“If Saul is not around, he will decide!” Malek tried to reason me by bringing their household rulebook out, but I nearly slapped him with it back to his face.
“And he might just get you killed…” I sobbed.
I felt Saul’s fingers touch my knee and looked up. Moving enough to be in his reach I felt his fingers painfully cutting in my flesh.
“It’s not internal.” Malek tried again, hands raised to offer peace. He didn’t look his usual self today. He stumbled on the blanket edge and tried to keep away, rather walking in circles around us than sitting still.
“So I could watch him die? How do you know? You’re not a doctor! I flared up and hit his hand hard, but he used the movement and grabbed hold of it instead. “What kind of monster are you?”
“I’m an undertaker!” He reminded me with snort and suddenly we both found ourselves snickering inappropriately.
“Good that you got that out, now tell me what to do!” Janay snapped his fingers to get our attention.
“I-um…” I looked around, quickly searching for something I couldn’t see. “Hot clean water, some towels, something to sew with…”
“Finally!” he pushed up from the floor and ran, taking Rasmus with him.
I reached out to touch Saul’s face, but felt Malek’s hands take hold of me and giving me a strong hug. I couldn’t keep the tears away much longer and I saw them fall on Saul’s chest, damping his chest.
“He’ll come back to you, ok?” he whispered, rocking me gently. I could smell alcohol in his breath and stiffened.
“He can be so stubborn sometimes!”
“You are in equal measure.”
“Mykola called me.” I whispered so Malek could hear. His deepened his hold on me, choking the breath out of me. “He described me what happened. I thought he was dead!”
“I wish Janay hadn’t missed!” his voice tensed. We heard them return and Malek pulled away, sniffing hard, leaving me gasping for both air and his closeness again. I wished it too.
They laid their fortune out next to us on a towel and I braved myself against the most gruesome operation I had performed during my practice.
I so much wanted to ask if they trusted me, but felt his finger resting on my knee and knew I didn’t care if they did. Saul did. That was enough for me now.
“Scissors.” I began, taking one shaky breath after another and started slowly cutting through his beloved turtleneck. It was ruined now, no way was he going to get it clean again.
We were surrounded by dead silence. I couldn’t even hear birds outside – everything seemed hidden behind their rapid breathing and the sound of scissors. I cut it up to his chest and pulled the fabric away.
“I don’t have anesthetics – you’ll have to hold him down.”
“What about that tranquilizer in his bottle?” Malek offered.
“No!” I looked at the redness of the blood. It was already too light to my liking. “He’s got mountain of it in him already. Probably.” This was making my work much harder. If he had too much of it in already he would bleed far longer then he would otherwise.
I told Janay to press his shoulders down and Rasmus do same on his feet. I had to clean the wound first. His muscles tensed when I pulled the soft towel over his abdomen, but eased after I got most of it away from the wound. I tried to avoid the wound itself, keep the strings away. His hand remained on my knee. It fell off once, but I put it back.
Rasmus saw that. “This is not time to get in…”
“He reacts to touch – his hand reflects the way he’s handling the pain!”
“You’re the expert!” he snorted and gave him seriously angry stare.
This was not the time to get me nervous! I had just sterilized my smallest sewing needle and had to remain perfectly calm if this was to work. It had been years since I last did any flesh wounds and even those were done in perfectly clean environment.
That reminded me. I put the needle down on the bandage I had prepared to put on top, hands shaking like crazy. His wound was still bleeding. I didn’t know how to check if there was anything in it without hurting him. I cleaned the area again, cleaned the cotton thread and pulled it behind the needle.
I couldn’t do it. My hands were shaking too bad while only an inch away from his flesh. I felt the tears fill my vision as I watched his stomach muscles move while his breathing calmed. No, cotton was too thick. They wouldn’t use cotton, would they?
“What are you waiting for?” Rasmus was starting to lose his nerve.
I dried the sweat gathered on my brows and realized I had to sterilize the hand again and it nearly reduced me to tears. I quickly pulled one out, pulled new cotton through and sterilized everything again.
“Get on with it!” Rasmus shouted.
“Like hell you can’t!”
“Close your eyes and breath!” Malek tried different tactics and despite crying like a baby now, I followed his suit.
I did my best to calm down and after next breath I placed my left hand on around the wound and pulled the hole together before steeling myself against any sudden tremble and pushed the needle in.
His breathing changed and he tried to pull free, making his entire abdomen shake out of my hold. I had to pull the needle out again.
“Hold him down!” I began crying again. Fucking couldn’t they just keep him still for five minutes? Five minutes was all I needed! “I wish he’d stop doing that!” I bit through closed lips, feeling Saul’s fingers cramp around my knee and dig painfully deep.
Malek eyed at his hand cramping around my knee. He yanked it away and took strong hold on it, letting it sink around his fingers.
“He won’t like to learn that when he wakes up. That he was squeezing your hand instead of me!”
He gave me a pained smile. “He won’t like many things.”
“He will yell at you again.”
“I’d like that…” I wished and saw my chance and tried to fix the wound again. “Saul, if you hear me, please!” I begged him. “Please stand still!”
I don’t know if he heard or not, but his muffled screams – Janay had pulled old newspaper between his teeth, which I promised to give him hell for later – was all the reaction we got for a while and I managed to sew it together. It turned my stomach upside down each time the needle went through his flesh, pulling it up a bit. It was still simmering blood and although I tried my best to keep it clean, it kept coming and for the first time since I’d seen him with his bottle, I wanted to slam it to his face. He could still have internal bleeding for how easily the blood kept coming.
I don’t remember how long it took, but Saul got six small x-s to fix the wound. I kept cleaning it, begging the blood to stay inside where it belonged and after awhile it stopped.
I kept the back of my left hand on his belly while we watched the wound gather up new streams and I could feel him heating up. I checked on Saul’s forehead and felt the hot skin with cold sweat. I pushed my right hand under his neck – it was covered with sweat. His face had flushed together with his chest. I asked for thermometer, but recalled I never got one, when I moved in and thus had to guess.
I wasn’t even sure if I should do something to get the temperature down. It had been so easy with patients, but right now I couldn’t even take the easiest decision! I felt angry, but tried to calm again – it was not helping Saul any way if I flipped out right now.
The bleeding stopped and I fixed a bandage on his wound.
“We’ll have to get the fever down. If he pulls through by the morning, we should be out of the mist.” I sighed. “There is some more ice in the fridge.”
Rasmus went for it and Janay followed.