Author: Teris24 PM
A farmer finds a woman left for dead and the dirt gets everywhere.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery - Words: 6,973 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 3 - Published: 01-29-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2775789
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own any Noir characters.
Note: First Noir fic. I'm not sure what to think of it. I should have edited it a little more, but it already took me over two weeks to complete.
Edik Petrov uttered a curse as he struggled with his line and fishing hook. As of late he had noticed that simple knot-tying was becoming more and more of a chore for his hand-eye coordination.
At last he created a secure knot. From the tin beside him he then brought out a worm that he skewered twice onto the hook. The worm thrashed as it became covered with the contents of its own gut.
"I know," Edik muttered to the writhing creature, "It's an awful job, but somebody has to do it." He tossed the line into the current and watched as it was carried Westward.
After a few minutes he transferred the fishing pole between his legs and reached for his thermos of coffee. Early mornings like these were one of the reasons that he had never regretted his decision to leave his factory job in the city to join his brother in farming. Even though farm projects were all-year endeavors that were infrequently jeopardized by forces outside of human control, the risk was well worth the sense of significance, as it usually was with the dirtier occupations.
When he finished his coffee, he set the thermos back down and waited for the caffeine to take effect.
"Come on, fish," he mumbled, running a hand through his previously red hair. In his experience, the fish that hung around this area of the river didn't bite too well if the weather was too hot or too cold. Last night's snow fall had cued him to come an hour later in the morning, but still at 6:30AM the sun provided little warmth.
Twenty minutes later his watch beeped and started him awake. Blinking, he silenced the alarm and yawned.
"Dammit," he grumbled. Irina must have given him decaf by mistake. He took up his pole and reeled the line back in, hardly surprised when the end came up with nothing more than an empty hook. "Little thieves."
Putting his ivy cap back on, he got to his feet and gathered his pole and tackle box together. Breakfast would be ready by that time and he didn't want to be the last one to show up. He turned from the dock and made his way up to the trail that would take him back to the main road.
The trail from the dock ran alongside the river for about sixty yards. While walking along this stretch, Edik always scanned the riverbanks in the hopes of spotting some form of wildlife that wasn't a bird or squirrel. It had become something of a game to him ever since two years ago when he had seen a bear wading in the middle of the river with a fish in its mouth.
There had been no bears since, and sometimes Edik wondered if there had ever been a bear in the first place. To see one at this point would have been akin to spotting a sasquatch, so it was much to his surprise when he spotted a faint coloring of brown set in between two boulders at the riverbank.
He paused and squinted at the spot, at first not sure if his eyes were playing tricks on him again. The brown object had a definite sense of motion to it, but he couldn't tell if it was a motion that signified life.
He walked backwards a little ways and then forward again, attempting to gain a better view. The object looked too small to be a bear, and the brown coloring didn't look like fur. Curious, he set down his fishing gear and retrieved his glasses from the front pocket of his jacket. He slipped the glasses on, but was still unable to discern the object's nature.
"Probably garbage again," he muttered as he made his way down the slope.
As he came closer to the bank, he saw that the brown color wasn't really all that brown. Instead it was more beige, and there was some black set against it. The object itself was laying at a spot in the water where the current didn't reach.
Within a few yards of the bank, Edik stopped behind a tree. Peering around the trunk, his expression changed when he registered that the beige and black colors were topped with a head of blonde hair.
"Hey!" he called, coming out from behind the tree. When he received no response, he slid down the rest of the way and crouched at the water's edge.
Up close he could see that the object he had been eyeing was actually a woman wearing a beige sweater and black pants. The woman had ended up on her stomach in just a few feet of water with one arm tucked beneath her. Her other arm was laid across a smaller rock and was the only thing keeping her head above water. She had probably pulled herself that far, but now her fingers were limp and the water surrounding her was completely red.
Edik waded into the water and stood over the woman, looking back and forth to see if there was anyone else who might have been responsible for or known something about the woman's condition. There was no one, and after a moment he leaned down and shook the woman gently.
"Miss?" he tried again, unsure whether she was even alive or not. The woman failed again to respond, and at last he gathered his wits and crouched to disengage her from her position. He turned her face up into the hold of his arms and examined her face, brushing her hair to the side. "Can you hear me?"
