Kill Your Darlings

Entry by: Briergate

12th January 2016
The ones you love the most

Jacob groaned as the crackled command came through the radio, and his colleague slipped his seat belt on and hit the sirens.

"Perfect. Another loony, right before clocking off," Sim said, cheerful as ever despite the torrential rain and threat of a long-winded patient with excessive admin. Jacob glared out of the passenger-side window, and stayed silent. These were the worst sort of calls for any paramedic, and he'd had a long night. He'd lost count of the number of drunks they'd had to mop up outside clubs in the centre of town, and he'd finally been allowing himself to think of getting home, taking a hot shower and slipping in to bed beside the comfortable warm form of his sleeping wife and baby girl to snatch a few hours before morning.

Now, of course, he had to focus on work again. The operator hadn’t given them too much to go on - a middle-aged woman, disorientated, wandering barefoot by the side of a rural road, with apparently no recollection of who she was, or why she was there. The police had suggested there was no evidence of intoxication, which meant either, as Sim had succinctly suggested, she was a nutcase on the run from residential, or she'd been battered to the point of amnesia by some jealous husband.

The two men lapsed in to silence as they approached the road provided by the operator. The rain coursed down beyond the warmth of the van, making them peer forwards in the hope of seeing their target. The roadside was pitch dark, and Jacob rubbed his eyes as he leaned to gaze out on to the verge.

Spotting some headlights at the passenger side, he pointed and motioned for Sim to slow the ambulance down. He grabbed his kit and undid his seatbelt, barely waiting for the vehicle to come to a stop before he opened the door and jumped out on to the verge. Cursing as he felt rainwater surge over the top of his boots, Jacob ran over to the police car parked ahead, waving to the officer standing in the road, waiting for them.

"What've we got?" Jacob asked, even as he was circumnavigating the officer and bending down to the woman huddled by the side of the road, shivering, drenched and pale. She didn’t look up as he moved to kneel beside her, but shrank away from him.

She was dressed in jeans which were drenched from ankle to hip, without socks or shoes. He short cropped hair was sodden, the rain coursing down in thick rivers across her soaked t-shirt. Jacob signalled back to Sim, who jumped from the van with an insulation blanket.

"Bastard. Just wanted to get me wet," he quipped, and Jacob grinned, taking the blanket and turning to the woman again.

"Hi. My name's Jake. What's your name?" he asked gently, moving cautiously and with studied, predictable actions as he wrapped the foil cover around her shoulders, and pushed the ends carefully in to her clasped hands. She studied him for a moment, shivering, her eyes reading his own, and then shook her head.

"You don’t know, or you don’t want to tell me, Pet?"
"I don’t remember," she said. Her voice was surprising; educated and gentle, with no discernible accent. Jacob nodded and squeezed her shoulder a little, and grinned at her.

"Long night, maybe? I get that sometimes. Now, here's the thing Pet. It's chucking it down. And, I'm a bit cold out here, and I bet you are too. I've got a great van right behind us, with blankets, and it's dry. How's about we pop you in, get you dried off a bit, and then see what's what?"

The woman looked up at him again, and a fresh wave of fear seemed to course through her, making her shake even harder. She shook her head, and looked towards the officer stood beside them, who was checking her watch.

"Look, mate, we're going to get off now, OK?" the officer said, already halfway back to the patrol car. Jacob didn’t acknowledge her, watching his new charge. Sim jumped down from the cab again, heading their way.

"All OK? Are we set for off?" he asked, good-naturedly. Jacob held up a hand, and Sim stood back. Jacob looked down at the woman's hands, knotted around something, her fingers working unconsciously, turning it over and over.

"That a cigarette lighter you've got? Do you smoke?" he asked her, and she looked up again, and a flicker of recognition seemed to ignite her expression for the first time.

"I think so."

"Well, snap. Want a cig? Can’t have a puff out here, mind - it's too wet - but we could perch on the edge of the van and light up? You up for that?"

With a faint nod, the woman handed him her lighter, and looked at him, expectantly. Jacob reached out a hand and pulled her from the verge gently. He was surprised that she moved towards him without fear, as if leaning in to him for support.

He placed a firm arm around her shoulder and guided her towards the ambulance, placing her down half in, half out, with the foil blanket over her hair. He grabbed his cigarettes and drew two out, lighting them both and handing one to the woman. She took it and thanked him, and drew on it hard. They sat in companionable silence for a moment, and smoked.

"Right. It's nearly morning, Pet. I'm not allowed to leave you here, so I have to see you somewhere safe. That means you have to come along for a ride with us, so we can check you out and make sure your'e OK, OK?"

The woman started shaking again, but nodded wordlessly and let Jacob guide her in to the ambulance, sit her in to the seat and strap her in. Sim obligingly passed a plastic beaker of tea through, and Jacob pushed it in to her hands as the ambulance started to move towards base.

