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PART SEVENTY-EIGHT

Stacie fought eleven years of parentally inculcated parking behavior and drove front end first into the first available spot nearest Trinity Hospital’s emergency room. She, Karla, and Suzann hurried toward the emergency room entrance from the east, as a siren off but lights flashing ambulance and matching police car motored quickly from the center access road to the west. “Think that’s her?” Karla asked, raising a halting hand before pointing at the two-vehicle convoy that came to a quick stop directly in front of the emergency room.

“Could be,” Suzann replied, waving the trio forward with her fingertips.

Two EMTs exited the ambulance and began rolling a gurney between the vehicle’s rear double-doors. After languidly exiting her cruiser and placing her Sheriff’s hat on her head, an unconcerned appearing Pasco County sheriff deputy watched the two men work.

From a distance, Karla called out, “Sara!? Sara? That you honey?”

The EMTs continued to roll the wheeled gurney from the ambulance, their only concession to the approaching trio a momentary turning of their heads in their direction. The shorter EMT paused in his slow, reward march, allowing the first pair of wheeled legs to latch into place and support the stretcher before pulling the transport patient’s lower body from the ambulance.

“Hold it, folks!” the now alert deputy declared, hand moving from gun belt to gun grip. “Stop right there,” she commanded.

The EMTs swiveled their heads from the trio of women toward the deputy who nodded at them and said, “Go ahead, guys. We’re fine,” as she strode forward, stepping between Karla, Suzann, Stacie and the patient on the gurney. “Who is it exactly that you’re looking for?” she asked.

“Sara Kohnen,” Stacie said, head arcing to the right side to get a view beyond the deputy’s broad hat. “May we see her?”

The EMTs rearward procession proceeded and the second set of paired wheels clattered to the ground, furnishing the men with a wheeled contrivance that bore the brunt of transporting exertion. The deputy held up her left hand, leaving her right resting on the gun grip, and asked, “And who would you be?”

“I’m Karla Karen Kisor Morse; we spoke to one uh your nine-one-one fellas? We gave him my name. The man who beat that little girl and snatched her mama has my little girl Skylar too. Sara and Skylar are best friends and this here’s her teacher and another, uhm, woman from Interlachen? The school where they go to? Can I see her please?” Karla asked, beginning to step around the deputy.

The deputy, stone-faced and severe, replied, “No, ma’am. That patient needs to see a doctor. Are any of you family?”

“No, we’re not,” Suzann replied, watching as the gurney rolled through the outer door of the emergency room vestibule. “My name is Suzann Layher. My friend Manny Taisto is going to meet us here? We’re friends of the Kohnens. Mark is not available; he’s the father? He’s on his way home from Ireland and is unaware of the situation. That little girl needs someone to comfort her.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the officer responded, “I’m sure you’re right. But first she needs a doctor to examine her. Why don’t we do first things first and let the medical folks examine her. We can wait in the waiting room,” the officer said, pointing toward the sliding plate glass door.

“Yes, we can,” Suzann replied, averting her eyes from the officer’s and glancing at the name tag that adorned the woman’s sharply pressed brown deputy’s shirt, “officer Rosenstock.”

As they neared the door, a black Escalade pulled to a halt on the driveway in front of the emergency room and the driver’s window rolled down. “Suzann!” a dark-haired man with a heavy Brooklyn New York accented voice called out, “let me park! I’ll be right in!”

“Okay, Manny,” she hollered back. “See you inside.

“Officer Rosenstock,” she added, flipping her hand palm up in the direction of the door.