Sophia knew the time would eventually come when she would have to explain why Katherine was in hospital. When it did, every particle of her stamina she would require. With the pounding to her brain now only a lull, lifting her bandaged head from the pillow had become easier. By turning slowly and carefully, side-to-side, she could observe the room. It was smallish, contained two chairs, and a single-drawer cabinet stood alongside her bed. A controlling and measuring monitor was opposite, although restriction to her arm movements came from the needle inserted into the cannula.
She tried to remember more of why she was where she was, but could not. What day is it?
“Good morning, it’s good to see you’re awake,” the nurse said cheerfully, as she entered the room. “How are you feeling? Do you need anything?”
Sophia slowly moved her head sideways.
“I’ll find the doctor and tell him you’re awake. I won’t be long. Would you like a drink of water before I go?”
The nurse raised Sophia’s head gently from the pillow and brought the glass of water to her lips.
When Sophia stopped sipping on the drinking straw, the nurse said, “That’s good. I’ll go and get a doctor.”
“Hi, Mrs. Kowalski, I’m Doctor Slattery. I’m on duty today. How are you? Can you hear me?”
She moved her head forward to affirm his question.
“I’m just going to examine you. If you want me to stop, just raise one of your hands a little. I’ll try and be gentle.”
His hands were svelte-like. She could feel him caressing, rather than examining, and his touch felt soothing and soft on her skin as he lightly pressed the heavily bruised area between her stomach and ribcage. If I wasn’t in hospital, I could certainly enjoy this.
“You’re coming along nicely. I have to write on your medical chart that I’ve examined you, but I’m sure Doctor Schneider will come and see you sometime today. Try not to exert yourself. The nurse will give you something to drink.”
As he wrote, the nurse assisted Sophia with drinking some sustenance.
“You can notify the Harris’s she’s awake and they can visit her if they wish,” he said, as they walked toward the nurses’ station.
When the nurse entered the room Barbara and JM were sitting beside Katherine’s bed, watching her in silence. “Doctor Schneider told me to inform you that Mrs. Kowalski’s awake.”
Katherine absorbed the news, but persistently remained mute. What happened to my Grandmother?
“Will you be alright to stay with Katherine? I’ll go and see how she is,” JM asked.
“I’ll be alright. If anything should happen I’ll call a nurse.”
They deserved to be safe. I put them in harm’s way, he thought, as he looked at the reclining Sophia.
“Hi,” he said softly, as he pulled a chair nearer the bed. With her hands in his, he said, “As you already know your jaw’s broken. I will do the talking. If you want to answer yes or no, just squeeze my hands. Right for yes or left for no.”
“Are you in any pain?”
“Would you like a drink of water?”
Picking up the glass from the small cabinet, he tilted her head slightly forward, to make it easier to insert the tip of the straw through her strapped teeth.
She sipped a miniscule amount of fluid before she pressed her head against his hand; to signifying she was satisfied.
“I believe the doctor will be coming later today. If I get a pencil and paper … are you up to writing? You can scribble. If you don’t want to, we can wait until you’re up to it.”
Sophia’s signal was his cue. He hurried to the nurses’ station.
With an extra pillow behind her back, Sophia now sat higher in the bed. She could see better and write far easier than lying down. JM placed a sheet of writing paper on the medical chart, as he had seen done for Katherine.
“When you’re ready, try writing.”
She appeared to be studying the pencil held between index and middle fingers of her right hand.
It began start its shaky journey. KA
She raised her right hand slightly.
“She’s okay. She’s being cared for in another room just down the corridor.” Because he was hesitant about releasing any details, he decided it would be safer to wait and see what else she wrote.
Without warning, Sophia’s tears began to flow. As she suspected, he inadvertently confirmed her worst fears.
JM snatched the small cardboard box from atop the cabinet and dabbed at her eyes with some tissues he had peeled off.
“Please don’t cry. Everything will be okay.”
She carefully studied the imprinted two letters, then scribed, WHAT HAPPEN KA
I have to tell her something, but what? I need to stall. “She was assaulted, but the doctor said he’s happy with her progress.”
Sophia tried to shake her head from side-to-side, as if in denial, but it jolted her pain level.
“Please, don’t write anymore. It’s upsetting you and I don’t want that.” I need to know the truth, but it is not worth her suffering. I cannot tell her how serious Katherine’s injuries are.
Just as he tried removing the paper, she grasped it. IM SORRY, she scribbled.
As he studied the scrawl, he thought, is she repeating herself? Is that what she said after waking from her operation?
