Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1, p.7P.D. Workman
RENATA WAS ASLEEP, SO Gabriel shuffled to the common room. He made it to the table where Skyler was working on a puzzle and fell into the other chair. Skyler didn’t look at him. Gabriel looked down at the puzzle pieces and what Skyler had put together so far. They sat in silence for a while, just looking at the pieces. Gabriel reached for a piece with an orangey-red knob on it to try out.
“Don’t touch,” Skyler barked.
Gabriel froze, and looked over at him. “I’m just going to help. That piece there—”
“I’m doing this puzzle by myself. Don’t help me.”
“Oh…” Gabriel let his breath out. He really wanted to try the piece to see if it fit. But it was Skyler’s puzzle and he had the right to say that he didn’t want any help with it.
“Just that one?” he suggested. “Then I’ll leave you alone. I didn’t know that you didn’t want any help.”
Skyler picked up an all-black piece and fit it into place. Gabriel looked at the other all-black pieces, impressed that Skyler had been able to figure it out without trying more than one piece.
“I have good visual-spacial skills,” the boy commented, without looking at Gabriel. “It makes me good at puzzles.”
“Oh. Yeah. Good for you.”
“You said that you like math and science. Renata likes English. I’m good at puzzles.”
“I guess there’s not much opportunity to do that at school.”
“I have puzzles at home. I think about them while I’m at school, then put them together when I get home.”
Gabriel tried to imagine that. “You put them together in your mind first? You have a photographic memory or something?”
“Yeah. Good visual spatial memory. I’m good at puzzles.”
He watched Skyler in silence for a few minutes. It was more interesting than the TV, which was happily turned down too quiet to hear.
“So they’re putting you into foster care,” Skyler commented, still looking down at the puzzle.
“Well… I guess. When they decide they’re finished with me here. I don’t know how long that will be.”
“What?” Gabriel demanded.
“They’re discharging you and taking you to your foster family on Friday.”
“How would you know that?”
“It’s written in the planner.”
“At the nursing station. They keep a calendar, so all the nurses and doctors know what’s happening.”
“And you saw it?”
Skyler nodded. He fit another black piece into place, beside the last one.
“And it said I’m going to be discharged on Friday?”
“Yeah. Your social worker is Carol Scott. She’s coming to pick you up. And your foster family’s name is Foegel.” He fit two more pieces into the puzzle in quick succession. “Do you think that’s a variant of Vogel, the German word for bird?”
“How would I know that? I’ve never met them before.”
“You should ask when you meet them. Maybe they have a family story about it.”
“Maybe,” Gabriel agreed faintly. He wished that Renata was awake. He really needed to talk to her now. He was going to be leaving on Friday. He’d thought that she would leave before he did. He didn’t think that they were done with him yet. He was starting to feel better as they added more of his meds back in, but he still wasn’t quite up to par. He wanted to talk to Renata about going back into foster care.
“Are you scared?” Skyler asked.
Skyler looked up at Gabriel for the first time. He was so young. Gabriel had forgotten how baby-faced Skyler was. He couldn’t be more than ten, but he spoke like he was a grown-up. More mature than a lot of grown-ups sounded.
“You look scared,” Skyler observed.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” Gabriel said with bravado. “It’s just another family. They’ve been vetted by the state and everything. They’ll be good.”
“Renata said that children are five times more likely to die in foster homes than in their own families. I looked it up. It’s true.”
“And they’re three times more likely to be physically abused. What are you going to do if you’re abused?”
“Aren’t you in foster care?” Gabriel challenged, a band tightening around his chest, making his pounding heart feel squeezed.
“When I get out of here. Not yet.”
“Aren’t you scared?”
Skyler touched one puzzle piece, frowning. Then another. He rotated a third around one hundred and eighty degrees.
“Sky?” Gabriel prompted.
Skyler pushed himself violently back from the table and stood up. “This stupid puzzle is missing pieces!” he shouted. He reached out to swipe it off of the table, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. He tried a second time, then threw his chair down on the floor with a crash. “It can’t be finished!”
Gabriel put his hands up defensively, in case Skyler started throwing things at him.
“Time to take a break, Scarlett,” Nurse Kelly said, walking over to them. “What else would you like to do?”
Gabriel looked at the boy. “Scarlett?”
“My name is Skyler,” he insisted, and he his shook his finger at Nurse Kelly. “You know it’s Skyler!”
“All right, Skyler. Time for a break, either way. So what do you want to do? Shall we see what’s on TV? Play some cards? Maybe Gabriel would play a card game with you.” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Why don’t the two of you do something together?”
“They’re all missing cards,” Skyler complained. “You can’t play solitaire if you’re missing cards.”
“No, and that’s not a two-person game. But you could play War.”
Skyler looked at Gabriel. “You don’t want to play, do you?”
“Um, sure. Why not?”
They both looked at Nurse Kelly. Smiling, she nodded and moved away from them.
“Do you really want to?” Skyler asked when she was out of earshot.
Skyler looked torn. He looked at the offending puzzle. “I guess. Nothing else to do.”
They moved over to the next table with a boxed deck of cards and sat down. Gabriel lowered himself carefully into the plastic chair and looked around.
“So…” he got the deck out of the box and cut it, then started shuffling it. There were a couple of cards from another deck, with differently colored backs, and he pulled them out and set them to the side. “Do you know anything about the foster family that you’re going to?”
“Have you ever been in foster care before?”
“No.” Skyler’s brows drew down in a scowl. “And yes, I’m scared about it.”
Gabriel started to deal the cards between them.
