Chapter Ten: A Cry For Help
They had removed the second crib from Alaina's room, and it had helped both him and Margaret not to be confronted by that reminder of their loss every time they went to tend to their daughter. Sherman had stayed for a week until they were both on slightly more stable ground. They had both gone back to work part-time, and the routine had been good for them. Daniel was always willing to be part of their rotation to watch Alaina, and there were several friends they trusted in an emergency.
Speaking of emergencies - "What is it, Dad?"
Hawkeye was instantly out of his chair. "How bad?"
"I don't know about bad, but it's big. Car lost control and slid into oncoming traffic, hit another car and sent it right into the side of a pickup truck, and it snowballed from there. The first ambulances should be arriving any minute."
"All right. I'll run down to the parking lot and start triage. Call Margaret, tell her to get over here, bring the baby if she has to. I want her expertise on this."
The rush of ambulances was liable to give him flashbacks, but fortunately it seemed to be a problem only of quantity, not severity, of injuries. Only a few would need surgery.
He turned. "Margaret!" He waved her over. "I need to get scrubbed up. Can you take over here?" When she nodded, he turned to the half-dozen or so staff rushing from ambulance to ambulance. "All right, everyone, listen up. Margaret's in charge here. Understand?"
He barely waited for the chorus of "Yes, Doctor" before he sprinted back towards the hospital. Margaret approached the next ambulance.
"What've we got?" she asked the driver.
"One broken leg, two children who look fine but we're bringing in anyone who was involved. Injured is an adult male, cab driver, his cab was sideswiped in the wreck and rolled over. Kids were passengers, parents nowhere to be found."
"Got it." She opened the back and jumped in.
She ran to the man on the gurney first, removing the blanket over his legs and examining the injury. "Okay, it's a clean break, no bleeding. He can wait, but get him something for pain."
She turned to the children. They were both girls. The older of the two had her arms wrapped around her sister, who was crying. She approached them. "Hey. My name's Margaret. What are your names?"
"Rebecca Donovan," said the older one quietly. "My sister is Kathleen."
"How old are you?"
"Eleven," Rebecca replied at the same time her sister said "nine."
So young. "Where are your parents?"
Rebecca shrugged. "I don't know."
"I don't care," her sister mumbled. "It's not like they do."
"Kathy, shut up," said the older girl. "They just wanted some time for themselves."
"All right, well, until they come looking we're going to have to keep you here. I'd like to have someone look you over anyway, just to be safe."
Hawkeye peeled off yet another pair of gloves. "What've we got left?"
Margaret consulted her clipboard. "Just two girls, didn't look hurt but they were in the cab that rolled over and we couldn't get a hold of their parents."
"Might as well have a look. Divide and conquer?"
She smiled at him. "Sure. You take Kathleen, I'll take Rebecca."
It took Hawkeye less than a minute to determine two things. One, Kathleen Donovan had come out of the accident relatively unscathed. And two, car accidents were the least of that child's worries.
The girl's back, bottom, and upper legs were covered in welts, new injuries layered on top of old scars. He could only imagine how much that must have hurt. She had bruises everywhere except her arms, lower legs, neck and face - bruises that looked too old to have been caused by the accident.
"You want to tell me what happened?"
She gave him a look. "I was in a car accident," she said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Honey, I know that a car accident didn't do this to you. Why don't you tell me what really happened?"
But apparently he had gotten all he was going to get out of her. She laid back on the exam table without a word.
Rebecca Donovan was sitting with her knees drawn up and her arms crossed over her chest. She felt an odd sense of familiarity, like she'd seen her somewhere before, but she pushed it aside. That wasn't relevant right now.
"Hello, Rebecca," she said softly. "I just need to check you out, make sure you're not hurt."
"I'm not," she replied. Her voice was soft but determined. Determined not to let Margaret examine her.