“Don’t be sorry. It wasn’t your fault.” JM was of the opinion she was blaming herself for not being able to protect Katherine.
Her tears were still flowing. They’ll hate me once they know what happened. YES. The shakily written word appeared on the paper.
JM’s brain hastily tried interpreting the word in context with those written prior.
Is she saying what I think she is? Her words need clarifying. “Are you saying you are responsible for what happened to Katherine, and you?”
She looked at him through teared-blurred eyes. YES.
He was aghast. By themselves, the words mean nothing. But, I know the questions!
Wanting to avoid her gaze, he turned his head. If she sees my reaction, she could relapse. I cannot allow that. She has been through enough pain without me adding to it. To him, her answers were a revelation and an insight into the probable cause of how the intruder had gained entry into their building. However, not who delivered the atrocities, or why?
He looked up, but gave a brave smile. She needs my support . . . and I cannot change the past. “You’re not to blame. You need to get well. Try not to think about what happened. I know you would not have deliberately wanted to see Katherine hurt, and I am sure she would agree. Please, until you’re able, only write when it’s extremely necessary.”
Again, she raised her right hand.
“I’m going to see how Katherine is and I’ll be back later. Just try and rest.” Resigned to now knowing things were not as first thought he removed the paper from the chart. Folding it, he placed it in his shirt pocket. Dejected, he walked from the room.
He has to be hurt, and he’ll tell Barbara. They’ll never forgive me.
The despair she felt rose from the pit of her stomach, like lava erupting from the bowels of a volcano, resulting in a tsunami of grief exploding in her brain.
She cried uncontrollably. She had never felt so alone.
JM, meanwhile, was thinking of Sophia’s words as he walked to Katherine’s room. Did she inadvertently create this whole situation? It could not have been deliberate. I have to tell Barbara. Not to would be disastrous. She needs to know. When I do, she will probably treat Sophia like a pariah.
The position he now found himself needed further appraisal, but time was of the essence. I need a coffee.
Going by her scribbles, Sophia’s actions are the reason why they are in hospital. If they are, how do I forgive her? What do I say to my daughter, for God’s sake! He was staring into the cup as he sat in the cafeteria. With Sophia admitting she is responsible, we might discover how the intruder got in. At least that part of the investigation will be solved. We may know how the intruder got in, but not who? My love for Sophia is one for a mother, and for Katherine it is one for a daughter. Although they are the same, they are different. It would be a miscarriage to judge her, simply because she wrote some words. I also have to think about her physical condition.
By the time he had finished the coffee, he had come to a decision. I have to forgive her! There is no alternative! I have so many questions in need of answering!
Apprehension had instilled itself within him. The thought of having to explain Sophia’s ‘confession’ to his wife was causing him dread. Slowly he eased open Katherine’s door. She was facing him, but with closed eyes. He glanced at Barbara and beckoned her with his right index finger, before putting it to his lips.
Immediately on entering the corridor, intrigue caused Barbara to ask, “Why the hand signals?”
“I don’t want Katherine to hear,” he said, as he took her by the arm and sat her on a bench. “I think you’re going to be shocked by what I’m about to say.” He looked at his hands as they covered hers. “Because Sophia can’t speak I asked her to write answers to a few questions. She tried her best, but they’re a little shaky.” He took the paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to her.
Barbara studied it. “It’s a good effort on her behalf, although I’m still at a loss as to what she’s saying.”
He began with his initial conversation, then explained the first couple of lines, but when it came to reading, I’m sorry, he hesitated.
“Do you remember her mumbling what sounded like surry? She was actually saying, sorry. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but she wrote yes.”
Barbara looked at the word, then incredulously, asked, “Are you saying she’s responsible for Katherine’s injuries?” She was fearful of what could be unfolding.
“I asked if she was, and she wrote yes.”
With eyes wide, Barbara thrust her hands up to cover her mouth. The revelation had astounded her.
Two passing nurses heard her muffled scream and turned to look. While her mind was telling her it could not be true, his look indicated otherwise.
“Please, tell me it’s not true? It can’t be! She wouldn’t do anything to hurt Katherine.”
“Of course she wouldn’t. There is more to this, but until she is able to communicate properly, we will just have to wait. We do not want to speculate. I will ring Detective Perez. She’ll want to interview her.”
“I’m going to see her. I need to know why?” Barbara said, indignantly, and with raised voice.