The woman's lips had turned blue, either because of the cold or because of a lack of oxygen. There were two holes in the chest and stomach portions of her sweater, the front of which was completely soaked in red. The outer side of her left pant leg was ripped, and beneath the material there was an equally large gash running the length of her thigh. The skin around her wrists was raw and bruised, and another deep bruise had formed along the side of her face. Her neck was discolored and at the side of it were several lacerations that looked curiously like teeth marks. Age wise she couldn't have been past her early twenties.
Edik couldn't see any signs of breathing or pick up on a pulse, but the fact that the woman was bleeding was proof that she was still alive. He secured a grip under her arms and hauled her up to the shore. There he laid her down and yanked off his coat to wrap around her.
As he tucked the coat beneath her, his fingers contacted a hard object half stuck in the back of her pants under her sweater. Cautiously he reached under and tugged the object out, expecting a piece of debris but instead coming back with a handgun.
His heart jumped and he tossed the weapon away as though it were a poisonous creature. Pausing, he then frowned at the woman. "Playing rough, huh?."
Within a few minutes he was trudging back up the slope with the woman bundled in his arms. If the woman did end up dying, he doubted that the bullets and blood loss would not have been the ultimate cause.
"He's not usually this late," she said, gazing out the window.
Trek snorted as he cut into his sausage. "Probably fell asleep again. Are you still switching his coffee?"
Irina turned, frowning. "They say that caffeine isn't good for your heart."
"Whoever told you that must've also been the ones who told you that anthrax is regularly cycled in the mail system. The neighbors must think we're crazy to see our mail hung on a clothes line."
"Well what's wrong with being careful?"
"Nothing's wrong with it," Trek replied, setting his utensils down to wipe his mouth with his napkin, "but sometimes you just have to live, you know?"
Irina returned to her seat across from her brother-in-law. From the basket between them she picked out a bread roll and used the edge of her fork to cut it in half. "I'll remember that the next time you fall off the roof."
Trek paused and stared at the woman, unable to judge whether she was being facetious or not. He knew that Irina was not unintelligent, but he also knew that she loved to teach people lessons.
"Yeah, I can see it now," he said as he picked his fork back up, "I would be there on the ground with my arm broke in two places and you would stand over me and say 'Are you living yet?'…Silly woman."
Irina only grinned as she completed her bread roll with a smear of strawberry jelly. She still remembered the days when such teasing would have been severely frowned upon by her husband, but all of the drama and heartache between herself and the two brothers were very much in the past.
Suddenly the kitchen door slammed open and Edik staggered his way inside.
Trek glanced over his shoulder and nearly choked when he saw the body in his brother's arms.
"God in Heaven!" he shouted and stumbled up from his seat, "I thought you went fishing!"
"What happened?" Irina exclaimed, pushing her chair back to approach her husband, "Who is that?" She closed the door behind him and tugged the collar of his coat aside to get a look at the woman's face.
"I found her in the river. She's been shot," Edik panted, "Trek, here. My arms are about to fall off!"
Trek stepped up to the shorter man and bent his knees, slipping his arms under the woman to accept her weight.
After transferring the woman, Edik then stepped back and brushed his hands to the front of his shirt.
"Call Dr. Stelletsky," Irina said to her husband as she rushed out to the foyer. "Trek, bring her to the guest room." She took the stairs up two at a time and stopped at the first door on the right. "Julya, come out here!" She knocked on the door and then moved down and knocked on the second one. "You too, Rurik! We need your help!"
Trek followed the way upstairs and took the hallway down to the last door on the left.
The guest room was more of a study that happened to have a bed in it. The far and left walls were taken up with bookshelves, and to the right of the door was a cluttered desk with an out dated computer set atop it. The bed was against the wall on the right side, set directly beside a narrow sliding glass door that led to a balcony.
Trek crossed to the bed and set the woman down upon it. Peeling away Edik's coat, he cringed when he saw the bloody mess beneath.
"She's not going to live," he muttered with a shake of his head.
Irina pushed him aside. "That's not for you to decide. Go get my kit."
Trek left the room, brushing by a younger girl and boy who now stood in the doorway. The girl looked to be about twenty-two and the boy was in his late teens. Both of them had the look of their mother, dark brown hair and dark eyes, but the girl's face was more round while the boy had been given his father's sharp jaw and pronounced brow ridge.
