“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Jeremiah 29:11, as quoted by Bernard Drouillard
Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM
GM: The next few hours are not happy ones for the remaining girls. Sarah’s idea seems to help, a little. The cops strip-search her first when she volunteers, and Yvonne and Rachel seem to take some (small) measure of heart from feeling like they can protect Simmone by volunteering first. But when it’s the ten-year-old’s turn, she still bursts into tears and has to be physically pried from Cécilia as she wails in French for her mother. One of the cops, who clearly doesn’t understand the language, jokes about how she “must have a frog leg stuck in her throat.” Cécilia’s face is pale with fury.
With the booking room finally emptied of arrestees, the cops promptly escort Caroline, Luke, and Cécilia back to the station’s front entrance. The last of the three’s request to be present when her youngest sister gets searched is denied. Her subsequent request to be present “wherever you’re moving her after she’s searched, then,” is also denied. One or two of the cops seem to find it strange when Caroline doesn’t ask to speak with any of her ‘clients’ in the interrogation rooms, but no one presses the matter. Everyone seems to have a lot on their minds.
The law student sits in the front entrance’s moderately comfortable chairs with her brother and his girlfriend. Cécilia tries phoning her mother and their family’s attorney several more times, but eventually stops. More texts and calls aren’t going to speed things along, she admits—and might even slow things down if they read and listen to each one. She says she wishes she could be there for her sisters. Luke holds her hand and says he wishes that too, but he’s glad they could be there earlier. Both of the two are relieved when Caroline tells them how the girls’ written statements can easily be thrown out. Cécilia just hopes her sisters will keep it together. Rain dully pounds and smashes against the station’s windows.
Denise Bowden’s hair is mussed and her cheeks are a bit red when she steps through the door and shakes off her soaked umbrella. She thanks Caroline for “covering for me” and goes in to see the girls. Luke and Cécilia thank her effusively.
In time, other relatives, attorneys, and assorted persons start to arrive. Caroline’s stern-looking Uncle Carson shows up with Delron Mouton, a balding and over the hill blump who’s the district commander of the Eighth. There’s also an ancient-looking old woman with a cane who dryly remarks that some police should start looking into mall security jobs. Lyman Whitney appears too, clutching a pocketwatch he steals occasional glances at. Caroline recalls the old man having a mild and grandfatherly countenance on the occasions they met, but his face is red with anger as his attorney and personal assistant follow him into the station.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t show relief at the appearance of the assorted powers, but their arrival does simplify matters for her. She bounces around the arriving figures, filling them in on the status of the process as they appear. She tries not to look on too smugly at the police.
GM: Luke frowns at the dark look that Lyman gives Cécilia, but his girlfriend has a hundred other things on her mind and doesn’t seem to care.
Her distraction comes to an end with the last figures who arrive.
The sergeant does a double take and snaps at “Cindy” to go open the doors, but the two are left awkwardly standing in the middle of the room when they’re beaten to the punch. The incoming group of police and lawyers, or at least men who must be lawyers judging by their suits, briefcases, and the looks of restrained smugness Caroline has come to know so well from those associated with the legal profession, are headed by two figures. The one to her left is the man whose portrait she can see behind the sergeant’s desk.
Bernard Drouillard, the superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, looks more like a politician or religious minister than a police officer. His navy uniform is crisp and meticulously maintained, with not so much as a crease out of place. One can glimpse their reflection from the polish of his fine leather shoes. Drouillard himself is an African-American man in his middle years with a full head of closely-trimmed hair, crinkled eyes, and a seemingly perennial benign smile. Carson once explained the difference between ‘carnivore’ and ‘herbivore’ cops to Caroline, and had even cited Gettis as an example of the former. But the latter, he’d said, are invariably the ones who fill a police department’s higher posts—and especially its politically sensitive ones.
“…no, my dear, I’m simply glad how quickly we were able to resolve all of this,” the smiling man assures the woman on his left in a warm, slightly scratchy baritone that Caroline’s first instinct is to describe as ‘gladhanding’.
Caroline: Caroline is caught crossing the room and close enough to quietly murmur to White, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” as the captain’s doom approaches on heeled feet.
GM: The police officer’s nostrils flare at Caroline’s words.
“Let’s not be too hasty, Bernard,” sounds an older woman’s voice. “We still have a few loose ends to tie up.”
“Maman,” Cécilia exclaims in relief as she rises from her seat with Luke.