"So can you really not remember your name? Or how come you wound up wandering about in the middle of nowhere on a night like this, Pet?"

She shook her head, chewing on a nail and grasping the tea as if she couldn’t remember what to do with it.
"There was blood everywhere. All over the walls," she said, and Jacob paused and looked at her sharply.

"Where, Pet? Where was the blood?"

"The walls. In the living room. And in the nursery. In the cot. It was in the cot and on the walls. And my hands. My hands," she said, and her voice cracked in terror. Jacob groaned inside, a sense of despair filling him. Shit. Shit, one of them. Babykiller.

"Pet you need to tell me what you can remember. Are you a Mummy? Have you got babies?"

"I think so. My babies. I hurt them."

"OK, Pet. It's OK now," he said, over and over again, repeating it until the words flowed one in to another and stopped making sense. She stilled, eventually, as they pulled in to the A&E bay and Sim hopped out, pulling the door open and looking in.

"ATL Minors ABH poss." Jacob muttered, and Sim nodded, pulled a sad face, and then stepped away again to notify the police of his suspicions. Jacob carried on rocking the woman close, his mind whirring. She pulled away from him and looked up as three policeman surrounded the ambulance, swamping the side door. She shrank back, tears coursing down her cheeks.

" I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry," she said, clutching Jacob's arm and pushing him in front of her. He frowned at the officers and jerked them backwards, warning them off.

"Look at me, Pet. I need you to help me out, so I can help you, and then we can both help your babies. Anything you can remember? Anything about your name, or their names? Or when your little one was born - was it here? Did you have your baby here?"

The woman stared at him, her eyes moving backwards and forwards raking his face, and Jacob recognised that she was searching her mind desperately, out of the need to help her children. Her chest rose and fell faster and faster, and she cried without seeming to notice the tears.

"Anything, Pet?" Jacob pushed again, willing her to come out with any damn fact at all so he could mobilise the police and get them out looking for her kids.

"Noelle. Noelle. Christmas. She came at Christmas. Noelle. My baby," she said suddenly, and once again it was as if the fact had ignited her, given him a glimpse of who she really was.

"Well done, Pet. You've done great. I'm just popping outside for a sec, but I'm not leaving you, OK?"

She nodded, and Jacob squeezed her shoulder and jumped from the ambulance, running over to the police officers congregated by the entrance to A&E. In moments, they dispersed, and he let himself back in to the ambulance. She squinted at the lights, and turned to hide behind him as a nurse walked over to them.

"Sal, this is Pet. She's had a tough time. We're going to have a cig, now, and then we're all going to pop inside and get cleaned up, and find out about your babies, aren’t we Pet?" he said, and she clutched his hand tightly, like a child herself, and nodded. They stood in companionable silence, Jacob and the woman smoking, and looked at the floor. He swallowed, as one of the A&E doctors ran out to them.

"Alice?" he asked the woman, and she jumped, mouth open, and nodded. "Are you Alice, love?"

She nodded again, the light of recognition, a seized memory slotting in to place. Alice. She looked like an Alice. Alice was his wife's name. He loved that name. He found himself mumbling aloud, Dear God- but didn’t know what to say. He watched the doctor and Sal lead Alice in to the warmth of A&E and disappear from view. He jumped as Sim planted a heavy hand on his shoulder, turning him.

"Bloody Hell, Jakey-Boy. We pick 'em, right mate?" Behind Sim's jovial comment was a mountain of concern, and Jacob suddenly dropped his composure and pulled his partner in to a hug.

"So, I'll finish up the admin. You can pop off and see you little one, if you like?" Sim offered, and Jacob shook his head.

"Nah, mate. I think I'll stick this one out. Don’t want to hear it on the news later, you know?"

Sim left as Jacob walked in to the closest cubicle, where he could hear Sal's cheerful monologue, and sat down next to Alice, clasping her hand.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she whispered, and Jacob nodded. They sat in silence for minutes which stretched to breaking point, and all three jumped when the curtain was pushed back roughly and the officer returned, gesturing Jacob to follow him. Behind him, he heard a sob of fear.

"It's all good, Jake. Kiddies both safe and sound, tucked up with the in-laws. Hubby working away, looks like our lassie has had some post-natal depression. Hallucinations and whatnot, so she'd asked the in-laws to take over to keep the little ones safe. Missed her GP appointment yesterday, looks like she lost her memory, reckon it's about as happy an end as we could have hoped for, eh?" the policeman grinned, his face lighting up, and Jacob reflected the light in his own smile.

"Thank. Fuck. For. That." he said, and stood for a moment, breathing heavily. He pictured his wife, and his little girl, sound asleep. Pushing a weary hand through his still-damp hair, he walked back in to the cubicle to deliver the news to the broken woman within.