JM grasped her right hand. “Darling, please listen to me. With the injuries she received, she must be suffering badly. Do you really want to see her suffer more? Do you think, in all honesty, she would want to see Katherine hurt? Of course, she wouldn’t! Initially I thought like you, but I gave myself some time to give it more thought. I believe, within my heart, she would not have known she was putting our daughter in danger. Please, think about it. Has she ever not thought of Katherine’s health or wellbeing? She loves her! I’m asking you not to see her if it’s your intention to make her feel worse.”
Barbara knew he was right, but did not care. She wanted answers! She stood, but he had not released her hand.
“Please?” It was almost a plea, and his look was asking her to reconsider.
She gazed down at his hand. With all that she’s done, he still loves her. With that passing thought she sat down, although reluctantly.
“Thanks. Believe me, it’s the right thing.”
“What do we do now?”
“It’s only a suggestion, but when you see her, show your love. She may feel more confident. She needs our support.”
“I’ll look in on Katherine, then go and see her,” Barbara said, still hiding her anger.
“Do that and I’ll ring Detective Perez?”
They both went their separate ways, knowing what each had to do.
“It’s good to hear that she’s conscious and able to communicate, even though it’s limited. I was going to contact you . . . but I thought you had too many issues to deal with. I decided to put it off. Detective Andretta and I can come to the hospital mid-morning tomorrow. We’ll introduce ourselves and ask her a few questions. The obvious one is, did she see the intruder and would she be able identify him? Is tomorrow okay with you?”
After returning from visiting Sophia, Barbara sat on Katherine’s bed and gently rubbed her cheek. She gave her daughter a look most mothers would give their child when they are in pain; one of sympathy.
“Hi, sweetheart, are you feeling okay?” Barbara held one of daughter’s hands, waiting for a reply.
When nothing came from her comforting, she thought, she needs coaxing from her glass cave. She will eventually emerge, and when she does, we’ll be waiting.
Afternoon had turned into night, and night into morning.
Barbara woke, and as she took stock of her surroundings, her first thought was of her anguished visit with Sophia. Having accepted JM’s advice she refrained from mentioning the hand-written answers, but the strained visit had sapped her of energy.
Christ! Our lives have certainly changed since last Friday, JM thought, as he stood at the window. Before we return to the apartment it will need cleaning, and the locks will have to be changed. There is no way on God’s earth will they go in the way it is. My staff will be concerned for Katherine and Sophia’s wellbeing,
and Lucy will need a call. I’ll leave that call to Barbara. She will want to give her the latest news.
“Good morning,” Barbara said, as she sat upright in her chair.
He turned to face his wife. “Did you sleep okay?” He quickly thought better of the question. “Probably not. Hospital chairs aren’t the most comfortable thing to sleep in.”
He took three paces to where she was sitting and placed his arms around her shoulders. He gave her a gentle squeeze and kissed the top of her head. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Barbara replied. “I’m going to the toilet. On my way back I’ll call in on Sophia. Do you want anything? A coffee?”
After she left the room, he tried piecing together what had passed. I need to arrange about staying somewhere close. Living out of hospital chairs is not easy. At the moment, Katherine and Sophia are out of my hands, but I have to make sure returning home will be less traumatic. Mrs. K will recover quicker than Katherine, that’s for sure. She is mentally stronger and more mature, but we cocooned Katherine. She will need us, and her friends, close when she returns home. I hope she speaks soon. If her girlfriends are with her, they will get her to talk. Bringing all our lives back on track will be an effort, but it’s worth it. I owe it to them.
It was not long before Barbara returned with a hot coffee. “I haven’t been to see Sophia yet. I thought I’d bring you the coffee first.”
Nurses woke Sophia early, then bathed and recovered her with a clean hospital gown.
Thank God for drugs. They certainly help with the pain. I wonder how long it’ll be before the bandages come off. The sheets feel as though they’re washed with starch. They feel slightly stiff.
The improvement in Sophia was obvious to Barbara, even though she had seen her just a few hours prior.
“Hi. Are you feeling okay? Are you in any pain?”
Sophia tilted her head slightly sideways.
“Sorry. I asked two questions at the same time, it was stupid of me. Do you want to answer yes or no by raising your hands?”
Sophia’s right fingers flicked upward.
“That’s good. Are you in any pain?”
Left hand movement.
“Would you like to sit higher? I can put another pillow behind your head. It’ll raise you up a little more.”
Right hand. She knew she would be able to see clearer.
Barbara took the spare pillow from the chair, then placed it gently behind her head.
