The ambulance pulled up at the hospital and Jeffrey followed the paramedics who rushed the gurney into the double doors of the ER. It wasn't a large hospital but completely serviceable and this time of night, the trauma unit had seen some action. Mostly wounds to be stitched up after bar fights, people falling at home or occasionally a car accident.
But Jeffrey noticed that the doctors and nurses looked up when they brought the woman into the main area. Police officers waited there too and Jeffrey knew they'd been notified. Soon enough, curiosity turned to immediate action and a team of medical personnel soon began assessing the injuries.
A female doctor took charge immediately and turned to talk to the others.
"We're going to need some x-rays maybe a CAT….facial bone fractures…possible concussion…bring me some scissors."
Two nurses rushed to assist her. The doctor turned towards Jeffrey.
"What happened to her…or should I even ask?"
"She was reported found unconscious on one of the greens at the country club. Don't know much more than that except she was the only one there."
The doctor nodded crisply and resumed her examination.
"She may have been hit with a blunt object," she said, "or a determined fist."
A nurse approached her.
"Radiology is ready for her," she said, "Are you going to do a thoracic?"
The doctor nodded.
"Probable cracked or broken ribs and internal injuries," she said, "some bruising in abdomen but no signs of punctured lungs."
Jeffrey just watched and then remembered he was still on duty. The doctor turned her attention back to him.
"Any ID on her, any idea who she might be…?"
Jeffrey shook his head.
"She looks kind of familiar when I think about it…but I don't know her."
An officer walked up to the doctor.
"If I can take some prints…"
The doctor looked at him a moment and then nodded, sighing.
"Do it quickly and stay out of my way."
The officer did that and the doctor concentrated on getting her patient stable and ready to be x-rayed. She didn't think much about the unknown woman beyond treating her injuries. Another young woman who ran around with the wrong man, it's not as if she hadn't treated battered women before and the ones that she did know, well no one else knew that they'd been in her ER.
Lucky stood up and looked over at Melissa and Lacey.
"I'd better be going," he said, "I got an early day tomorrow."
Lacey nodded, sipping the last of her drink.
"Yeah me too…sales are starting to pick up and Elena's coming down later tomorrow to help me with a party."
Melissa raised her brows.
"Aw…a lingerie party…?"
Lacey smiled as she finished up the last of her pie.
"Yes, you know you're free to attend one if you'd like."
"Maybe I'll think about it…I do get off early tomorrow night."
Lucky just looked at the two of them, thinking of his own busy day. Ranching and a work shift later on but in between, maybe he could meet Elena for lunch. He'd left a message on her voice mail but she hadn't returned his call.
"I was hoping to hear back from Elena," he said, "but I guess she's busy tonight."
Melissa made a face.
"She didn't call me back either," she said, "She could be helping her mama out so might not talk to her until tomorrow."
"She did mention to me that her mom's been fighting with her latest boyfriend."
Lucky sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"Unless she's out with Royal…"
Melissa shook her head.
"Nah, I heard he was supposed to make good with Lynette, there's something coming up with her father and Royal's kissing butt."
Lucky shook his head.
"Lynette should be smarter than to end up with a loser like him," he said, "but she must be getting something out of it."
"She seems happy enough with him to me," she said, "though she did seem a bit stressed when at my shop, about whether he'd like what she was buying."
Melissa made a face.
"As if with a body like hers, she has anything to worry about."
Lucky traced his glass with a finger.
"It's money he's after," he said, "He's got his eye set on a better lifestyle."
"Anything really wrong with that," she said, "We weren't all born rich and the rich don't know what it's like not to have everything."
Lucky heard the edge in her voice and knew she was speaking to him. Yes, he did come from old money but he'd never wanted any of it once he'd grown up old enough to make his own way, earn his own living.
"No…nothing's wrong but he's cheating and lying to get at it and if he's going to hurt Elena, then yeah there's a lot wrong with it."
Melissa shrugged again.
"Like I've always said, she can take care of herself and she must like something about Royal because she's sure spending a lot of time with him…and not just with working at the center."
Lucky bristled at her words.
"If she wants to shack up with him that's her business Lucky," Melissa said, "What's the big deal to you anyway? You've never really been all that interested in her."
"She's my friend," he said, "and I care a lot about what happens to her."
"So that's great but it's not going to keep a woman warm at night."