Irina spotted the two and motioned to the girl. "Come help me, Julya. Rurik, go get one of the basins from the garage and fill it with hot water. Get your father to help bring it here."
Julya clenched the front of her dress as she stepped into the room. The sight of the bloodied woman on the bed caused the color to drain from her face, and for a moment she wondered if she was going to be sick.
"Close the door and grab me a pair of scissors," Irina said as she pushed up the bottom of woman's sweater, unaware of her daughter's discomfort.
The girl swallowed and cleared her head with a vigorous shake. She then crossed to the desk and rummaged through the drawers, finding a pair of scissors beneath a stack of old letters.
"Here," she half-whispered and offered the tool to her mother.
Irina took the scissors and cut straight up the center of the already ruined sweater. She then cut open both sleeves to make the article easier to remove. Beneath the sweater was a green shirt that received the same treatment.
"Help me with this," she said, beginning to pull the sweater and shirt away from the body.
Up until that moment, Julya had kept her gaze fixed on the woman's face. At her mother's bidding she snapped from her trance and helped peel the clothing away, lifting the woman just enough for the material to be removed from under her.
"She's so young," she whispered.
Irina cast a brief glance at her daughter as she balled up the discarded clothes. "Yes." She tossed the clothes into a garbage can by the bed and then reached for the top of the woman's pants.
Julya started and reached for her mother's wrist. "Do we have to do that?"
Irina tugged from the grip and slipped the bottom blade of the scissors down into the pants. "Didn't you see her leg? I can't tend her with all this in the way so if you really can't stand the sight then just wait outside and I'll get your brother to help instead."
Julya retracted her hand and fell silent, feeling a bit foolish to have thought of the stranger as being nude before thinking of her as injured. Prying her gaze from the bed, she dared to look at the woman's chest and observe the two bullet holes, one at the base of her ribs and the other in the right side of her chest just below her collar bone.
Irina cut open both sides of the pants and then set down her scissors. "Take that side."
Julya circled around to the opposite side of the bed and carefully stripped the material from the uninjured leg.
At that moment there came a knock at the door. Irina straightened and wiped her hands against her apron. "Cover her a minute." She dragged the chair from the desk behind her and sat it beside the bed before crossing to the door and opening it.
Rurik and Edik stood outside, each of them holding a side of a large metal basin filled with steaming water.
"Set it there," Irina said, pointing to the chair as she stepped past them to the hallway.
Rurik backed into the room, looking over his shoulder to get a first good look at the woman they were dealing with. He tripped over the corner of the bed and caused a bit of water to spill onto the floor.
"Watch it!" Edik scolded the boy, taking a tighter grip on his end.
Rurik moved around to the chair and lowered the tub onto it. He then returned his attention to the woman who had been concealed by Julya from the neck down. "Does anyone know who she is?"
Julya shook her head. "I don't think so. Would she be from around here?"
"Definitely not," Edik said gruffly.
Irina returned with an armful of hand rags and towels, followed closely by Trek who carried a tackle box that served its purpose as a first aid kit.
"Did you get the doctor?" Trek asked of his brother.
"He said that he's on his way."
"Good." He set the tackle box down on the end of the bed.
Julya looked between her parents. "Why didn't we just take her right to the doctor?"
"In her condition?" Irina balked, "It would have taken us an hour alone just to get to the clinic, and your uncle's truck on that bumpy road would've been the quick death of her."
Rurik peeled back a corner of the blanket. "You sure she's still alive now?" His curiosity was rewarded with a slap on the hand by his sister. Dropping the blanket, he took a step back.
"She won't be for long if you keep taking up my work space," Irina retorted, placing one hand to the shoulders of her son and husband, "Go wait in the hallway. I'll call if I need anything."
Once the three men had been ushered from the room, Julya pulled the blanket back down to reveal the full extent of the patient to be worked with.
Irina came to the bedside and took up one of the washcloths from the pile she had brought in. "Take one of these and let's get her cleaned up for the doctor."
Julya nodded and followed her mother's actions, choosing a cloth to soak in the basin. She wrung the cloth out and started with the woman's face, gently wiping away the grime.