Caroline: She avoids further gloating, but there is a feeling of savage satisfaction, if not joy. The damage has been done to the girls—at least some damage—despite her best efforts, but there may yet be some justice this night. To say nothing of what the night might mean for herself—and for the family more generally. Opportunities to draw in powerful individuals like this don’t come often. Even if they forget the actions of the Malveaux family this evening, the family won’t forget the muddy details as they applies to the city’s future heiresses.
GM: If the Devillers sisters look like distorted reflections of one another, their mother Abélia resembles her daughters through a glass darkly. She shares their pale skin, willowy figures, long necks, and delicate, high-cheekboned features. Her eyes are a dark rather pale blue, however, and her hair is deep black rather than light blonde. Her facial features show more age and definition, but she remains a strikingly beautiful woman well into middle age. It’s easy to imagine her as the spitting image of Cécilia some twenty years ago. She wears a close-fitting navy dress so dark as to be almost black and stilettos of the same color.
“Cécilia, my dear,” she smiles as she and her daughter trade kisses on one another’s cheeks. Her gaze then expands to include Luke and Caroline. “They say that slow and steady wins the race… but sometimes being the fastest runner is what does. I’m to understand that we have you to thank, Caroline, for smoothing a number of things over.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles as she approaches the French matriarch.
“Que devons-nous faire si nous ne sommes pas solidaires?” she asks rhetorically, the French rolling off her tongue naturally, though not so beautifully as it did from Cécilia earlier with her sister.
(“What are we to do if not stand together?”)
“Je me suis retrouvé plus près de la ligne d’arrivée ce soir,” she continues.
(“I happened to be standing closer to the finish line tonight.”)
GM: “Quelle est la distance à ceux qui se tiennent ensemble dans le but?” Drouillard smiles at the three.
(“What is distance to those who stand together in purpose?”)
“Pour le corps n’est pas un membre, mais beaucoup,” he intones more somberly.
(“For the body is not one member, but many.”)
“Tu as un verset pour chaque occasion, Bernard,” Cécilia’s mother replies with a low chuckle. “Tu as gagné ton premier cycle en divinité, n’est-ce pas?”
(“You’ve a verse for every occasion, Bernard. You earned your undergraduate’s in divinity, didn’t you?”)
“Alors je l’ai fait, Abélia. Le bon Dieu m’a appelé à servir d’autres manières,” the police chief replies.
(“So I did, Abélia. The good Lord called me to service in other ways.”)
“Car je connais les plans que j’ai pour vous”, déclare le Seigneur, “prévoit de vous prospérer et de ne pas vous nuire, des plans pour vous donner de l’espoir et un avenir,” he recites weightily.
(“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”)
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly, politely, and briefly. “Bravo—if your teachers were anything like mine they made you learn it in Latin though, not French.”
GM: “Or uncles,” Luke smiles. “Abélia, it’s so good to see you. Superintendent, so good to meet you…”
A few further introductions and pleasantries pass before Cécilia interjects, “Perhaps we can all catch up in a few more minutes, Maman. Simmone, Yvette, and Yvonne are still in the holding cells.”
“Yes, and we do so appreciate NOPD not transferring the 18-year-olds among them to the parish prison,” her mother agrees. “Bernard, if you’ll be so good as to show us all the way?”
“With pleasure, my dear,” the superintendent smiles.
Caroline: The heiress trails after.
GM: “As the first legal mind on the scene, Caroline, are there any particular details you think we should know? Don’t worry—we are among friends here and can speak freely,” Abélia smiles as the group heads towards the cells, the womens’ heels clicking against tiled floor.
Caroline: “The decision to arrest the girls was poorly chosen,” Caroline responds carefully. “They could have just as easily been detained to the same effect—minus the in-processing of a group of teenagers—and not even that.”
“It appears on its face to be an emotionally charged reaction that exposes the city to significant liability—you’d be hard pressed to find a jury that might reasonably believe an arrest for stalking and assaulting an officer to be reasonable charges to bring against a preteen. Even with the high standard that’s been applied to Title 28 civil rights cases. Not that I expect that’s your first interest.”
GM: “The charge had been of some concern to me,” Abélia replies. “These gentlemen, however, have assured me that my feelings were simply a mother’s natural if misplaced fears.”