Lucky just reached for his coat to get ready to leave and head on home when in walked Jeffrey. Melissa got up to go help him find a table.
"Just some coffee," Jeffrey said, "I'm still onduty and I'm taking some berry pie back to the crew."
Lucky saw the weary look on his face.
Jeffrey scratched the back of his neck, nodding.
"Yeah…a couple calls…car accident earlier…then a woman who was beaten up and left on the green at the golf course."
Lucky's breathing hitched.
"You're kidding…is she going to be okay?"
Jeffrey paused and then nodded.
"Probably…but she was pretty banged up and she didn't come to while I was there…"
"What kind of injuries?"
"The usual…broken facial bones…ribs maybe…lots of bruising."
Lucky closed his eyes briefly. He hated cases like that where women were beaten up by men, usually someone they knew very well, even loved and nine times out of ten, the women went back to the guys who nearly killed them and refused to press charges. He didn't really get it but then again, his role was just to stabilize them until they made it to the hospital. Most of the time he heard what happened with them through the grapevine.
"Any ID on her," he asked.
"No, the police are running prints on her so maybe they'll get lucky."
Maybe they would if the woman had prints on file including with the criminal databases. A lot of the time with these Jane Does…nothing until they put her picture in front of the media and someone stepped forward to identify her or reported her missing. Sometimes that might be a repentant boyfriend or husband who after beating the crap out of their women had moved onto the "honeymoon" period where they wooed these women back to their side, often succeeding before the bruises faded. Why these women didn't just want to be as far away from their batterers as physically possible…Lucky didn't quite get that…but it hadn't ever mattered in his job whether he did or didn't.
Then suddenly something chilled inside of him.
"What did she look like?"
Jeffrey thought about it a moment while Lucky waited.
"Oh she's young…very pretty…I'm sure a real looker in better days. Dark brown or black hair, curly…maybe about 19…"
Lucky didn't like the sound of that. His muscles tightened and he looked over at Lacey and Melissa.
"I'm going to head on over to the hospital."
Melissa's mouth dropped open.
"Lucky you don't think…"
"It's probably not her…but I'd feel better if I knew that for sure."
Melissa looked at Lacey and they both nodded. Lacey picked up her things.
"I'll head on over with you too," she said, "Like you said, it's probably nothing but better to be sure."
The two of them then followed Jeffrey out of the diner to go out and find out for sure.
Lynette just folded her arms looking at Royal.
"You're not staying?"
He shook his head, slipping his jacket back on, and she noticed that there were some more of those bramble scratches on his arms.
"Honey, I got an early morning tomorrow at the center and then I got that meeting with your father and his team about my project…"
That didn't appease his fiancée.
"You know if I didn't know better, I'd think you were rushing off to meet up with some tramp."
Royal scowled, just before he smiled to reassure her.
"Now you know that's just crazy thinking on your part," he said, "You're the woman I'm with, the one I want to wear my ring. We've got this whole future in front of us to plan…it's just that I got things I got to get ready to do tomorrow."
Her lips pouted.
"Well…okay but you'd better make it worth my while."
He walked over to her and slid his arms around her waist bringing her close to him. Their lips met in a kiss and she soon forgot again any reservations she might have about him. He was right, she was just being silly, there were no other women and soon enough…they'd be married and living in a nice house and everything would be just perfect.
Except…when they broke off their kiss, she saw again that scratch on his neck…and her misgivings about him didn't die away completely.
Elena had heard bits and pieces of the conversation around her but hadn't known she was the topic. She just felt far removed from everything that was going on, and didn't feel any pain…just this fogginess around her.
The darkness had started to recede, the one that swallowed her up so suddenly. It had been merciful in delivering her from intense pain but from what…her mind struggled to remember what had just happened but every time her memory reached, it slipped away from her grasp. Her eyes wanted to open but felt weighted down, her throat felt parched and as if had been swabbed with sandpaper.
Maybe it had been for all she remembered.
She heard muffled voices now but couldn't make them out. Both masculine and feminine sounds…where was she anyway?
What had she been doing before all this happened? Images flashed in her head of never ending grassy terrain all around her, and the light of the sky.
She felt her body try to move but she felt strapped down and unable to budge. What had happened to her, where was she now?
But her questions went unanswered as she felt darkness around her again.