Irina began with the woman's leg, clearing away as much of the blood as she could. The lack of dirt around the wound suggested that Edik's story was true of having found the woman in the river. While running water was good for cleaning wounds, it was not good when there was significant blood loss involved. She wondered just how long the woman had been laying in the river. If she had been there overnight then surely she would have frozen by morning.
Cloth after the cloth, the water in the basin soon became too dirty to work with and another basin had to be called for. Edik and Trek hauled one up and removed the first one to dump outside.
Once the excess blood had been cleaned away, Irina did what she could to bandage the woman's injuries. She didn't have quite as much gauze as she needed, but what she had would last until the doctor arrived. While securing the last few inches of the roll around the damaged leg, Julya's hand on her shoulder broke her concentration.
"Look there," the girl murmured.
Irina looked at her daughter and then followed her gaze to the woman's face.
The woman had cracked her eyes open and was looking at nothing in particular. By her dazed expression, it was probable that she didn't acknowledge her injuries or even the fact that she was laying down. Her lips parted and she turned her head towards the pillow.
Irina lifted her hand to the woman's cheek and gently turned her face forward again.
"Hey there. Can you hear me?" she asked.
"I don't think she's really awake," Julya said, reaching for a new rag.
The woman began to mumble something and Irina leaned in closer to hear. A few moments later she straightened back up with a frown.
Julya stopped what she doing and looked between the two women. "What is it? What'd she say?"
Irina grabbed a roll of surgical tape from the medical kit. "It sounded like French." She pulled off an inch of the tape and used it to tighten the bandage on the woman's leg.
"She's from France?"
"Maybe. In her condition she probably wouldn't think of speaking in a second language."
The woman's eyes eventually slipped shut again and Irina lightly tapped her cheek. "Hey, try to stay awake! The doctor will be here soon!"
"Do you think she can understand us?"
Irina paused. "I don't know. Let's finish up." She took up the last cloth she had been using and dipped it into the basin.
At the end of their labors, they had at least managed to staunch the flow of blood from the injuries. It would buy the woman a little more time, but Irina had neither the skills nor the tools to remove the bullets from her chest or sew up her leg.
Julya stood opposite the bed from her mother, smoothing her hand down over the blanket as she studied the stranger.
"She's actually kind of pretty," she said.
"Yes," Irina responded as she closed up her kit.
The girl frowned. "You don't think she was…"
"I can't say," came the quick reply, "The doctor will examine her." The older woman turned from the bed and gathered up the bloodied cloths from the floor. "I'll be right back. Watch her a moment." With her arms full, she went to the door and tapped her foot against it. It was opened by Trek who stood just on the other side.
"How's she doing?" the man inquired as he shut the door the again.
Julya, biting her bottom lip, watched the door until the voices from beyond it faded. Then, stepping around to her mother's place by the basin, she directed her attention to the patient.
The stranger was breathing deeper than she had been just a few minutes ago. Her lips had parted, and with every breath there came a faint gurgling sound from the center of her chest. After a few minutes it looked as though she had developed an offset grin, though whether it was real or a trick on the eyes, Julya couldn't determine.
Hesitating, Julya hovered a hand over the woman's forehead. "Are you all right?" she whispered.
The woman peered her eyes open. Unlike her last bout of consciousness, she made an effort to locate Julya's face. As soon as she seemed to satisfy herself that she had made something close to eye contact, she formed a definite grin.
"You're…dreaming again?" she whispered. Her accent on the native language was heavy, but her use of it implied that she at least had an idea of where she was.
Alarmed, Julya shook her head and reached for the woman's hand. "No, no. You're still alive and this is real. I'm real, see?" Though she merged their fingers together and clenched, she received no such response from the fading party.
The woman's smile weakened a moment before she turned her face away and shut her eyes. "I miss you."
Julya blinked and slowly slipped her hand away. From outside there came the sound of a car pulling up the front drive. Someone downstairs shouted and the sound was immediately followed by several sets of footsteps. A car door opened and closed, and masculine voices conversed loudly.
Julya gazed out the window, noticing for the first time that the sky was overcast.
"The doctor's here," she whispered.
Up the stairs there came a procession of tromping footsteps, over which Trek's voice could be heard leading the way.
"She's down here," he said.
"We cleaned her up, but we couldn't get the bullets out," Irina added from somewhere behind.
"That's fine. Just let me have a look at her."