“I called my mom,” Skyler offered.
“You called her?” Gabriel leaned closer to the younger boy. “When? They let you call her?”
“Hung around at the nurse’s station until they were all busy with other things. Then I used their phone. I only got a few minutes,” his voice was flat. “But at least I got to talk to her. When I get to a foster home, I’m going to call her all the time.”
Gabriel hadn’t thought about doing that. He straightened his pile of cards and picked them up. “What did she say? What did the nurses do when they caught you?”
“She said she missed me. And that they were trying to get me back.” Skyler and Gabriel each played a card, and Gabriel’s ten beat Skyler’s seven. Gabriel scooped both up and put them on the bottom of his pile. “I told her not to forget to feed the cat.”
They played another card and this time Skyler won.
“They put me in the quiet room.”
“What’s the quiet room?” Gabriel asked him.
“It’s just a room. An empty room.”
“It was boring.”
“How long did they put you in there?”
“Four hours and twenty-three minutes.”
They continued to play war.
“That’s a long time just to sit in a room by yourself.”
“It was boring,” Skyler repeated.
Later on, Gabriel hung around the nursing station himself, watching for the nurses to be distracted by other jobs. But it seemed like one of them was always at the computer by the phone. He couldn’t stand there all day. He couldn’t stand for a long time. His legs started shaking after a couple of minutes.
“Do you need help getting back to your room?” Nurse Lee asked Gabriel with a smile.
Gabriel shifted his feet, holding onto the handrail. “My OT said I need to stand longer,” he said.
“Okay. Good for you. Let me know if you need any help.”
Gabriel smiled and nodded. Ten minutes ticked past. Gabriel staggered over to a wheelchair and sat down. He rested, and sat there watching the nurses. Sitting down seemed to make him invisible to the nurses. They bustled here and there, in and out of hospital rooms, answering phone calls and calling back and forth to each other.
Gabriel almost missed his opportunity; he got so interested in watching what was going on. Then he realized that the desk was empty. He hurried as fast as his uncooperative body would let him.
He hung over the desk, looking at the complex phone. He wondered if he had to press a button before dialing, or whether he could just dial straight out. Gabriel picked up the receiver, and the line one button lit up. He quickly tapped in Keisha’s cell phone number. After a series of clicks, he heard the ring tone.
He wondered where she was. At home? At the grocery store? Meeting with a lawyer about what to do to get Gabriel back? Was her ringer turned on, or was it on vibrate? She always missed it when it was on vibrate.
“Mom?” Gabriel’s voice broke, shifting upward in pitch.
“Gabriel? Gabriel, sweetie, are you okay? Where are you?”
“I’m still at the hospital, but they’re moving me soon—”
Suddenly she was gone. Gabriel looked down at the phone in confusion and saw the finger that had just pressed the line button, cutting off the call.
“No! Why did you do that?” Gabriel shouted. He had heard his mother’s voice. He had been in a conversation with her. He was like a hostage, being allowed to speak just long enough to provide proof of life, and then being cut off, dragged back away from the phone and tied up again. Gabriel hit the desktop with his fist. “No! That was my mom! I have to talk to her!”
The nurse pulled him away from the desk and took the receiver out of his hand. She hung it up. Tears were leaking from Gabriel’s eyes. He wasn’t crying, but his throat was tight and hot, and the tears escaped his burning eyes.
“It’s not fair! Why can’t I even talk to her? What’s wrong with that?”
“You need to go back to your room now. You behave, and I won’t report this.”
“I want my mom!”
Nurse Lee’s eyes were sad, but her mouth was set. “You’re a big boy, Gabriel. You’re almost a man. You need to be strong. Now come on. Back to your room.”
She held his elbow firmly and stepped toward his hospital room. Gabriel’s knees buckled, and he didn’t even try to stop himself from falling.
“Gabriel!” Lee’s voice was worried and angry at the same time. She tried to catch him, but he was too big for the short Asian woman.
Lying on the floor, Gabriel curled up, holding his arms over his face. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t going to cry in front of all the nurses. His face was wet, and he tried to rub the moisture away with his hands to keep them from seeing.
He was only vaguely aware of his undignified position, rolled up like that on the floor with his gown gaping open. Nurse Lee was calling for help, and it wasn’t long before there was a knot of nurses around Gabriel, telling him to get up and pulling and prodding him. Gabriel groaned, wishing them all away.
“No, no. Just leave me alone!”
“Move out of the way,” a gruff voice ordered.
The group of nurses quieted and moved back from Gabriel. Large hands closed around both of his arms, and he was hauled unceremoniously to his feet. Gabriel refused to take his weight, but the man simply dragged him back to his room and slung him onto the bed.
“What do you want done with him?” It was the orderly who had broken Renata’s ribs. Andre, Gabriel had heard some of the other patients call him. As in ‘Andre the Giant.’ Gabriel didn’t know his real name.
There was a sigh from Nurse Lee, who had followed them into the room. “I think you may as well just leave him there. Are you going to stay put, Gabriel? Or are you going to cause more trouble?”
“I just wanted to talk to my mom,” Gabriel whined.
“Grow up, Mr. Tate. It’s time to stop being a baby and behave like a mature young man. Grow up. Understand?”
Gabriel nodded, wiping his tear-streaked face. “Okay.”
“You can stay in your bed, or you can sit in the quiet room, where there is no bed, and no chair, and no blankets. What’s your choice?”
“I’ll stay here.”
“Tell me you promise to stay here.”
“I promise,” Gabriel snuffled.
Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1 by P.D. Workman / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes