Home > Cry No More(4)

Cry No More(4)
Author: Linda Howard

She didn’t see them coming. Suddenly two men were bracketing her, their body heat and odor assailing her. Instinctively she started to step back, only to find herself blocked by their bodies closing in on her. The one on the right pulled a knife from the sheath at his waist and grasped the straps of the sling, hastily slicing through them before Milla could do more than give a startled cry. Time seemed to stutter, giving her freeze-frame impressions of the next few seconds. The old woman fell back, her expression alarmed. Milla felt the sling that held Justin to her begin to drop, and in panic she grabbed for her baby. The man on her left snatched the baby from her with one hand, and shoved at her with the other.

Somehow she kept her balance, terror twisting in her chest as she leapt at the man, screaming, fighting to wrest her baby from him. Her clawing nails scratched down his face, leaving bloody furrows, and he reeled back from the assault.

The baby, startled awake, was wailing. The milling crowd scattered, alarmed by the sudden violence. “Help!” she shrieked over and over as she tried to grab Justin, but everyone seemed to be running away from her rather than to her. The man tried to shove her away again, his hand on her face. Milla bit him, sinking her teeth into his hand and grinding down until she felt blood in her mouth and he was yelling in pain. She clawed for his eyes, her nails sinking into spongy softness. His yells turned into shocked bellows, and his grip on Justin loosened. Desperately she grabbed at the baby, managing to catch one tiny, flailing arm, and for one heart-bursting moment she thought she had him. Then she felt the other man moving in close behind her, and a searing, paralyzing pain shot through her back.

Her body convulsed and she dropped like a rock to the ground, her fingers scrabbling helplessly in the grit. With the baby clutched like a football under one assailant’s arm, the two men raced away, one holding a bloody hand over his face and screaming curses as he fled. Milla lay sprawled in the dirt as she tried to fight through the agony that gripped her body, fight for breath to scream. Her lungs pumped wildly but didn’t seem to be dragging in any air. She tried to get up; her body didn’t respond. A black veil began closing over her vision, and she managed to whimper, over and over, “My baby! My baby! Someone get my baby!”

No one did.

David had already repaired a hernia and was washing up while Rip Kosper, Susanna’s husband and the team anesthesiologist, did a final check of the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate to make sure he was okay before turning him over to Anneli Lansky, the nurse, for monitoring. They had a good group working here; he’d miss them when the year was up and they all returned to regular practice in the States. He wouldn’t miss the cramped, one-story concrete-block clinic, with its cracked tile floors and barely adequate equipment, but he’d definitely miss the group as well as his patients—and he’d miss Mexico itself.

He was thinking about the next case, a gallbladder, when he heard a commotion in the hallway just outside the door. There was shouting and cursing, some scuffling sounds, and high-pitched wails. He dried his hands and started for the door just as Juana Mendoza, another nurse, began yelling for him.

He hit the door, already running, and skidded to a halt in the hallway before he rammed into a knot of people that included Juana, Susanna Kosper, and two men and a woman who were clumsily carrying another woman. The crush of bodies hid the wounded woman’s face, but David could see that her dress was drenched with blood and he immediately switched into emergency mode. “What happened?” he asked as he kicked a box out of the way and dragged over a gurney.

“David.” Susanna’s voice was tight and sharp. “It’s Milla.”

For a moment the words didn’t make sense and he looked around, expecting to see his wife behind him. Then Susanna’s meaning kicked in and he saw the wounded woman’s unconscious, paper-white face, saw the froth of soft brown curls around her face, and everything tilted out of kilter. Milla? This couldn’t be Milla. She was at home with Justin, safe and sound. This woman who looked as if she’d bled out just resembled his wife, that was all. It wasn’t really Milla.

“David!” This time Susanna’s tone was even sharper. “Snap out of it! Help us get her on the gurney.”

Only his training enabled him to function, to step in and lift the woman who looked like Milla onto the gurney. Her dress was bloody, her arms and hands were bloody, her legs and feet and even her shoes were bloody. No—just one shoe, a sandal that looked just like a pair Milla often wore. He saw the pink nail polish on her toenails, and the delicate gold chain around her right ankle, and he felt as if all his insides caved in.

“What happened?” he asked, his voice hoarse and faraway and not his own, even as his body moved into action and they rapidly wheeled Milla into the surgical bay he had just left.

“Knife wound to the lower back,” Juana said, listening to the babble of voices around them before they closed the door and shut out most of the noise. “Two men attacked her at the market.” She caught a shuddering breath. “They took Justin. Milla fought them, and one of the men stabbed her.”

Rip, alerted by the hubbub, burst back into the room. “My God,” he blurted when he saw Milla; then he fell silent and began readying his equipment.

Justin! David reeled from the second shock, and he half turned toward the door. Two bastards had stolen his son! He actually took a step away from the gurney, toward the door, to race out and search for his baby. Then he hesitated, and looked back at his wife.

They hadn’t had time to clean the operating room, or restock the supplies on the trays. Anneli ran in and began grabbing what they’d need. Juana wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Milla’s limp arm and swiftly pumped it up, while Susanna used the shears to cut away Milla’s clothing. “Blood type O positive,” Susanna was saying. How did she know? Oh, yeah, she’d typed Milla’s blood before Justin’s delivery.

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