"I'd rather decide that for myself." She had dealt with stubbornness of every degree in Korea, an eleven-year-old was nothing compared to that. "Come on." She handed the girl a hospital gown. "I'll look away while you get changed."
She looked from the gown to Margaret, and their eyes met. The nurse drew in a sharp breath. The child's honey-colored eyes were filled with fear. Whatever was going on, it wasn't a child trying to get her way. Something was wrong.
"Is there a problem?" she pressed.
"No. I just don't want you to check me."
"I have to check you before I can let you go. Please?"
She crossed her arms stubbornly and folded up tighter. "No."
She heard a tap on the door and went to it. "Hawkeye? What is it?"
"We need to talk. Now. Out here."
She looked over her shoulder. "I'll be right back, okay?"
No response, but Margaret didn't figure the patient was going anywhere. She stepped into the hall. "What's this about?"
"Did you examine Rebecca yet?"
"She won't let me. I told her I can't release her until I examine her, but I think that just made her more determined to outlast me."
"I wouldn't doubt it." At her raised eyebrow, he continued. "I examined her sister. She has injuries that can't be accounted for by a car accident. Injuries like someone beat the hell out of her. She won't tell me where she got them."
"For God's sake, she's nine! Who hurts a nine-year-old like that?"
"I don't know." His face was dark with an anger that she knew meant he was ready to kill whoever had caused it. "But I'd sure like to find out."
"You think Rebecca has similar injuries and doesn't want me to see them?"
"I think that's part of it. But I also think what you said had an effect. The injuries I found on Kathy didn't happen all at once. I'd say she's been hurt over a period of a few months at least. That means it's someone who has access to them on a regular basis."
"And I told her I wouldn't release her until she let me do the exam," Margaret realized with an aching heart. "So she figures as long as she keeps me from examining her, I'll keep her here, and she won't have to go back to whoever hurt her."
"You have to convince her to talk to you," Hawkeye urged. "If she says someone's hurting her, we can find a way to help her. But we can't help her if she won't admit she needs it."
"I'll see what I can do. You keep working on the sister. All we need is one of them."
Margaret reentered the room. Rebecca hadn't moved from the position she had been in.
"Sweetheart, I need you to listen to me right now," she began. "I know why you don't want me to examine you. I know someone's been hurting you. I can help you, but I need you to let me. Please. Let me check you."
She was wavering, but she looked uncertain, so Margaret tried one more thing. "We still haven't been able to reach your parents. Regardless of whether you do or don't do the exam, I can't release you until we find them."
That apparently did it. "Okay."
"I'll look away, and you put this gown on. Tell me when you're done and we'll start this."
It took her only a few moments before she told Margaret she was changed. She helped her up onto the exam table and carefully opened the back of her gown, bracing herself for what she might find. But even then, she was hard-pressed to contain her reaction. Her injuries were horrific, barely leaving an inch of untouched skin on her back, chest, abdomen, and upper legs. Her bottom and thighs were covered in welts, and there were dark bruises on the insides of her thighs. Margaret laid a gentle hand on one of them, and the girl instantly stiffened, a shudder running through her small body.
She pulled back as though she'd been burned. "Oh, God," she whispered. It was all coming together, and she didn't like it a bit.
She swallowed hard. She couldn't afford to be sick right now. She brought the girl up to a sitting position, meeting her eyes. "Honey, how did you get those bruises on your legs? Tell me the truth."
"The truth, sweetheart," she repeated patiently. "I know you're scared, but the only way I can help you is if you tell me what's really going on." She cupped the girl's cheek in her hand. "I know someone hurt you. If you tell me who it is, I can keep them from being able to hurt you again. Tell me, honey. Come on."
She was silent so long that Margaret was sure she wasn't going to respond. And when she did speak, it was a single, whispered word. "Ken."
Margaret nodded, encouraged. "Who's Ken?"
