Friday just a few minutes before noon Kim dropped her off at the side entrance they had snuck out through. They had called ahead and Brett was standing there waiting to open the door for her. Waving to Kim he helped her inside the door and then grabbed her by the elbow. Turning her toward him he pulled her down crushing his lips against hers and wrapping his arms around her body, crutches and all.
“You can never do that to me again. Deal?” He too had tears in his eyes.
“Deal.” She pulled him back down and kissed him again. “OK lets go do this.”
Upstairs Emmy was still sleeping. Steph wasn’t sure how soundly she was sleeping because every few minutes she would grimace or whimper as if she were in pain.
They sat there in silence waiting until ten after when the police chief finally arrived. He was a big guy and walked slowly and quietly into the room. “Mr. And Mrs. Miles?”
Brett rose and shook his hand while Stephanie stayed seated with her leg up. “That’s us.”
“And this must be our hero Emmy?” Brett looked a little confused.
“Yes, this is Emmy.”
The chief approached the bed as if to look her over. “How is she doing?”
“Surgeons repaired what they could but they aren’t sure how much kidney function she’ll have.” Brett paused and looked at Stephanie. “Sir, I’m not sure how much of her story you know but Emmy is a cancer survivor,” Wow, it felt good to say that. “Part of the treatment was a surgery to remove her right kidney. The bullet hit her left one.” The chief didn’t comment but pulled out his note pad and wrote something down.
“Well Mrs. Miles we’ll start with you. How did you come to be in the lunchroom? It wasn’t your lunch time yet?”
“I was in my classroom. Mr. Stites was in the lunchroom and saw Rita come in. He used the walkie-talkie to call Mr. Reed who was in his office. Mr. Reed the assistant principal called up to my room and said that there was a problem in the lunchroom involving Emmy.”
“So you left your class?”
“I sent them next door to Mrs. Simpson’s class.”
“What did you see when you got to the lunchroom?”
“Mr. Woodson was coming down the hall and we walked in together.” Stephanie spent the next twenty minutes reliving every moment over and over as the Chief asked questions. Several times she stopped and had to take a moment. Several times Brett squeezed her hand hoping to transfer a little of his strength. By the time they were finished Stephanie was pale and her eyes were haunted.
He finished writing in his notebook when Michelle came back in. “Sir. I’m going to change her bandage and move her, which will probably wake her, if you’d like to stay a moment.”
“That would be great thank you Ma`am. I’ll just wait outside.” He put his hat back on and stepped outside.
“Are you sure she’s up to it?” Brett had seen the toll reliving it took on Steph, he wasn’t sure it was wise to make Emmy go through it now.
“She’s strong. The police and the media can’t move on until they complete the investigation.” Michelle began to talk to Emmy. “Emmy, can you open your eyes for me?” Emmy almost immediately began to respond. She opened and tried to smile as she saw Brett over Michelle’s shoulder. “There you go. Hey how are you feeling?”
“Good. I’ll get you some ice chips.” She looked at the parents. “She can only have a few at a time. Remember there are sutures in her stomach that need time to heal. We won’t try anything more than ice until tomorrow.” Brett and Steph both nodded.
“I’m going to take a look at everything OK, and then there is someone here to talk to you about what happened.”
“The police chief is here to get your statement.”
Emmy nodded. “What happened to Rita?” She looked around Michelle at Steph who was sitting near the window.
“The police took her.”
Emmy nodded. Michelle went about her work and checked the incision and the entrance and exit wounds. “Everything looks good.” She let her lay back flat again and then asked “Are you ready to speak with him?”
He returned, “Mrs. Miles since you are one of the witnesses too, could you step outside while I get her statement. We have to make sure all of this goes by the book and there is no room for appeal.”
“Oh sure.” She got up slowly grabbing the crutches and heading out of the room.
“Dad you can stay.” He pulled up a seat beside Emmy and took her hand. “Ok Emmy. Can you tell me what happened yesterday?”
He let her talk she did great until the part where Stephanie was shot. Then she slowed and tears began to slip from her eyes. “When she raised the gun at Coach Miles I yelled and forced the gun down. But it went off anyway and hit Coach in the leg. I guess I said ’Mom, no.” Because Rita stood there weird, and almost frozen for a minute. I thought maybe she was shocked at what she’d done, but then she started laughing.”