The door opened and Trek was the first inside, followed by Dr. Stelletsky and then Irina and Edik.
Dr. Stelletsky was only a few years older than Trek. For many years he had served in the army as a medic, his endeavors as which were enough explanation for his fake right leg and the scar around his neck. He could never speak in anything above a loud whisper, and if it weren't for his well-dressed appearance and stoic manner, he probably would have been mistaken for a common vagrant suffering from PTSS.
Julya backed away from the bed to give the adults room, her gaze never breaking away from the patient.
The doctor approached the bed and set his tool kit upon the edge of it.
Trek motioned for Irina to assist in lifting up the used basin of water, and together they carried it out.
Julya continued to look at the blonde woman and it was several moments before she realized that the doctor was in turn looking at her.
"Sorry," she murmured and made for the door.
"Wait there," the doctor said and pointed at the other side of the bed. "My nurse couldn't make it." He opened up his kit and began removing the instruments that he would first need to remove the bullets.
Julya grinned nervously as she grabbed the door knob. "Let me get my mother to help you."
The doctor simply motioned for her approach as though the notion of her refusal was so preposterous that he hadn't even considered taking her seriously. "It's all right."
The girl paused. The excessive amount of blood alone had almost been enough to make her sick. She didn't think that she would have been able to stomach the sight of a bullet removal or two, but nonetheless she let go of the door and returned to the far side of the bed. There she stood still and tightened her hands into the front of her skirt.
The doctor pulled back the blanket and examined the wounds. Then from his lay out of tools he chose the most appropriate one to start: a scalpel.
"Let's see what mess this girl's been into, hm?"
"We should file a police report," Irina said.
Trek, leaning one elbow on the table, raked his fingers into his hair. "We'll wait to see if she actually lives first."
Irina frowned. "How can you say that? She must have a family out there worried sick about her right now!"
"What happened to her is none of our business. If she lives or dies, either way we'll let the doctor decide."
"So if she dies, then what? We'll just let them carry off her body to the morgue where it will sit unclaimed because her family doesn't know where she is? We should tell the police now."
"Didn't she have any form of identification?" Edik asked.
Irina shook her head. "There was nothing in her pockets."
Just then, Dr. Stelletsky came down the stairs followed by Julya who now sported a bandage around the crook of her right elbow.
The three adults stood up to greet the professional, Irina being the first to approach him.
"How's she doing? Is she going to live?" she asked.
The doctor stopped on the second step from the bottom. "One bullet got caught between her ribs and the other just barely missed her stomach," he said. "The bruising on her wrists and neck isn't serious, but the wound on her leg is going to cause her some problems down the road. She's stable for now."
Irina, wringing her hands, stepped back as the doctor descended the rest of the way.
"What about…well…What I asked you about?" she asked hesitantly.
Dr. Stellestky reached the front door and placed his hand upon the knob. "Yes," he replied without turning around, "Several times from what I can tell, but the injuries are older than the others by at least a few days. She was probably held somewhere."
"I see," Irina's voice grew soft. She paused and then bowed her head in a brief nod. "Well, thank you for coming out. Please forward your bill to us."
The doctor tipped his cap and slipped through the door, leaving the family in awkward silence.
Julya slid down to sit on the steps. Folding her arms, she eyed the bandage on her arm.
Rurik appeared at the top of the stairs and came down to sit beside his sister. The two were watched by Trek who walked forward and folded his arms on the banister.
"I guess I'll see about getting some dinner together," Irina said after a minute.
Edik nodded. "I'll go feed Zol and Augie." He turned from the foyer and headed through the kitchen.
Trek waited until the two were out of hearing range before he made eye contact with his niece and nephew.
"You two be careful," he murmured, eyeing Julya in particular, "Don't go in the guest room unless either myself or your father goes with you. Something isn't right about this."
Out on the back stoop, Edik had sat down on a chair and pushed his feet into a pair of rubber boots. He stood and descended the steps to the yard, but paused when he caught sight of an oddly shaped silhouette sitting in a spot next to the house where there was supposed to be nothing. Glancing at the shadow, he discovered the item to be his tackle box with his fishing pole set across it.
"What's this now?" he muttered, approaching the gear to make sure that it was his. He leaned over the box and squinted, seeing his initials under the box's handle where he had carved them three years ago. Frowning, he straightened and rubbed the back of his neck. In light of his finding the woman at the river, he knew that he hadn't brought the items up himself.