“Ms. Savard’s phone was destroyed,” the superintendent smiles. “With the other girls’ written statements thrown out, we have no admissible evidence to sustain the stalking charges of threatening text messages sent towards Ms. Savard.”
“Do explain for me, Bernard, how did she lose the phone? I can’t imagine that evidence would be irretrievable after such a short fall.”
“Our boys found that it had been repeatedly stabbed by a knife. We discovered no less than three on Ms. Savard’s person, along with a pry bar and can of mace. She certainly went into that slumber party well-armed.”
“How strange,” Abélia remarks. “What would make someone stab their phone with a knife?”
Caroline: Caroline nods as the pieces come together. “People that are already unstable do even more unstable things when they are experimenting with drugs.”
GM: Cécilia and Luke regard Caroline with dawning expressions.
“That explains it all. My sisters would never do drugs.”
“Yes, or the other girls,” Luke agrees. “They all seemed very well-adjusted.” He then amends, “That is to say, the three girls who were brought in to the station.”
Caroline: Caroline nods.
GM: “Where is the Savard girl? For that matter, is she still alive?” Cécilia asks.
“She’s in the hospital,” the superintendent answers. “Stable, but she has yet to regain consciousness. No one’s been able to question her.”
Luke glances at Caroline. “There is evidence that would speak for itself.”
Caroline: “A troubled youth, I’m told,” Caroline replies.
GM: “Yes, it sounds as if,” Cécilia agrees. “Why would she bring all those knives into the house?”
Caroline: “I can think of few good reasons,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “And then there’s the house itself,” she continues. “It has to have been…”
“We haven’t gotten any building inspectors out of bed,” Drouillard replies. “But damage to the property appears very likely. Young Miss Savard will face any charges, of course,” he says, looking towards Abélia, “but I’m afraid your agreement w…”
Lyman Whitney approaches the group, followed by his lawyer and personal assistant.
Sarah’s grandfather is an older man in his 70s with receding brown eyes and gray-white hair and liver spots on his temple. His features are still handsome enough, which together with his usual languid smile, give the old man a mild and agreeable countenance. Tonight, however, he is red in the face.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Devillers,” he grates out. “You are the proud new owner of the LaLaurie House.”
Caroline: “I don’t know that such matters are the largest concern right now,” Caroline suggests. “Let’s get the girls home first, then allow daylight to show the damage to the building as needed. Right now we’re all united in purpose, are we not?”
GM: Luke nods. “Those poor girls are sitting in cells. Let’s at least get them-”
“We most certainly are not, Miss Malveaux,” Lyman replies to Caroline, ignoring Luke as he swivels his angry gaze to Cécilia’s mother.
“Damage to the house! We should be so lucky if that was all it was! I consider you and your family to be entirely at fault for tonight’s events, Abélia.”
“Oh, that Savard delinquent may have brought the drugs, the weapons, and the alcohol onto the premises—god only knows what happened to that detective—but I can’t help note there were seven girls present, when our agreement explicitly specified there would be only two. Now there is a police investigation! Do your children even know what that could do to the property’s value—much less how it makes me look to the bank? This… disaster, after a favor I freely did your family—this is how you repay my trust?”
Caroline: “I’m certain that she is as interested in ensuring that you are made whole as we both were in ensuring your granddaughter—who behaved magnificently this evening in her grace and poise—was also freed from the undue, unwarranted, and unjustified scrutiny and hostility directed at her.” Caroline attempts to throw another wet blanket over Lyman’s brewing temper. “And with her influence and devotion to the city’s history, I’m equally certain that she has the means to ensure that the LaLaurie House is returned to a state of prominence.”
She continues, “I’m equally certain that after hearing how Sarah did everything she could to shield Simmone tonight she’d be inclined to do so without the threats and with enduring goodwill.”
Despite her moderate words, Caroline’s tone grows increasingly firm. “And, depending on how reasonable we are in dealing with this matter, it’s entirely possible that given the small scale of events this evening that there need be no significant reports of the details of where this happened. After all, right now I believe all we have is a potential possession charge for someone that that managed to injure themselves, and a police officer that suffered some manner of harm while rendering first aid, no?”
GM: The red hue to Lyman’s face seems to subside at Caroline’s description of Sarah.
“People always say how she takes after her aunt.”
Caroline: “Your daughter was lovely,” Caroline replies gently. “But your granddaughter might yet be her match. And I suspect right now she’d very much like to see her grandfather and get out of here. The rest of this,” she gestures, “we can work it out later, let’s not spend another second while she’s in a cell she doesn’t belong in.”