"My new daddy," she said softly. "Mommy married him when I was nine. She said he was our new daddy, and that we had to call him Daddy, but I don't want to! I only do it because she makes me! I hate him! I want my real daddy!" Then she gasped, shocked and horrified by her own outburst. She looked up at Margaret, who was again struck by the terror in her eyes.
She laid a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder, trying to comfort her. "That's good. Why do you hate him?"
Her lower lip was trembling. "He's so mean. He doesn't love us. He gets mad all the time, even for little stuff or stuff that's not our fault like when the car broke. Then he punishes us."
"What does he do to punish you?" Margaret pushed gently. She was certain she knew but she needed the girl to say it unprompted.
"He hits us," she whispered. "And not just like a spanking. He hits all over our bodies with his fists, or he uses things. Like his belt - I really hate it when he hits me with the metal, but we get extra for crying. Or he uses the broom, or a bottle, or anything else that's right there. And he does it really hard, so there's blood sometimes." She looked up at Margaret with wide, tear-filled eyes. "Why? Why does he get so mad all the time and hurt us?"
"I don't know, honey." Margaret wiped her own eyes on her sleeve, trying to stay composed. "Come here."
She slid into Margaret's open arms, letting the nurse pull her close. "He said if we told anyone, if either of us did, we'd both get the worst beating of our lives," she whispered.
"Shh," Margaret soothed, stroking the girl's blonde curls. "No one's going to hurt either of you as long as I have anything to say about it."
Rebecca squirmed a little in Margaret's arms, uncomfortable. "Can I really tell you anything?"
"Anything, sweetheart. What is it?"
"He - he does these horrible things to me," she whispered even more quietly. "It started like a month after they got married. He came into my bedroom after bedtime and put his hand in my underwear and touch me. He would do it almost every night. Then on my birthday when I turned ten, he said I was a big girl now so we could do more - it hurts so much, and I feel so awful when he does it, but he said a man has needs, and if I didn't let him do it then he would use Kathy instead." She sniffed, eyes filled with tears at risk of spilling over. "I don't understand. It's like what my real daddy told me about how people make babies, but he should be having babies with Mommy, not me, right?" Then she started to cry.
Margaret had been expecting tears long before this. She cradled the child close, gently rubbing her back. "Yes," she said gently. "He should. What he did to you, that's against the law and he could go to jail."
She looked up at Margaret, her eyes filled with so much hope it was heartbreaking. "If he goes to jail, does that mean he'll never be able to come see me again?"
"Yes, honey. That's what it means."
This provoked a fresh flood of tears, and Margaret wrapped her up warmly in her arms. "Let it out, honey, just let it out. You're safe now."
When the child had finally finished crying, Margaret gently turned her face up to look her in the eyes. "Where was your mother in all this?"
"She doesn't care. She used to love us but after Daddy went away she started acting different. Even when he came back, she was still different and she was mad at him a lot. She left him and got married to Ken, and then all she cared about was money and being pretty. She wasn't like our mommy anymore. She wasn't around us enough to know what he was doing."
"What about your father? Where is he?"
"Still back in Boston. Mommy told the judge he wasn't a good parent, and that's why the judge told us we had to stay with her and not him."
Margaret just barely suppressed a snort of derision. Anyone who would let her children around a monster like their stepfather and then not even spend enough time around them to realize he was abusing them was, in her mind, hardly qualified to label anyone else a bad parent.
"It's not true!" she added. "Daddy loved us! He was good to us and he never hurt us and he spent time with us and -" her sentence was interrupted by a dry sob. "I want to see him. I want him to take me away from Mommy and Ken."
"Then why don't we go call him right now?" she suggested.
"I think he hates me," she said tearfully.
"Why? You just said he loved you."
"He did when we lived at his house. But then when he was visiting us, Ken said we weren't allowed to hug him, or say we loved him, or anything like that, or he would punish us. So he just stopped coming."
"Do you have his phone number?"