"Probably Trek," he mumbled. He turned back to the path and headed on to the barn.
Back in the kitchen, Irina picked up her cutting board and used the edge of her knife to sweep the freshly cut carrots and celery into a pot of warming broth on the stove.
"The doctor should have taken her to a hospital," Trek said from his place in the doorway.
"He would have run into the same problem," Irina replied. She set down her board and turned the attention to pieces of precut beef that rested on a plate by the sink. "You know how these roads are when it snows."
Trek uncrossed his arms approached the center table, leaning his hands on it. "We don't even know what kind of woman she is. Edik said that she was carrying a gun when he found her. No police badge either."
"And what are you trying to say?"
"I'm asking what kind of woman walks around in these parts with a gun and ends up getting shot herself? Have you called our neighbors about this? Maybe there's someone else out there who ended up worse off than she did. Maybe she was the initial attacker who-"
"That's enough!" Irina slammed down her knife and glared at the man. "There may be some people out there who deserve to be shot, but no one deserves to be brutalized like she was. I doubt that she could have been an attacker of any sort and ended up like that."
"She could be a murderer for all we know!"
"And she could also be exactly what she looks like!"
"And what's that?"
"With a gun."
"The world isn't always black and white, you know."
At that moment the back door opened and Edik appeared, knocking the snow from the sides of his boots.
"It's getting colder out there," he said as he stepped inside.
"How're the horses?" Irina asked. She finished cutting the meat and added it to the pot.
"Tired of being cooped up all day. They'll enjoy a night outside." Edik slipped off his sweater and hung it on the rack by the door. On his way to the front stairs he motioned to his brother. "Oh yeah, thanks for bringing my fishing gear back up. I didn't want to leave it outside over night."
Trek slouched into Edik's seat at the table and propped his fist to his cheek.
"It was probably Rurik," he said, still frowning at Irina's back.
Edik paused. "Where is he now?"
"Sitting outside the guest room."
Irina stood by the stove, ladling soup into six bowls. Once all the soup was gone from the pot, she turned with one bowl in each hand and set them down in front of Rurik and Julya, and then two more in front of Trek and Edik.
"It smells wonderful," Trek said as his bowl was set in front of him, the compliment being more of an apology for his earlier outburst. He took up his spoon and stirred the soup to see its ingredients.
"I hope it tastes wonderful too," Irina responded, her soft tone a way of accepting the unspoken apology. After setting the fifth bowl in her own place, she turned back to the stove to place the sixth bowl onto a tray with a glass of water. "I'm going to see if our guest is willing or able to take any food."
"Do you think she's going to be all right?" Julya asked, watching her mother depart into the foyer.
Trek shot the girl a look. "No more talk of her. Once the roads clear up, the doctor's going to bring the ambulance and that'll be the end of it."
Rurik looked at his uncle. "Can't we take care of her here a little longer?"
"Out of the question," Edik interjected.
"Yeah, her family is probably worried about her," said Julya.
The boy smirked at his sister. "You're talking as though she's some lost dog. Did you already have a name and collar picked out or something?"
"Be quiet," came the sharp reply.
"Stop it you two," Trek tapped the base of his spoon to the table.
The table was silent for a moment before Edik cleared his throat. "By the way, Rurik. Thanks for getting my fishing gear from the river."
Rurik paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth, looking at his father oddly. "I didn't go down to the river today."
Edik frowned and glanced to Julya. "You?"
Julya shook her head and opened her mouth to respond, but a crash from upstairs caused her to jump slightly. She looked over her shoulder at the staircase. "What was that?"
The two men at the table exchanged looks of sudden apprehension. Edik was the first to push his back seat back and Trek quickly followed.
"Stay there," Edik said to his children as he rushed from the kitchen. He stopped at the base of the stairs and looked up. "Irina? Everything ok?"
When there came no response, Trek took the steps up two at a time with Edik right behind him. At the top, they spotted Irina at the end of the hallway just within the door frame of the guest room. At her feet was the tray she had dropped, now carrying a mess of soup and broken glass.
Edik rushed to his wife and put a hand on her shoulder. "Irina?" Following her gaze into the room, he gasped and shot his hands into the air.