GM: Lyman sighs tiredly. “For her sake, Abélia—we can discuss this later. But discuss it we will. The liability waiver you signed had explicit terms…”
“…which I fully intend to keep and honor, Lyman. Or at least those remaining terms that I still can,” Abélia speaks up with a resigned smile. “You have every right to be angry with me. My family did not honor our agreement with you. I believe that my daughters’ experience being arrested, as much as it pains me as a mother, will be a valuable lesson to them in consequences.”
The black-haired woman casts a grateful look across the assembled individuals. “All of you have been so good to my family during this dreadful night. Being there for my girls. Giving them the benefit of the doubt. Bringing in lawyers.” She gives a faint smile. “And of course, getting up from warm beds in the middle of a rainy night. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration when I say that, if not for all of you, tonight’s events could have destroyed my daughters’ futures.”
“There’s a proverb where I come from—la gratitude est la mémoire du cœur. Gratitude is the heart’s memory. And what a poor memory mine would have, if I tried to start a protracted legal battle after all that’s happened. Perhaps tomorrow, Lyman, we may instead discuss the particulars of my taking out a new mortgage with some representatives from your bank.”
Lyman’s eyebrows initially raise, but the retired CEO soon gives a genuine if weary-looking smile as he replies, “Everyone here makes it so hard to stay angry. That would be our pleasure, Abélia. I’ll have the bank’s people contact you with the paperwork—the day after tomorrow. I’m sure your girls would appreciate some undistracted time with their mother first.”
“A very happy resolution to the night’s affairs,” Drouillard agrees with a wide smile of his own. “Now, why don’t we see to the girls’ release?”
The group agrees and makes their ways to the holding cells. Lyman asks Drouillard several times along the way if he’s “sure” whether “the Savard girl” and the first-responding police officer are alive or not. The superintendent reiterates that both are unconscious but stable. The old man nods at this and glances down at his watch.
The group is joined by others, including Carson and Gettis, as they make their way down the lonely corridor that contains the station’s holding cells. Rachel and Yvette are locked in the first cell. Yvette still looks coldly furious. Rachel seems somewhat relieved by her father and the ancient-looking woman Caroline spotted earlier, the former of whom has a silver dollar out that he’s performing coin tricks with.
Simmone, Yvonne, and Sarah are locked in the second cell. The youngest girl looks like she’s trying to bury herself under Yvonne’s arms as she cries softly. Both teenagers are trying to comfort her. Even Simmone, however, appears in a better state than Hannah, who has a cell to herself. She looks as if she’s swallowed poison. Her mother, who tightly holds her hand through the bars, looks little happier.
Drouillard and Delron Mouton, the Eighth District’s commander, make a grand show of unlocking the cell doors to reunite the girls with their (grand)parents. After the initial embraces and in some cases tearful reunions conclude, all of the girls but Hannah and Simmone are eager to tell their stories. This draws sharp objections from the present attorneys, but Commander Mouton merely makes another smiling show of tearing up the girls’ written statements, declaring them inadmissible as evidence.
Emboldened by this display, the more talkative girls gush over how Amelie is to blame for everything that went wrong at the house. She was insane. She believed it was haunted. She tried to deface a painting. She dumped salt everywhere to ward off ghosts. She tried to get them to drink and do drugs on the premises.
“…she even cut apart apart some electrical wiring in the garage. Ah think she was trying to burn the ‘ouse down—to ’get rid of the ghosts’!” Yvette adds.
The present attorneys cut off the girls’ statements and tell them to be quiet.
Caroline: It’s a narrative that Caroline wanted to sell. It’s her own idea, and one she laid groundwork for. Yet… Caroline can’t reconcile it with the girl she met earlier, however foolish, weird, and off-putting she may have been.
GM: Drouillard smiles benignly and assures the girls that Amelie Savard will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Caroline: She listens as the destruction of the girl’s life is decided, not in a court of law, but here between those of power, for the sake of their daughters—whom Caroline is quite convinced entered the house with their own malicious intent.
Daughters she defended. Daughters that are—or will soon be—among the city’s elite. The future of it. A future the Malveaux family has further sunk its claws into, through her own efforts. Daughters she praised.
GM: “Bah the way, does this mean she’s getting kicked out from McGehee?” Yvette asks with undisguised glee.