She stopped and took a deep breath. “She said well I guess you’re life is pretty perfect isn’t it. Then something about me going and getting adopted. I guess I kind of lost it. I knew that I was wearing a sports bra so I ripped my shirt off and started at her.”
“You took your shirt off?”
“Your sure EMT’s didn’t do that when they got to the scene?”
“No sir I took it off. I wanted to show all the scars from the cancer. Rita didn’t know how far from perfect my life had been.”
“OK I see.”
“But she still couldn’t see past whatever hatred she had for me. She realized that killing me wouldn’t do anything so she said she’d kill Coach, instead. As the gun raised I didn’t think I just ran at it. It caught me in the side as she fired. I fell on her and by the time I was able to roll over Mr. Woodson was there and took the gun from her.”
“She didn’t say anything she just kept trying to wipe my blood off her. Then Coach was right there too trying to get the bleeding to stop.”
“So you were shot once in the side?”
“Yes, but I guess it came out the back, because Coach had to find something else to apply pressure there too.”
“How long before EMT’s were there?”
“Maybe a minute. Mr. Woodson sent some of the kids out the front to tell them he had the gun.”
“Emmy thank you. You were quite a hero yesterday.” The police chief turned to Michelle who’d stayed monitoring Emmys condition while she relived the shooting. “You can let Mrs. Miles back in now.”
Michelle opened the door for her and she shuffled back in on her crutches. “Mrs. Miles, Emmy did great. I’m happy to say that these were the last interviews. And everyone’s stories matched so we’ll be handing all this over to the DA so they can proceed to trial.”
He paused and turned back to Emmy. “Emmy, one thing I’m wondering is why you? What was Rita’s fascination with you? I spoke with Mr. Case and know that this isn’t the first time she’s gone after you.”
“At St. Thomas she wanted drugs. She’d seen me get some from the supervisor that morning and wanted me to give them to her from now on. Rita wanted me to slip it under my tongue, pretend to take it, and bring it to her. The only problem was they were just anti-nausea medicine for the chemotherapy. They weren’t anything good.”
“That’s what got her taken to juvy?”
“Well she hit me, but then when the security guys came to pull her off she took a couple swings at them and hit one of them in the nose.”
“In several of the statements they said she mentioned Jane’s House. What is that?”
She looked at both Stephanie and Brett before beginning. She’d never shared this with them, “One of the homes I stayed in had an abusive father. We were removed from the house and after the hospital I was sent to Jane’s House. Its a small group home for kids that are recovering from abuse.”
“What kind of abuse did you suffer?”
“Mine was physical. The man broke bones in my hand when he was mad.” she paused looked at Stephanie and Brett she was checking their reaction to this revelation. “One day he broke so many that I finally cried and he laughed, said he told me he’d break me and then moved on to the little boy that lived there too.” Once the words started flowing Emmy couldn’t stop them. “He only made it one finger before he cried and the man laughed again and went for his little sister. He and I both screamed and went after him and that’s when the police busted into the basement. Apparently the neighbor heard the screaming and called them.” It took the chief and her parents a few minutes to recover from that.
“Did you know about this?” He asked Brett.
They shook their heads. He took a deep breath suddenly realizing how unperfect this child’s life really had been.
“Rita was at Jane’s House at the same time as you?”
“What happened there?”
“We got into a few scuffles but there was nothing horrible. Then I’d been there about four months when the cops showed up and she was taken away. I have no idea what happened. After she left several of the other girls started bumping me walking in the hall, my stuff started disappearing. I think they all thought I had something to do with her having to leave.”
“Thankfully two weeks later I got placed with another family.”
“And you didn’t have any more contact with Rita.”
“Not until St. Thomas.”
“Why were you at St. Thomas?”
“I was living with a family when I was diagnosed with cancer and they couldn’t handle it. They had a special needs kid already. So I went to live at St. Thomas.”