"He told me the last time he visited. He said he couldn't come see us anymore but that we should remember that number and use it to call him in an emergency. He made me repeat it back to him over and over until I could remember the whole thing."
"Well, let's give it a try. Call and ask if he'll come get you. The worst thing he can say is no."
He jumped a mile when the phone rang. Work stuff, he figured, though they didn't usually call this late. But who else would have any reason at all to call at - he checked the clock - nine o'clock at night?
He picked up the phone. "Hello?"
His heart skipped a couple of beats. It had to be a wrong number. There was no way - "Who is this?"
"Daddy? It's Becky."
Her voice was distorted, and he realized it wasn't just the connection. His daughter was crying. "Baby, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I - I want you to come get me. I'm in a hospital."
"Where's your mother? What happened?"
"I want you. Please come get us."
"Us? Is your sister there with you?"
"Are you girls all right? What happened?"
"It was a car accident, but it wasn't that bad. Daddy, please -"
"Okay, okay, I'll come get you. Where are you?"
"We were on vacation."
"Okay. Where in Maine are you?"
He heard words he couldn't make out in the background and then her voice came through again. "Uh, it's a little town called Crabapple Cove, about twenty -"
"Twenty minutes from Portland," he finished, feeling his heart sink into his stomach. Dear God, of all the cities in the world... "Hang in there, honey, I'll be there as soon as I can." Then he hung up.
Crabapple Cove. It had to be Crabapple Cove. He knew exactly where it was. He had traced the route from Boston to that tiny town on the map a hundred times, but he'd never been able to bring himself to actually make the journey. He'd never set much store by the idea of a higher power, but if there was one, maybe this was a sign that it was time to take that trip.
Hawkeye sat in his office. Margaret had filled him in on the situation. She had wanted to stay, but by the time the girls' father arrived it would be into the wee hours of the morning. He had put his foot down and insisted she take Alaina back from the receptionist who had so kindly volunteered to babysit and go home, while he stayed to explain things to the man.
Margaret had examined Rebecca and tended her injuries before bringing in her sister so they could explain what was going on. Kathleen had been horrified at first that her sister had told but thrilled that she'd be able to see her father again and relieved beyond words to be out of the monster's clutches. The two had fallen asleep curled up on the bed in Rebecca's room.
Hawkeye was staring at a photo, clutching the frame in his hands. It was one of only a handful of photos he had of both his twins. Biology notwithstanding, they were his babies. They were precious. All children were precious. The woman who had killed her baby in Korea was bad enough, but that had been done out of necessity and desperation, and her anguish had been clear to see. That man had hurt these little girls just because he could, with no remorse whatsoever for the pain he had caused them. That was beyond inexcusable in his mind.
It was probably a miracle that he hadn't been stopped for speeding. Following his daughter's frantic call, he had jumped into his car so fast he couldn't even remember if he'd locked the front door of his house. He'd made the eight-hour journey from Boston to Portland in just five and a half. Another fifteen minutes had brought him to the coastal town of Crabapple Cove, where a waitress at an all-night diner had been happy to point him in the direction of the town's only hospital. It was well past midnight, and the parking lot was all but empty.
He stepped out of the car, feeling the pressure of the envelope in his pocket, the one thing he had remembered to grab before getting on the road. A reminder that, whatever had called him out here, there was something else he had to do before he went home.
Hawkeye jerked awake, realizing he had fallen asleep in his chair, the photo of his daughters still clasped between his hands. Hurriedly he set it down. "Yeah?"
"The girls' father is here."
"Send him in."
Hawkeye had gone over and over it in his head - in fact, had dozed off with the thought in his mind - but he still had no idea what to tell the man about the horrible things that had been done to his children. He would have to come up with something, and fast.
He was uncomfortably aware that the man was staring at him, clearly waiting for some sort of answer as to why he was here. He looked up, drawing a breath to speak, but that breath left his lungs in a rush when he realized who it was that was standing in his office.