Caroline: It’s too much.
“Excuse me,” she mutters quietly as she breaks away towards the bathroom they passed on the way in. She doubt’s she’ll be missed amid the reunion.
GM: “NOPD doesn’t have jurisdiction there, my dear, but I think we can all be quite confident of the answer to that question,” Drouillard answers with a smile. Caroline hears a chorus of cheered yeses go up as she takes her leave. No one stops her.
Caroline: She barely makes it to the bathroom, a single unixsex toilet with a locking door intended for officers and support staff. It’s not clean. It’s not filthy. It doesn’t matter. The trip and pause to turn the lock give her barely enough time to make it to the toilet before she’s reintroduced with her earlier meal. Half-digested asparagus, nuts, and red mush that might be strawberries.
Another life ruined at her hands. Or, at least, with her assent. Her participation. She looks down at the vomit-filled bowl and wonders if she sees her own reflection in the filth before flushing it away.
GM: Her phone rings from her purse as she does.
Caroline: She lets it ring for a moment and composes herself before digging it out.
GM: The caller ID is Neil.
“Hi, Caroline. I saw you called earlier?” her ex asks, with some concern. After all, it was in the middle of the night.
Caroline: Her voices catches in her throat for a moment, caught on the bile, before she finds it to respond.
“Yeah, sorry, Neil, it… I got asked to help a family friend out with something. They wanted an update on a friend that they’d heard was hurt tonight.” Her voice echoes slightly but discomfitingly in the tiled bathroom.
GM: “I’m so sorry to hear that,” sounds Neil’s voice from the phone. “I might still be able to help you out there. Who’s the friend?”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, can I call you back in a few minutes, Neil?” she asks.
GM: “Sure, Caroline.” There’s what sounds like a frown from her ex. “You take care of yourself too, all right?”
Caroline: “Yeah,” she replies.
Then after a moment, “I’ll talk to you soon.”
GM: Caroline ends the call. She is left with naught but her thoughts in the lonely bathroom.
Caroline: The heiress takes a few moments with those thoughts before squaring her shoulders and standing up straight. She makes her way to the scratched mirror above the sink and examines herself. She makes sure she didn’t get vomit anywhere, then makes certain her hair isn’t mussed and hits the push-button on to the sink—apparently it’s not trusted with a handle that might be carelessly left on.
She catches enough water with one hand to swish around her in mouth, then spits out the last of the bile before digging a mint out of her bag. Whatever she might feel, whatever she might want to do, she’s a Malveaux. That means something here, to others and to herself.
This isn’t the first time she’s lived with the fact that it sometimes means she hates the things she has to do.
Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM
GM: After Caroline leaves from the restroom, she finds that most of the group has re-convened in the booking room.
“Now so far as these arrests…” Abélia begins. She strokes Simmone’s hair, who’s still tightly hugging her side.
“Expunged from their records, Abélia. No colleges or employers will know,” Drouillard assures.
“All records,” Delron Mouton smiles. “Robinson, tear out their page from the book.”
“There’s some other arrests on that page, sir. We can’t leave those unlogged,” another cop ventures.
“Then write those down separately,” the superintendent suggests with slightly strained pleasantness.
“But if I tear up the page I won’t be able t-”
The Eighth District’s fat commander walks up, tears out the page, takes the other cop’s pen, and writes down the names on a separate page. He then holds up both and tears up the longer page.
“I’m afraid we don’t give them booking duty for their brains, ma’am,” he says with a humoring smile.
Caroline: Caroline again watches the proceedings without comment, though she’s careful to make sure the pieces get picked up by members of the girls’ bloc and are not left behind if no one else is.
GM: Abélia smiles faintly and turns as she hears Caroline’s heels. “Caroline, I’m glad you could rejoin us. It may be a long shot, but would you happen to know anything about the off-duty policeman who was the first responder?”
Caroline: “Not yet,” the Malveaux scion replies.
GM: “The doctors say they expect him to make a full recovery,” replies Delron.
“So if Amelie is still unconscious in the hospital, ’ow does arresting ’er work? Can you still do that?” Yvette asks the police commander with a savage grin.
“No law that says we can’t, little lady,” the balding cop replies with a grin of his own. It’s as wide as his bloated belly. “We usually don’t arrest unconscious people ‘cause it makes us responsible for their care. If they die we get blamed. But tonight’s a special case.”
