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PART EIGHTY-ONE

Officer Rosenstock fast stepped through a door that bore a No Admittance sign, leaving Karla, Suzann and Stacie alone in the busy waiting area. “Well, I guess that’s one way to give us the slip,” Suzann said of the evanescing officer. “Shall we try the admittance desk?”

“Would you go, please,” Karla replied. “I’m just completely frantic here. He’s got my baby, he’s put this poor girl in the hospital and it’s all my fault.”

Taking Karla by the shoulders and looking into the young woman’s eyes Suzann asked, “Do you blame us?”

“Blame you!?” she asked, incredulously. “No! Not at all!”

“Then don’t blame yourself,” Suzann said softly. “You are not responsible for the actions of a madman simply because he was your husband and you created a child with him.”

“Is my husband,” Karla said with a heavy, eyes-downcast sigh. “And you’re right. I suppose. But if I’d left right away…”

“But it is we who we kept you here. We didn’t believe you, or, at least, we didn’t understand the scope of the problem,” Suzann replied. “We didn’t understand the depth of the man’s evil. If your husband is killing people, he has to be stopped and now is the time. The police are on this, we are with you. With God’s help we can overcome.”

“Amen,” Karla, said softly, her voice cracking with emotion. “Please, Jesus, please protect Skylar and Marti Kohnen. Please don’t let Caleb harm them.”

“Let me talk to admittance,” Suzann said, patting Karla’s hand, “Stacie, would you help Karla find a seat, please?”

“Of course,” Stacie responded, putting her arm around the diminutive woman’s thin, bare shoulders. “Come on,” she added, looking around, “Let’s find some empty chairs.”

Karla nodded and mutely accompanied Stacie, the life seemingly leached from her.

The waiting room was “L” shaped, with the lower part of the L closest to the entrance and receiving desk. The seats closest to receiving were all taken, giving the impression that the closer one sat to receiving the faster one would receive care. The women walked past people moaning from pain, one with a bloody tee-shirt pressed against what was obviously a serious abdominal wound. “Mercy,” Karla said as they crept beyond easy earshot of waiting seekers of patch and palliation. “I hope Sara’s alright. She ain’t done nothing wrong.”

“Here,” Stacie said, patting a chair top and handing Karla into the seat. “Sit and I’ll get you something to drink. Coffee? Juice?”

“Oh. Thank you. Just water, please.”

Stacie left the waiting room, found a nearby vending machine and bought three waters. Turning to leave, her head bounced up and she put another two dollars into the machine and purchased a fourth bottle for Manny. Reentering the waiting room, a chime of beeps erupted from half-a-dozen phones including the one in her bag. All around the ER people checked their screens, whether pausing from a game, an E-book or merely peering at a previously unwatched screen. Stacie handed Karla a water, nodded a welcome to the woman’s thank-you and checked her phone.

“Whoa,” she whispered, looking at her screen. “I guess it’s official,” she added, handing Karla a water and showing her the Amber Alert message that flashed on her phone. “There’s an Amber Alert out for Skylar and Marti. The police are on this, Karla. Maybe you’ll finally have resolution.”

“Yeah, maybe. Let’s just hope it ain’t final resolution, you know?”

“I do. It won’t. As you said, God will protect them.”

“Well, I hope so. I feel like I’ve let the Lord down so much that maybe I don’t deserve His help no more.”

“Karla,” Stacie replied, pulling her chair from its place next to Karla’s and turning it at an angle facing her, “if there’s one thing that I’m certain of it’s that God neither blames you nor will He abandon you or these two little girls.” Followed, as if an afterthought, by, “Or Marti Kohnen either, for that matter.”

Karla smiled. “That woman’s a piece a work, ain’t she?

Stacie smiled back. “No comment.”

“Well, here you are,” Suzann declared from across the room. “Look what the cat dragged in,” she added, pointing a thumb to a dark-haired man with a short, silver shot beard. “Manny Taisto come to save the day.”