The police chief wrote and wrote and then closed the notebook. “Well I think that does it. Emmy you rest and get better. You look me up after college. You will make a hell of a police officer one day.” He put out his hand to shake hers then both of her parents.
He left and Michelle came back in with more of the ice chips and a thermometer. “OK remember take these slow. Before you do I need to get your temperature again.” She slid the electronic thermometer under her tongue. It only took three seconds, but Emmy immediately knew something was wrong. Michelle’s face changed. Her brow furrowed. “Well that’s not what I was hoping. You’ve got a bit of a fever. I’m going to get Dr. Wallace to come down and check everything out. This isn’t a shock. With as much internal damage there was some infection is almost expected. She’s already on antibiotics like Stephanie, but me may need to look at changing them to something stronger.”
Twenty minutes later Dr. Wallace returned with Michelle. They did blood work and Dr. Wallace checked all the external work and everything looked fine. “Well I’m going to send all this downstairs and see if they can tell me what’s causing the fever. We’ll watch it over the next hour or so. Its 102 right now which isn’t super high, but something we really need to watch.” He turned to Stephanie “So Mom how are you feeling?” Brett turned to look at her too and noticed that she was still really pale. The doctor noticed too. “Why don’t I take a look at that leg again? Michelle will you take her temperature too.”
Michelle did and showed it to Dr. Wallace. “103, sweetie, I’m afraid what ever infection Emmy has you have too.” Stephanie had to drop her pants since the leg of the khakis was too tight to pull up.
Dr. Wallace gently unwrapped it and immediately knew that something was wrong. There was even more blood than yesterday. “Alright guys Mom here needs to head back across the street to have this looked at again. There is definitely some infection and some more dead skin that needs to be cut away.” He turned to Michelle. “Can you go get me a wheelchair?”
“Yes sir.” She left.
“Doctor could this be because she refused treatment for so long yesterday? She waited until I was here with Emmy to go get herself looked at.”
“I’d like to say yes because it wasn’t a very smart thing to do. But as a parent I understand not wanting to leave an injured child. I don’t think this is any worse for waiting. Emmy has it too so it was probably introduced by the bullet or the environment itself. The gun could have been pulled out of the garbage, who knows.” Michelle returned.
“Emmy, I’ve got to go next door and get this looked at.”
“You stay strong while I’m gone.”
“I love you Emmy.” Stephanie leaned over and kissed Emmy on the forehead.
“I love you too, Mom.”
She sat down in the chair and Michelle began to push her out the door and Brett didn’t move. “Dad, what are you doing?” Emmy said with more strength than she’d had since the shooting. “Go with Mom.”
“No sweetie he’s going to stay with you.”
“NO, I’m fine they are just going to add some antibiotics to this thing” She pointed to the IV bag. “And I’ll be good to go. Call Kim to come sit with me if you need, but I’ll be fine. Really.”
Michelle came to the rescue. “Brett they may need you to fill out paperwork so it might be a good idea to go for little while a least. I’ll take you over and then come right back until her aunt gets here.”
“Thank you. Emmy, you just hang out until we get back. Here take my phone and you can call Mom’s if you need anything.”
“And you call me as soon as you know what’s wrong.”
“Deal” He too kissed her on the forehead.
And they were gone. She was alone with Dr. Wallace. “Dr. Wallace, now that there’re gone how bad is it?” He smiled and chuckled a little.
“Well at this point I’m more concerned by yours because I can’t see where the problem is.”
“But you could go back in and clean everything up if you had to?”
“Yes but I’d really like to avoid cutting you open again.”
“So IV antibiotics then?”
He smiled again “How many times have you been here?”
“More than I can count.”
“How’s the pain right now?”
“Not bad if I don’t move.”
“You’re ready for another dose. Why don’t you go ahead and push that and sleep a little while and they’ll be back and we’ll have an answer on what’s causing the fever.” She nodded and pushed the little button. He stayed and watched her. Within about twenty seconds the concern vanished from her face and her eyes drifted closed.
Pausing he said a little prayer over her and her mother before leaving. Dr. Wallace was a devout Catholic and if he’d had one he’d have put a St. Nicholas medallion in this little girl’s hand. She could definitely use his protection.