Caroline: “I’m sure the police will take care of her once she’s released,” Caroline adds. “You won’t see her again—what’s important is that you’ve been cleared, and soon this nightmare will be over for you and your sisters.”
GM: Gettis pulls out his gun and shoots Sarah, then Yvonne. Both girls hit the floor in bloody heaps.
Caroline: Caroline stares in mute horror for only a moment before jumping into action. She slides to her knees next to Yvonne, the closer of the two. Her hands reach out to tear away the fabric from around the gunshot wound.
GM: The gunshots’ explosive roars have barely subsided before Gettis drops his M1911 to the tile floor with a clatter, gets to his knees, and places his hands behind his head. Screams and shouts split the air. Some people draw firearms or lunge for Gettis. More freeze. Many run. The room erupts in panic.
Caroline: “I need a first aid kit, QuikClot if you have it.” Caroline puts her eyes on one of the attorneys even as she works. “You, call 911 for two ambulances. Someone else! Get over here!” she snaps.
Caroline’s focus remains on the girls and the too-red blood staining her hands, then her skirt, then her shirt. The rest of the events will see to themselves: Gettis will be seized. Her brain relates this to her without pausing to look up.
GM: Someone tosses Caroline a first aid kit. Yvette falls over her sister, screaming hysterically and getting in the way. There’s blood on her face. There’s blood everywhere. More people bend over. Caroline hears thumping footsteps.
“You just dug your own grave, Gettis! You’re finished on this force!” roars the superintendent’s still half-disbelieving voice.
Caroline: Some of the socialites will keep screaming. Most will freeze. It’s really of no matter next to the life flowing out of the two girls. It’s of as little importance. She tunes it out, breaks open the kit and digs for what she wants. As far as places to get shot go, a police station is far from the worst.
Given their occupation—to say nothing of several policies—the medical kits tend to be well stocked, particularly for dealing with gunshot wounds. QuikClot. That miracle lifesaving device on battlefields both urban and conventional.
“Yvonne, Yvonne, look at me,” she says from above the girl. “Focus on my voice, listen to me.” Semesters of anatomy and premedical come back to her. A summer and semester both spent in a hospital. She’s not a doctor. She’ll never be a doctor. She made that choice. But this feels right.
A night spent ruining lives. Maybe she can save some.
GM: The unconscious teenager is past the point of responding to anything. Caroline might not have even heard her scream (it’s all a blur) before going down. That’s good, when she was shot in the chest. She can’t have suffered neural damage or sufficient blood loss to induce unconsciousness: she’s just fainted from the fear and pain. The other upshot is that she does nothing to complicate Caroline’s ministrations—though the same cannot be said for her sisters. Yvette kneels on the floor, screaming a long and ceaseless wail as she shakes Yvonne’s limp body back and forth. When responders pull her away so that Caroline can work without obstruction, she’s still screaming, and even starts madly flailing, kicking, and biting. A cop shouts a curse as her teeth sink into his arm.
“You have the right to remain silent. Not that you need any help with that part,” sounds Manley’s voice over the unmistakable clicking of handcuffs. “Gotta admit, I was always hoping I’d be able t-”
Gettis grabs the man’s taser off his belt and rams it into his crotch. He goes down in a frothing, jerking, screaming heap as the stench of electrifying piss fills the air. There’s a cut-off gagging noise from the next cop as Gettis simultaneously drives a knuckled fist into his throat while yanking a flailing attorney forward by his necktie. “TAKE HIM!” roars the superintendent as another round of gunfire explodes the air, but not before Gettis swings the lawyer around as a human shield. Bullets riddle his chest as he screams and convulses and dies. The shooters shout too when Gettis hurls the bloody, still-twitching corpse into their faces, then raises his gun (where did he get a gun?) and shoots out the ceiling’s lights. The room plunges into darkness as shattered glass tinkles against the floor.
More gunfire roars. Masonry explodes apart. There’s the clink of spent, falling shells, the hot smell of gunpowder, and shrill screams abruptly cut off by sickening cracks and crunches. Someone bellows, “STOP!-” Caroline feels wetness against her face. She can barely hear after all the close-quarters gunfire. She can’t tell whether the warbled, distant thuds are footsteps or bodies hitting the floor. Her nerves of steel keep her gaze riveted on her patient. It’s not important. None of it is.
