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PART NINETY-FOUR

“Karla?” Officer Tierney Rosenstock said to the tiny tattooed woman who stood in the corner hugging herself, “Sara has asked to see you.”

Karla’s arms released their hold from around herself, her head rose, and she inhaled quickly before taking a step forward. Tierney bent her left arm at the elbow and raised her hand so that the palm faced Karla before adding the words, “Which, strictly speaking I don’t have authority to allow.”

Karla, twisting her wrists so her hands were flung palms skyward, dropped her jaw and uttered a wordless cough of incredulous indignation before her hands fell to her sides.

“As I was saying,” Tierney continued, “strictly speaking I don’t have the authority to let you see her, but if you want to walk over here to the open curtain it’s possible that the two of you might possibly get a glimpse of one another and be within easy conversation distance. I’m not saying you will, I’m just saying it’s possible. It’s really more out of my control than within it. Do you understand?”

Karla looked at Officer Rosenstock through slitted eyes. “Maybe. So, I might, just by accident, get to see Sara an Sara see me if’n I walks over there? But that you ain’t making it so? That what I’m hearing?”

Tierney nodded. “That would be a reasonable sitrep,” she said, nodding. “Please, don’t enter the curtained area because I would be forced to take action. Forced to take action,” she repeated slowly.

“We’re not going to break any rules here, correct, ladies?” she asked, sweeping the faces of the three women and resting her eyes momentarily on Stacie’s and Suzann’s before returning to Karla. “Because I really need to keep this job. Got it?”

Karla nodded, said, “Yes. I got it. You’re a good person, Tierney Rosenstock.”

Tierney’s head made a quick eighth-of-a-turn to the right, her eyebrows shooting up before her head realigned and her face became passive. Nodding she said, “Maybe. But what I am is foolish. And soft-hearted. At least when it comes to children.

“And, ladies?” Tierney added, looking again to Suzann and Stacie. “Someone standing behind us might get a glimpse of Sara as well, but that would also be pure coincidence.

“You ready?” she asked Karla.

Karla nodded and followed Officer Rosenstock to the gap in the curtain that surrounded Sara’s ER bed, Stacie and Suzann in tow. Stopping at the gap, Tierney moved to the side, allowing Karla to step forward as she placed her hand on Karla’s tiny shoulder. “Sara?” Tierney said softly, “Karla’s not allowed in right now. Doctor’s orders, but she really wanted to see you. Okay?”

Sara nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “Oh, Karla!” Sara sobbed, “He got Skylar! Skylar saved me, but he got her and Marti! Why, Karla? What’s wrong with him?!”

Karla leaned forward, ready to go to Sara and comfort her, but Tierney’s hand stayed her. “From here, Karla. From here,” she whispered in the young mother’s ear.

“Oh, Sara. I don’t know. I’m sorry he hurt you. It’s not your fault, Sara. Not one bit your fault. It’s mine. I never should a lied to Skylar about her daddy, I just didn’t know what to tell her. Maybe if I’d told her the truth, warned her, none a this would a happened. I’m sorry, girl. I’m truly, truly sorry.”

“He has Marti, too,” Sara said. “What will Daddy do if… Daddy loves Marti, Karla. We have to help. We have to!”

“We will, Sara,” Tierney interjected. “Karla and me are going to go get all the information she knows right now so we can find your mother, to find Marti and Skylar and bring them back safely, aren’t we, Karla?”

Karla nodded, wordlessly, her tiny larynx bobbing up and down in her throat. “Yes. Yes,” she managed to choke out. “You. You take care now,” she added before responding to Tierney’s gentle pull on her elbow.

“I’ll be right back,” Tierney said to Skylar as she slid the curtain shut and walked between Stacie and Suzann, leading Karla to the couch.

“You’d better sit,” she added to Karla.

Suzann reached over and gently touched Tierney’s shoulder. “Karla was right, Tierney. You are good people.”

“Yeah? Thanks. I got work to do,” she replied, turning on her heel and slipping back into Sara’s curtained space.