In the guest room, standing beside the bed was an Asian girl about Rurik's age, if not a little bit younger, wearing a dark blue ski jacket and thick, micro-fiber pants. Her short hair looked ruffled as though she had just shaken her hands through it, and against her left cheek was a scratch about two inches long, no longer bleeding. She had one arm around the woman's waist, and in her free was a gun that she pointed in the family's direction, alternating anxiously between Irina and Edik. Her expression was cold, though the corner nightlight reflected several transparent streaks that drew from her eyes to the bottom of her chin.
The blonde woman had been dressed in a flimsy flannel shirt, both items that Edik immediately recognized as his. She had draped an arm around the girl's shoulders and leaned heavily against her. Her breathing was deep, and even though she seemed more unconscious than awake, she put no pressure on her torn leg.
Seconds stretched on with neither party saying anything. Finally the Asian girl leaned down and shifted the woman further onto her back. She whispered something in English and did what she could to adjust the woman's arms around her neck in a manner of holding on. The woman was several inches taller and her feet continued to skim the ground.
"Wait," Irina spoke up, "Where are you taking her?"
"Hush!" snapped Trek. He pushed Irina back to stand in front of her and raised his hands. Doing his best keep his tone steady, he made eye contact with the dark haired stranger. "Can you understand me, girl? Do you know this woman?"
The girl looked at him, keeping her gun raised in the event that he made an effort to stop her.
"I appreciate your help," she replied, her words carrying an awkward intonation, "but we have to go." She kept herself bent slightly over as she backed towards the open sliding door through which she had gained access.
Edik pushed Irina further back and stepped up beside his brother, daring to enter the room by several inches. "Your friend is on the verge of death. There are no towns for miles and it's already begun to snow. If you take her out there, she'll die."
The girl side glanced to the face of the blonde woman whose cheek rested against the back of her shoulder.
"It's possible," she whispered.
Irina rested her hands to Edik's shoulders and lifted up on her toes to see over him.
"Please at least take the pain medicine that the doctor left," she said and pointed to a small bottle on the edge of the bed.
The girl's attention darted to the bottle and then back to the injured woman. She hesitated before ambling to the bed and snatching up the medication to tuck into her pocket.
"Thank you," she murmured.
Within the next moment, both the girl and the woman were gone. Footsteps descended the balcony stairs and then receded across the snow.
Trek and Irina rushed out to the balcony. The light from inside the house extended only so far out into the world, and they could see nothing among the blackness into which the two strangers had been immersed.
Irina shook her head. "I can't believe it. What do you think is going on?"
"I would prefer not to find out," Trek muttered.
"It's a shame. Those girls are out there all alone."
"They'll be all right."
Trek turned from the balcony and joined his brother in examining the bed where the blonde woman had lain. Irina followed and stood in the doorway.
"In this weather? You really think that they'll end up surviving the night?" she asked.
Trek pulled the top blanket from the bed and folded it over. He looked at his brother and then turned his attention to the ground. "I didn't say that."
"Earlier and earlier," she groaned and threw the covers from herself. Setting her feet on the floor, she looked at Edik who continued to snore peacefully. The sight caused her to smirk, though she said nothing as she got up and grabbed her robe from the foot of the bed. It never surprised her that her husband could sleep through everything but the scent of a breakfast being cooked.
As soon as she stepped into the hallway, she paused when she heard the front door being opened. Trek's voice carried up and it was responded to by another unfamiliar male voice.
She crept down the hall until she could see front door over the edge of the top step. Over Trek's shoulder she could see two men standing on the front porch, one holding a photograph. The man with the picture said something to which Trek shook his head and replied.
A few more words were exchanged before the two strangers turned and Trek closed the door.
Irina came to the stairs and descended them half way.
"Who was that?" she asked.
Trek rubbed the back of neck and went into the kitchen without a word. Irina followed him and stopped at the door way.
"They were looking for those girls weren't they?" she said, more of a statement than a question.
"Yes," Trek replied as he grabbed his coat from the rack by the back door. He slipped his arms into the coat sleeves and secured the zipper.
"Did you tell them that they were here?"
Irina paused and eyed the man with a small bit of suspicion. "But what about what you said?"
Trek only chuckled as he left through the door, preparing himself for another day of dirty work.