“It’s a distraction, AFTER HIM!” bellows Carson’s voice.
Caroline: Caroline’s animal mind screams at her to look up, to focus on the terror around her, the nightmare that must be occurring in the room. But her logical mind wars with it. The room is full of police. The building is full of police.
GM: There’s more ear-rendingly loud gunshots, but fainter. Marginally. Glass shattering. Showers of sparks as distant lights die. All of it is so distant. Caroline can barely see as she furiously works over the life that’s literally in her hands.
Caroline: “I need light!” she screams. There’s so much blood.
GM: The pandemonium does not recede, but it is not overlong before flashlights stab through the darkness. There’s heavy, thumping footsteps. Sounds of chattering, raised voices, and useless debate. About whether to leave the girl—girls—here or drag them out.
Caroline: She could have been a doctor. A doctor would be able to save them. She should have been a doctor.
“Light! Just give me light and keep everyone else clear!” she snaps, furiously. “Flashlights, cellphones, I don’t care!”
GM: The Malveaux scion’s commanding voice pierces through the confused din like a foghorn. Scattered lights, it doesn’t matter what they’re from, fall upon the almost-doctor and her charge. There’s more lights, noises, and motion in her peripheral vision from the responders around Sarah.
Caroline: There’s nothing good about a gunshot wound, especially not one that leaves a big .45 caliber hole in a teenager’s chest. No silver lining. Whatever the first aid efforts of a first responder, the person shot will almost certain die without long-term treatment.
That doesn’t mean Caroline is helpless, however. She turns Yvonne onto her side and pours QuikClot into the exit side of the wound before covering it with a large adhesive bandage. Her anatomy lessons tell her that the shot has almost certainly punctured Yvonne’s lung: a deadly wound, but not an immediate one as long as she can keep her breathing.
Another adhesive bandage goes on Yvonne’s chest, bared in a cruel imitation of the girl’s earlier strip search. This one has a slip that allows air to exit when she exhales and helps prevent the lung from collapsing. It’s too dark for her to waste time feeling around in the bag for sealed cloth. She uses her sleeves to wipe away the blood from Yvonne’s chest to get a better seal on that bandage, staining her arms past the elbow with the girl’s blood.
She waits a pair of breaths to make sure the blonde is stable before wrenching herself to her feet, tearing the sides of her bloodstained skirt as she does so. “Don’t touch her unless she stops breathing,” she directs one of the people holding a light over Yvonne. She snatches up the first aid kit and moves over to Sarah, her teeth clenched.
It’s bad. The other responders have tried their best, but those few seconds of difference count. The bullet also took her at an angle and it’s not a clean through and through like with Yvonne. It’s a good sign for external bleeding, but a terrible one for internal. It also means it’s likely it hit—and fractured—ribs, doing potential follow-on damage.
Part of her immediately regrets treating Yvonne first when she sees the damage, but only a small one. She remembers an EMT’s lecture about responding to shootings: If both have life-threatening wounds you work one and then the other. There’s no time to evaluate both and waste time making a decision.
And treating. What a joke, part of her whispers in her ear: You’re no doctor it says cruelly, second-guessing every decision she makes.
GM: It’s hard to say whether Caroline’s doubts or the poor conditions plague her worse. There’s blood. So much blood, even accounting for the bullet’s angle. Sarah doesn’t move or respond, and unlike Yvonne she doesn’t have to have fainted to be unconscious now. The teenager is bad. Worse than bad. Worse than terrible. She can only imagine what it will be like for Lyman, to lose the granddaughter everyone says is so like his already lost daughter.
But, as Caroline seals the next bandage and wrenches the dying girl back from the jaws of death, the almost-doctor is confident that she will only have to imagine what that might be like.
The next minutes are an almost equally loud and confusing blur as EMTs haul the two girls onto stretchers and speed them away towards Tulane Medical Center. Headlights madly flash through the pouring rain as sirens wail.
Caroline: Caroline is left on the floor, covered in blood up to her elbows, her blouse soaked through and her once-white skirt splattered with blood and further stained by the dirty floor. The exhaustion hits her like a tidal wave.
GM: The police station is in shambles. Cops are swarming everywhere. Caroline barely understands what they’re even doing. Someone pulls her out of the area as officers plaster a crime scene barrier within their own booking room—and stoop to photograph, examine, and do all the normal cop things over the body that was not so lucky as to receive the heiress’ attentions.
