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Chapter 31: Sabrina came around much more quickly than she would have liked. Exhausted and disoriented, she still knew where she was and what had happened, but she couldn’t make anything come into focus. It was too disorienting to open her eyes. But closing them then emphasized the fact that her entire body was developing into a single, massive bruise.
From somewhere nearby, several sets of sirens played further havoc on her nerves. And they weren’t the only distraction demanding her attention. There were people talking around her, some of them discussing whether to take Deanda and Michael out of the car or whether they should wait for the paramedics. Several others sounded much closer still, with one in particular all but breathing on her cheek.
“I think she’s coming back around,” a worried woman said in an American accent. Somewhere down South too.
“What about that man they dragged away? I don’t think he was supposed to be with them.” This from a much younger female who sounded like she was trying to be brave but was actually terrified out of her mind.
“The police are just going to have to take care of him, sugar. There’s nothing we can do,” the first woman, probably her mother, declared distractedly.
Sabrina didn’t have to ask who they were referring to. She knew Dallas was gone.
The furthest voices – all masculine and Welsh – were deciding to attend to “the girl” first.
Sabrina felt her heart miss two entire beats. “Her name is Deanda,” she managed to say. “Could you tell them her name is Deanda?”
Not “the girl.” Deanda.
“Of course, sweetie,” the woman soothed, sounding relieved that she had spoken at all. “Jess, why don’t you go tell them that. But don’t get in their way.”
Sabrina heard the teen get up, and strained to listen in on the ensuing conversation. It wasn’t that they were so very far away; Jess just had a quiet voice.
The men thanked her distractedly, and one of them started speaking to Deanda like she might be awake. “Deanda? If you can hear me, I need you to try to remain as still as you can.”
If there was an answer from the car, it was too faint for Sabrina to catch. Another much closer voice captured her attention instead, prompting her to force her eyes open.
“What’s your name, miss?”
Once she could see straight, she was able to identify the speaker. A paramedic, she guessed he was younger than her. With straight blondish hair, he still looked like he was going through adolescence with his slightly crooked teeth and boyish freckles.
She knew the game. It was her first time needing an ambulance, but she still understood that his first priority wasn’t really ascertaining her identity. It was a trick to get her to cooperate.
“Sabrina.” She didn’t offer any more information than that. He didn’t need it anyway.
“Okay, Sabrina,” he said. “My name is Peter. Can you tell me where it hurts?”
He was kneeling on her wing, unknowingly adding to her long list of pains. With the certainty that she’d gone through enough trauma to earn a spot in the psych ward anyway, she barely hesitated.
“My wing,” she whimpered, a bit depressed by how the words came out that way without any effort. “You’re on my wing.”
Taken aback by the absurdity of her claim, his serious brown eyes opened wide, then glanced down anyway to see said appendage. From there, he went right back to squinting in concern at her face. But after a moment more of consideration, he chose to play along like a pro and moved backward so as not to agitate her further.
“Is that better?”
She managed to thank him.
“Can you tell me where else it hurts?”
Sabrina noticed the new tone to his voice, like he was talking to a child. Ultimately, she was too weary to take offense.
“Everywhere,” she said, knowing how very unhelpful the answer was. It was still true, and he had asked.
Peter told her not to move and that everything would be fine. Sabrina obeyed the command for numerous reasons, but she wondered about the second statement. She could still hear instructions being offered behind her, so she knew they were extracting Deanda from the wreck. Words of “Careful. Careful” at least assured her that her friend was alive.
Taking stock of her own injuries, Sabrina was pretty sure nothing was broken. There were no stabbing pains emitting from anywhere in her body, only killer aches and fiery scratches. If she was a mere human, she was sure she’d have at least a few cracked ribs and a plethora of head injuries. Then again, if she was a mere human, it was hard not to imagine she’d have remained senseless, lying in a blissful coma.
But no, thanks to faerie genetics, she was awake and acutely aware of every part of her anatomy.
Peter returned with a neck brace, which he fastened on her with care. Despite his best attempts to be gentle, she still winced several times. And she winced again when one of the cops called to the scene managed to unlock her handcuffs.
Every little move seemed to sting or ache or throb.
They were getting Michael out now, she could hear, which made her remember the other car. She wanted so badly for Charlie and Jon and Richard to be alright, but she had a horrid feeling that they weren’t. The car had flipped over itself in the air, after all, hardly a promising sign.
Peter was asking her a dozen questions to determine the extent of her injuries, and she answered them each as best as she could.
The pain was a seven or eight on a scale of one to ten.
No, she didn’t think anything was broken.
He was holding up three fingers.
Sabrina followed the pen he produced from inside some pocket with her eyes, wiggled her toes and tried to be as overall cooperative as she possibly could. But once she was loaded into the ambulance, she didn’t speak unless asked a direct question. Which meant she only said she was fine. Twice.
She wasn’t really fine, but there wasn’t much else she could say. Sabrina knew telling the truth wouldn’t be helpful, so an outright lie would have to do.
At the hospital, they wheeled her in through the swinging double doors, past a roomful of people who stared at her with weary curiosity or glared their bitterness that they weren’t as injured and couldn’t skip the line too.
