The Best-Laid Plans

Chapter Twenty: Saving Herself

Margaret crawled the last few feet and then fell to the ground, gasping for breath. After Donald had driven off, she'd forced herself to scoot across the ground, pulling herself with her arms, using her left leg to help, until she reached the roadway. It had been a long, tedious, and agonizing process; already, the first colors of dawn were beginning to show through the dark of night.

Though she wanted nothing more than to sleep, she allowed herself only a minute to catch her breath before she forced herself up to a sitting position. She had to be up high enough to attract the attention of anyone who drove by.

Her light-colored blouse was stained red with blood. The nurse in her knew this was a sign that her injuries were serious, but the logical part had also come up with a way to use this to her advantage. She ripped off a large piece of the blouse near her right hip, where the blood had completely turned the fabric red. Finding a long stick nearby, she tied the cloth to it.

It seemed like forever before she heard the rumble of a car's engine. With what energy she had left, she raised the stick high and out in front of her so that the reddened cloth hung over the road, and then she waved it as forcefully as she could.

A screech of brakes told her it had worked. The car skidded to a stop and two people jumped out, a man and a woman.

"My God," the man said. "What in Heaven's name happened to you?"

"I was shot," she ground out, leaving out the rest. Now that the ordeal itself was over and she didn't have to keep working towards survival, the facts of what Donald had done were starting to hit her full-force, and she was suddenly feeling overwhelmed by it all. She wanted to fall apart, to cry. And she wanted Hawkeye, wanted him so badly it hurt.

"Carl, for God's sake, don't stand there gawking," the woman chided. "Get back in the car, find a phone, and call for an ambulance and the police. What's your name?" she added to the woman lying slumped on the ground as the man got back in the car and drove off.

"Margaret."

"Margaret, I'm Lisa, and that was my husband Carl who just drove off. Just hold on, all right? He's gone to get help. They'll be here soon."

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"Hawkeye. Hawkeye."

He woke slowly to his father's incessant repetition of his name. "What?"

"Phone for you. It's the hospital."

Hawkeye threw on his tattered red bathrobe and walked out into the hall to grab the nearest extension. "Yes, this is Dr. Pierce."

"Dr. Pierce," said a voice Hawkeye immediately recognized as one of his colleagues, "this is Doctor Hanson."

"What's up?"

"It's your girlfriend, Margaret."

Hawkeye almost dropped the phone. "Margaret?" he sputtered out when he could speak again. "What about here? Is she there?"

"She was brought in about ten minutes ago. As soon as I realized it was her, I called you."

"Brought in?" he repeated numbly. "You mean -"

"She's hurt pretty badly. I heard someone say gunshot wounds."

"Gunshots? This is Maine, not Korea!"

"I'm only telling you what I heard."

"Right. Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can." He hung up the phone and sprinted down the stairs to the guest room where Alvin Houlihan slept.

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Margaret woke slowly, disoriented. She remembered hearing a siren in the distance and then being surrounded by ambulance workers as they'd loaded her up. As they'd lifted her onto the gurney, she'd passed out from pain and exhaustion, able to relax now that she knew she was safe.

She heard footsteps and instantly, her body tensed on reflex. But a gentle hand came to rest on her forehead, and she relaxed, recognizing the touch. "Hawkeye," she managed to whisper.

"Yeah, Major baby, I'm here," he soothed. "Can you open your eyes?"

She hadn't really realized her eyes were closed until he said as much. She slowly opened them, and the sight of his face brought tears to her eyes. "Oh, God, it's really you."

"Last time I checked."

She didn't laugh, didn't even crack a smile, which worried him. "Margaret, what happened?" he asked, now deathly serious. "Who shot you? Can you describe them?"

"It was Donald," she whispered.

Even with everything he knew about the man, it took Hawkeye a few moments to get his head around what he'd just heard. Donald Penobscott, a man he'd once gotten drunk with as a friend, had tried to kill the love of his life. "Damn him," he whispered fiercely. "But you don't have to be scared. The police are here, waiting for you to wake up so they can take your statement. They'll make sure every officer in the state knows who he is and what he looks like. He won't be able to get near you without them nabbing him."

"Hawkeye." She grabbed his sleeve as he started to stand up. "What - do you know what they're charging him with?"

"The detective told me kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder." He saw Margaret visibly relax. "What is it, sweetheart?"

"I don't want this in the report. I don't want the officers to know."

"Know what?" he asked softly, sitting on the edge of the bed. "What is it?"

Her voice was so quiet he could barely hear. "He raped me. He put me in the car and drove me out to this empty lot, and he raped me. And then he threw me in the trunk and kept driving around, and every so often, he'd pull me out to - to rape me again, and then he'd beat me."

Tears were flowing down her face now. Mindful of her serious injuries, he carefully slipped an arm under her and drew her to him. "Oh, God, baby." He helped her rest her head on his shoulder. "You're safe now, sweetheart. I'll never let him lay a hand on you again."

She sobbed herself to sleep in his arms, and he laid her back down. He briefly stepped out to speak to the detective in the waiting room. "She was awake, but not for very long. Maybe in a day or two she'll be strong enough to give a statement. She did give me a name; Donald Penobscott. Check with the US Army, they might have a photo on file."

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"Margaret? There's someone here who wants to see you," her nurse told her.

"The police?" She knew Hawkeye had reluctantly gone back to the hotel on her insistence that Alaina needed one of her parents with her.

"No, the detective's gone home for the night. This is someone else."

"Who -" but her voice trailed off when she saw who was standing in the doorway. "Daddy? What are you doing here?"

"Dr. Pierce called me when you went missing. He wanted to ask if I knew anything that could help."

"There wasn't anything -" she tried to shift positions and winced. "There wasn't anything you knew that could've helped. If anything, his own knowledge would have gotten him closer to the solution than yours."

"I think he knew that was likely, but he was trying to cover every base and then some. He really does love you, Margaret."

"I know," she whispered, suddenly fighting the urge to cry. Donald had been her ideal of a perfect husband, and it was his fault she was lying here after barely making it with her life. And Hawkeye had been an afterthought, someone she'd overlooked as a potential romantic partner for the longest time, even after they'd become friends, even after they'd slept together that once, and he was the one sitting by her side, swearing she'd never be hurt again.

"Why didn't you tell me about Alaina?" he asked bluntly.

"I didn't know what to say. It was a stupid one-night stand, and the next thing I know it's going to change the rest of my life. Not that I regret having Alaina, I love her, but it was all so confusing."

"She isn't Ben's, is she?"

It was a little strange to hear Hawkeye called by a nickname that actually resembled his legal name, but she took it as a positive sign. Despite his own nickname, her father wasn't the type to take to calling someone else a name that had nothing to do with their real name, and the fact that he was even trying a more familiar form of address suggested that whatever had happened between the two men while she'd been missing, it wasn't a bad thing. "No," Margaret admitted. "She's not. He thinks of her as his, and he tries not to outright say he's not - for my sake, or hers, or his own, I don't know - but biologically, he's not her father. How did you -"

"He said you resigned your commission because you were pregnant, and then you came out here. He didn't mention at all seeing you in between when you left Korea and when you came to Maine. It was just a suspicion -"

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I messed up."

"Ben tells me you were thinking of becoming a doctor."

"Yes. So?"

"The Army was your dream, Margaret. And mine for myself, but not necessarily for you. I was proud of you when you joined, and when you were made Head Nurse. But if you become a doctor, I'll be proud of that too. You don't have to be just like me for me to take pride in your accomplishments."

"I love you, Daddy," she whispered.

"And I love you."

*~*~*~*

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