Caroline: She glances numbly at the body.
She’s utterly spent. The late night and midnight phone call all combine with the adrenaline rush and tremendous focus to save the girls from their brush with death—to say nothing of the shooting’s sheer shock. She allows herself to be led away and sinks into a chair. And yet…
Where another might hang their head, where they might slouch, where they might weep, she sits up straight, her head leaning back instead of down, throat bared.
GM: It’s the lawyer seized by Gettis in a shredded and bloody dark suit. Caroline is not able to make out the face, though, before she’s pulled away from the scene. There are cops, who want to talk with her. There are people crying, swearing, pacing, everything, in the background. Wanting to help. Wanting to feel busy. Wanting to feel something other than helpless. Blood seems like it’s everywhere.
Caroline: Everywhere, but nowhere so much as all over her.
GM: It’s her uncle (technically, cousin) Carson, though, who cuts through the fog of confusion in his stern judge’s voice and half-leads, half-carries Caroline outside towards his car with a blanket. He holds an umbrella over her head against the still furiously falling rain and tells her that he’s taking her back to her Uncle Matt’s place. He says something about not spending the night alone.
Caroline: She nods numbly and allows herself to be led by her cousin, even carefully tucks the blanket under her to avoid staining his car with her own bloodstained form. It’s not until they’re driving that she finds her voice.
“Why? Why would he do that?” she asks in disbelief.
GM: “We’ll find out once he’s brought in,” Carson answers. He stares ahead into the night as the windshield wipers swish back and forth. It’s an easy sound to fall asleep to, in the dark, with the rain, on the plush leather seat.
The ’Nam veteran then adds, “Your parents will be proud.”
Caroline: They’re short words, stupid words. Do they really mean anything? Despite herself, they do to Caroline as they breathe warmth into her cold form.
“I don’t know. If she’ll make it.”
GM: “You do what you can, when you can. You did more than most.”
Caroline: “I could have done more.”
GM: Carson’s eyes don’t drift from the road. “No, you couldn’t have.”
Caroline: “I should have treated Sarah first, the through and through was the less dangerous of the two…” She tries to explain.
GM: “That’s what you always do,” Carson replies, staring ahead into the bright traffic and pouring rain. “Try to find a way you could have done it differently. Think of ways you could have saved more lives.”
“No one second-guesses themselves as much as an infantry commander after the fact, though I suppose medics come close. You see bodies torn by the horrors of war. You feel the blood on them. Or on the ground, as you tread over the field. Not statistics, X percentage killed, Y percentage wounded. Real people, shellshocked they survived when their friends didn’t. You can’t help but feel you’ve failed too. By surviving, when they didn’t.”
Caroline: Caroline tries to imagine Yvonne and Sarah’s bodies dying under her hands, their blood pumping out onto her arms, her so-inadequate attempts to mend their fragile bodies back together… on a scale of hundreds. Thousands. An entire field of the dead.
“I’m going to be sick,” she squeezes out.
GM: Carson stops talking, then stops the car.
Caroline: She opens the door and heaves what little is left in her stomach onto the street. It’s not very much.
GM: Carson gets the door for her, waits, then closes it. Then drives.
Caroline: “How do you… how do you come back from something like that?” she asks when she’s finished. There’s equal parts sympathy, desire for understanding, horror, and awe in her voice as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, inadvertently smearing more blood across her face.
GM: “Caroline, who shot those girls and that lawyer?” Carson asks.
Caroline: “Detective Gettis,” Caroline replies, bitterness in her voice.
GM: “Former Detective Gettis,” the judge sternly repeats. “Not Caroline Malveaux.”
“What will Abélia and Lyman think when they hear you saved their girls’ lives?”
Caroline: Caroline knows the answer, even if she doesn’t feel worth it. “Gratitude.”
GM: “You think you know better than they do how they should feel about their daughters?” Carson asks, seemingly in response to her unspoken thought.
Caroline: “No,” she replies quickly.
GM: “Gettis shot them. You saved them. Repeat that whenever you feel guilty.”
Caroline: She nods. “Okay.” She lets out a deep breath.
GM: The windshield wipers swish back and forth. Rain batters ceaselessly against the car’s glass, but increasingly dimly. It’s warm inside. It’s dark, too, but not a bad kind of dark. Caroline feels so light. She feels like she could simply drift away into nothingness.
It is not overlong before she receives that mercy.