The curtained cubicle the paramedics brought her to was disturbingly white. It took a lot of self-control for her to focus on the differences instead of the similarities between the hospital room and the HPAC compound. She had to remind herself more than once that she wasn’t tied down or locked in.
The attending physician declared her a mass of bruises but otherwise uninjured. She should rest up for a while though, he cautioned. Also, the police were going to want to talk to her. And if she wanted to call someone to pick her up, she could do that too. Oh right, and here were some forms to fill.
Then he was gone with a confused shake of his head. Clearly, in his medical opinion, she should have had something broken or cracked or misaligned.
Two policemen came soon after he left, and Sabrina immediately panicked when they came in, knowing she was going to have to put a spin on the truth. As if her body wasn’t tense enough from the beating she’d taken, she stiffened even more with sheer dread as the officers introduced themselves.
In their matching white shirts, black vests and black ties, they might as well have been the HPAC the way her brain started babbling. It was only a wonder her mouth didn’t move as well.
“Miss Johnson, how about you explain to us what happened.”
She was freaking out, but of course she didn’t want them to know that. That wouldn’t do. And she wanted to take several calming breaths, but that could be a dead giveaway that she was about to lie. So she stalled instead.
“I don’t even know where to start.” Really, she didn’t.
Much to her dismay, the officers did and started asking questions. But something finally went her way when another visitor strode into the room, her suit flawless and her very steps confident.
“Sabrina, I presume?” She asked, barely waiting for a nod of assent. “My name is Elizabeth Pennyworth, but please call me Liz. Your brother sent me to collect you.”
“Is he okay?” The words rushed out of her in a fit of intense concern. “How about Deanda and Michael? Do you know how they are? They were in the car with me and got knocked out and –”
“Sabrina, calm down,” Elizabeth told her firmly, with no trace of ire or arrogance. “I’ve already asked about them and they’re being treated right now. We can go over the details later, but for the time being, rest assured that both Deanda and Michael are going to be fine.”
Her English accent was smooth and her voice low, like someone who had received an extensive education. And the rest of her was just as exquisite. Her thick brunette locks were pulled into a manageable but attractive bun and secured by a large, clear clip. Thin, rectangular frames sat on the bridge of her nose, and her brown pencil skirt with its conservative slit both emphasized and played down her sex appeal. While she wore no jewelry and little if any makeup, she radiated a powerful kind of femininity all the same.
To top everything off, the woman had ivory-orange wings. That was what made Sabrina instantly trust her. Anyone who could pull off a three-piece suit like that had to be the real deal.
The humans couldn’t see Elizabeth’s wings, of course, but they did appear enamored by her big brown eyes and were doing their very best not to seem equally smitten with her legs.
Sabrina didn’t care about their professional dilemma one bit. “Are they really okay?”
Her fellow faerie nodded. “I wouldn’t lie to you, no matter how much the truth might hurt.
That’s why your brother trusts me, and that’s why I hope you will too. Deanda is fine. So are Michael, Richard and Charlie. They’re just going to need to take it easy for a while.”
The woman did appear both completely honest and believable. But she’d also left out a name, an ommission Sabrina zeroed in on. “And Jon?
Elizabeth shook her head, her expression softening in regret. It was obvious what she was going to say before she said it.
He was gone. Dead. His time on Earth finished.
Sabrina didn’t immediately feel the pain and horror that knowledge should have inspired. Instead, she realized how very little she knew about him. It made her wonder about the specifics of his life, like how old he had been. His baby face made her want to guess twenty, but she doubted he could get a job guarding the royal family right out of school.
Regardless, she imagined he had family of his own: a mother, a dad, maybe a few siblings.
Were they being informed back in Faeriedom that he had died in the line of duty? Would they hate her, knowing that if she hadn’t existed, he would still be alive?
“Gentlemen.” Elizabeth’s voice broke into her numb musings. “I know you need to ask questions, but could we have a minute?”
The officers probably would have agreed to do the hokey pokey had she asked. They left without a single peep of objection, closing the curtains behind them.
She lowered her voice as soon as they were gone. “You need to be careful about what you tell them.”
“I figured,” Sabrina replied bleakly. She noted that, while Jon’s death had one side of her completely shut down, the part of her focusing on the still-missing Dallas wanted to cry.
But she didn’t let the tears spill over. She wouldn’t. She wasn’t going to cry again when it did no good, only making her feel more powerless than she already was. That kind of helplessness was a feeling she would have hated with a burning passion if she had any room left for another emotion.
Sabrina decided all of that while Elizabeth gave her the rundown on what facts she could say and which ones she couldn’t. She decided that as the story she was going to have to present was first presented to her. And she solidified that decision further when the two police officers came back into her makeshift room.
She answered each one of their questions with the outward appearance of a traumatized little girl and the inward knowledge that she was done fulfilling that role. She had decided not to be a victim again.
She was going to get Dallas back too. One way or the other, there was no way he was going to stay in HPAC hands when she knew what that entailed.
Right then, in her mind, it was decided. The only thing left to do was show Mr. Smiley and Dr. Stewart and Dr. Morrison, and every last one of their hateful colleagues, exactly what they had gotten themselves into.
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