Sophia reached out and took hold of the pencil lying on the mobile tray, and scribbled, although in an unsteady hand. HOWS KAT IS SHE OK
“She’s doing fine. The doctors are looking after her and they say she’ll be okay.” She stopped herself from giving more information.
The intruder had gone to a lot of trouble to enter the building, and he didn’t do it just to hurt me, Sophia wanted to say.
“Not as far as we know.”
IF NOTHING STOLEN WHAT DID HE WANT
“I don’t know. The police are still doing their investigation; hopefully they’ll soon have a clearer picture.” Barbara suspected Sophia knew she was lying.
WAS IT ONE MAN
“I don’t know.”
To Barbara it was obvious Sophia was hesitating before she wrote. COULD BE MAN WHO CAME TO APARTMENT
The words caused Barbara to cringe. If she thinks Bruno is responsible, then I am also to blame. I allowed him into our home. “We’ve told the police about him and they’re investigating. They are coming to the hospital today, and they will tell us what they have discovered. Do you want them to come and interview you?”
Sophia’s blood-shot eyes stared at Barbara. She raised both right and left hand simultaneously, then wrote, DONT KNOW WHAT TO SAY
“Just tell them what happened, as best as you can.”
DIDNT SEE ANYTHING
“The police will help you. They are good at their job. If you can’t answer any of their questions, they’ll understand. Is there anything I can get for you?”
Left hand finger movement.
“I’m going back to Katherine’s room. Please, if you can, think about what happened on Saturday? It’s important for all of us, and it’ll help the police. I’ll call back later, and I’m sure JM will come.”
Barbara leaned over Sophia’s bandaged head and kissed the top of it gently before leaving the room.
I hope she remembers. We need answers.
The two detectives entered Katherine’s room just prior to midday. Detective Perez did the introductions.
“Even though Katherine’s eyes are open, she’s not communicating with anyone,” JM informed them.
“It’s good to know she’s awake, but we’re not here to interview her. We’d like to introduce ourselves to Mrs. Kowalski, and ask some questions.”
“I’ll take you.” JM waved a hand as signal for them to follow him from the room.
As he entered the room in the company of a man and a woman, Sophia thought, they have to be the police.
“These two detectives would like to talk to you, but only if you’re up to it,” JM said, as he approached her bed.
“This is Detective Sergeant Perez and this is Detective Andretta,” he said, as pointed in their direction.
“Hello, Mrs. Kowalski,” Detective Perez said, as she pulled a chair nearer to the bedhead. “I’d like to ask you some questions, but we’ll stop anytime you want.”
Sophia raised her right hand.
“She’s saying yes. Right hand is yes, and left is no,” JM explained.
“Mrs. Kowalski, did you at any time see the intruder’s face?”
“Do you know how he got in?”
JM was standing opposite Detective Perez, looking at Sophia, when she asked the question. Sophia began to cry.
Being closest, Detective Perez wiped Sophia’s tears with a tissue. “If you don’t want to explain, that’s fine. I can come back at another time, if you like.”
WENT TO MARKET TO BUY KAT MEAT OPENED DOOR HIT FROM BEHIND
The words stunned JM. She’d left Katherine alone and defenceless! Why would she? Just to buy some meat! What was she thinking?
Detective Perez studied the words, then asked, “When you say, hit from behind, were you hit with something?”
DONT KNOW HIT IN BACK
Before Detective Perez could ask another question, Detective Andretta leaned close to her ear and whispered.
Detective Perez said, having turned to look at JM, “Could you excuse me for a moment, please?” She then followed her partner into the corridor.
“I think she was slammed in the back. He may have run at her. That would explain how she sustained the injuries to her back. She was caught unawares, surprised. Her head hit the floor. Full impact, if you know my meaning.”
“That makes sense. We haven’t come across anything to suggest she was hit with an object. There wasn’t one. Let’s go back in.”
Detective Perez again sat on the chair, while Detective Andretta stood by her side.
“Mrs. Kowalski, where did you go to buy the meat?”
“What time did you leave the apartment?”
7 I THINK
“Did you notice anything suspicious, like . . . was someone following you?”
“What time do you think you arrived back home?”
DONT KNOW AFTER 8 ROADS BAD SNOWING
“Thanks. I won’t ask any more questions, but I’ll come back when you’re feeling better. You’ve been very helpful, and we’ve learned a lot.” She rose from the chair and as a sign of thanks touched Sophia’s arm.
“Can I see you in the corridor?” she asked JM.
Once there she told of their meeting with Bruno, and of his uncle’s alibi. She deliberately omitted some minor details of their conversations.
