The principal of Riverside High School opened the door to Mr. Miles classroom. The look on his face told Brett immediately that something was wrong. “Mr. Bates?”
“Can you step outside a moment?”
“Sure. You guys work on the questions at the end of the chapter.”
“Jeff what’s wrong?”
“Brett Mr. Woodson just called from Lincoln” Brett’s heart dropped. “There was a shooting. Your wife and daughter were hit.”
“They are on their way to the hospital. I’ll take your class. You go. I already called the boys to the office.” Brett ran back inside the classroom and grabbed his bag and coat. Several of the students asked if everything was OK but he didn’t stop to answer.
At the front of the building the boys were both waiting. Jake and Tyler were both scared when their Dad came running down the hall.
“Lets go, we’ll talk in the car.” Tyler opened the door and held it for Jake who had gotten really good with the crutches. Brett followed and held the second set of doors for his sons. They nearly sprinted to Brett’s SUV.
Jake climbed in the front and Tyler took his crutches and threw them in the back seat with him. Brett started the truck and took off. The boys just sat there waiting for him to speak. It took him several minutes to find out a way to say it. “Guys there was an incident at Lincoln today and your Mom and Emmy were hurt.” He kept going, not giving them a chance to speak. “I don’t know how bad or even what happened. They just said they were taken by ambulance to the hospital. I’m going to try to call Mr. Woodson now.”
The boys just nodded and urged him to call. He had Mr. Woodson’s cell phone number so he skipped calling the school, which he knew would be a madhouse.
Mr. Woodson must have seen the caller ID and answered quickly. “Brett, they are on their way to the hospital.”
“I know. I’m heading there too. Eric, how bad is it?”
“Stephanie was hit in the leg. It was bleeding like crazy but she got up and walked on it. Emmy…” He stopped. “Brett Emmy dove on the gun. She was shot in the side and it looked bad. They rushed her out and Stephanie wouldn’t let them leave her behind. She went in the ambulance with Emmy.”
“Eric was it that Rita kid?”
“Yes. We are still trying to find out how she got in the school. We had a pulled fire alarm this morning. We think he snuck in then. I scrubbed the video of the front door and she didn’t come in that way. The police have her in custody and they are interviewing other students. There’s a good possibility others were in on it.” His voice was shaky. “Brett I was there. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“Eric its OK. Rita was there for Emmy. I’m not sure why but this kid’s had it out for her for a while now. Mr. Case called yesterday and let us know that she’d been released and that she had already taken off from the home they’d put her in.”
“Keep us posted on their condition. I’ll be here until the police finish and then I’ll come by and check on them.”
“Thanks” The moment he hung up the phone Jake asked. “Dad, how bad?”
“Sounds like your mom will be OK? She was shot in the leg.”
“Shot in the leg? Someone had a gun at school?”
“Mr. Woodson said it was that Rita girl that Emmy got in the fight with early in the year. The same kid your mom and Emmy had to testify against last week.”
Tyler knew that his Dad hadn’t mentioned Emmy’s condition. “Dad, what about Emmy?”
“Emmy was shot protecting your Mom.”
“She dove on the gun she the girl tried to shot your Mom again. Guys it sounds bad.” The boys both sat back in their seats and tried to digest the information. They’d just gotten Emmy back from the cancer they really didn’t want to lose her now. Especially not this way.
Brett pulled his car into a spot somewhere at the hospital and took off running. Two days later he would go back to find that his car was actually parked in two different spaces. But at this moment he didn’t care. He had to find his wife.
The boys didn’t object when he left them behind and took off sprinting. Tyler stayed behind and helped Jake and then locked the car. Something else Brett forgot to do.
Inside the emergency room door it only took him a moment to locate Stephanie. Yelling drew his attention to the waiting room on the left. “Well then you’re just going to have to find someone to fix it right here because I’m not leaving my kid.” For some reason Brett burst out laughing at the scene before him. A very nice African American nurse, who was a full foot taller than Stephanie was trying her best to get her to sit down and quit bleeding all over the room. Steph had clearly been pacing back and forth in front of the doors. There was a trail of blood smeared from one side to the other.
Steph heard the laughing and turned. “Oh God, Brett.” She pushed the nurse away and ran to him.
“Its OK sweetie I’m here.” About that time the boys finally made it in and she saw them. They joined in the hug too.
“Brett its bad. There was blood everywhere. She called me Mom again. Over and over.” Stephanie was talking so fast, crying, and now shaking the adrenaline taking its toll on her body.
“Hey, hey sit down right here.” Brett led her to a chair and he looked up at the nurse.
“I tried to get her to go next door to the adult hospital to have it looked at. But she refused to leave.”
“Steph, look at me. You’ve got a bullet hole in your leg. Sweetie I know you’re concerned about Emmy, but if something happens to you. What am I going to tell her?”
“I can’t leave until I know she’s going to be OK.”
Brett looked up at the nurse, “Do you know where she is now?”
“No but I can go find out for you.” The nurse smiled, relieved. For the last twenty minutes the woman looked like she was going to pass out at any minute. Normally she would have just called security, but the EMT’s had told her what happened. This wasn’t their normal gunshot victim so she didn’t push it; she just gave the woman her space.
“Call upstairs. Get Dr. Hatcher, Holly anyone. They have to know what happened. Maybe they can get in there and see her. To reassure her.” Stephanie begged.
“She was awake?”
“Yes the whole way here. She kept saying ‘you have to be OK!’” Stephanie looked down at her leg “I kept telling her I was fine. But she kept saying ‘you got shot because of me’. I’m not sure it really registered that she’d been shot too.” She stopped and put both of her hands, still covered in blood, whose Brett wasn’t sure on Brett’s face, “Then she said Mommy don’t leave me.” That’s why I can’t leave her.”
Brett allowed her to cry then he pulled her up. “You’re not leaving her. You’re going to go take care of yourself and I’ll be right here with her. OK?”
Someone ran into the waiting room from the lobby area. It was Holly “What happened? We just got an alert that Emmy had been admitted to the hospital through the emergency room.” Holly looked down and saw Stephanie’s leg “What the hell happened?”
Holly sat down beside her. “There was a shooting at school.”
“I saw something on the news. I had no idea it was your school.”
Brett filled in the gaps. “It was a kid Emmy knew from the children’s home. Stephanie was shot and Emmy tried to stop the kid from shooting her again and was shot.” Brett needed Holly now more than ever. “Holly is there any way you can find out how she is? Stephanie needs to go next door to the adult hospital but refuses to leave.”
“Got it covered Dr. Hatcher is with her now. We both ran down as soon as the alert came in.” Holly thought for a minute. “OK here’s what we are going to do. Dad you and the boys stay here and wait for Dr. Hatcher. I’m going to take Stephanie next door and we are going to get this leg looked at before it falls off. Brett you call as soon as you hear anything OK?”
Stephanie shook her head. “ I don’t have my phone.”
“Hey no problem. I’ve got mine. Brett just call mine as soon as you hear. I’m going to use my connections and get you in and out over here OK?” Stephanie shook her head in agreement. She looked around for a wheelchair but there wasn’t one handy. “Can you walk?”
“OK let’s go.” Stephanie stood and Holly helped her hobble out the door. Brett and the boys watched and Holly took her across the street to the other emergency room. They watched until the two women disappeared through the sliding doors. Then Brett and the boys did the worst part of all this, they waited.