“He’s our only suspect at the moment, but he has an alibi. We are having trouble trying to place him near the building when the crime was in progress. We have some evidence, but again, no forced entry. Having no identification or fingerprints makes charging him difficult. His uncle doesn’t appear to be the type to change his alibi, no matter what we fire at him. We’re almost sure he’s protecting Bruno. Until something comes else along, we have to maintain the status quo.”
“I’m sure Mrs. K would give you more information if she could.”
“We’ll be back when she improves. She may be able to fill in some more gaps. It’s a shame she can’t speak, it’d be easier for everyone if she could. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it appears as though Katherine is the only person who can give us a better insight into what actually happened. It would be good if she could identify the intruder, or at least describe what he was wearing. We have to return to the station, but if anything comes to mind don’t hesitate to call. We’re available anytime of the day.”
“Going by your comments and the evidence so far, no-one will be charged. But the person who did this is walking around free. All because of a phoney alibi! It’s not fair! And it doesn’t help my family, does it?” JM vented his thoughts and dismay.
“Doctor Harris, we know how you feel, but if we charge him with the little evidence we’ve got he’ll
definitely walk free from court and we won’t be able to recharge him. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t! When we do charge Bruno, if it’s him, we want it to stick. As I said before … we need to talk to Katherine. Unfortunately, that may be difficult. Only time will tell. I’m sorry, but we do have to leave.” She was trying to be compassionate, but not drawn into something they would regret.
As they stood outside of Katherine’s room, JM relayed to Barbara what had transpired.
After hearing of Sophia’s new admission Barbara’s mild disdain for her had intensified. “What happens now?”
“I don’t know. Just get on with our lives I suppose, the best way we can.”
“I mean, now that we know Sophia is responsible for Katherine’s injuries what happens?”
He had not had time to consider the consequences. “What do you want me to do, kick her out of the apartment? She has been a mother to me and a grandmother to Katherine and all we know at this stage is she went to buy Katherine some meat. Why, I don’t know? We know she left her alone, but I can only guess she wanted to please Katherine. We had no idea Bruno was capable of doing what he did. If we had an inclination, our New York trip would not have happened. You’re probably feeling the same as I am, but I wouldn’t like to think she deliberately put Katherine in jeopardy.”
Barbara was feeling resentful. She’s responsible for Katherine’s atrocious injuries, and, unfortunately her own. But, where do my duties to her lie? I love my daughter more than I do her.
JM, meanwhile, was trying to justify Sophia’s actions. I can just imagine Mrs. K buying the meat, but what she did was not a selfish act, it was one of love for another. She wanted to make someone happy, then, is punished for her selflessness. It was a stupid decision to leave Katherine unattended, but I am sure there are plenty of people on this earth who have made a similar decision and have regretted it.
“We could consider ourselves partly responsible. We left them alone, and we cannot turn back the clock. She is in a similar situation. She left Katherine alone, and she cannot turn back time either. We are a similar to her. We will suffer for the remainder of our lives. The difference between her and us is she wanted to do something nice for Katherine. We didn’t. We went away. Surely you can feel some pity?”
Barbara replied, defensively, “We have a daughter lying in a hospital bed, severely injured, mentally traumatised, and we have to have compassion for Sophia. What are you asking? It was wrong of her to go to the markets, but I suppose Katherine will have the final judgement. I can only support her decision . . . you should know that. I’ll have trouble accepting any decisions Sophia makes regarding Katherine’s future wellbeing and safety. Please don’t ask me to feel different. I may change as time goes by, but in the end she made a decision that contributed to our daughter’s injuries, even though she thought it for a good reason.”
Barbara had vented her feelings.
“That’s fine. I understand how you feel. Let’s go back in, and we can discuss this at another time. I need to see about getting new locks installed before we return home. I’ll also have the apartment cleaned.”
“I’m not going back there until we all go in together, and, I won’t be there by myself. For the time being staying at the hotel would be a whole lot safer and it’s in walking distance to the hospital. Not that we would to in this weather.”
“Okay.” By accepting her decision, he considered it possible for their lives to return to some semblance of normality.
“I need to shower, as well as change my clothes. I may call in to a store and buy a few things. Will you be alright on your own?”
“I’ll be fine. You go and do what you need to, and take your time. I’ve got everything covered.”
Having collected her handbag and coat, she said, “I’ll see you later. Would you like me to bring anything back? Would you prefer ham on rye, or a bagel?”
“You decide . . . I’m easy,” he said, as he kissed her cheek.