Just a Scratch

By Janet Brayden

"That doesn't look good. Come on, I'll drive you to the hospital."

"It's just a scratch," Jake Styles insisted as his boss, J.L. McCabe fussed over the injury to his right arm.

"Look, I'd just as soon you didn't bleed all over my automobile like you did the last time," McCabe said.

"Have you seen your car lately? It's filthy!" Jake harassed the older man.

McCabe countered that comment by telling the younger man that he'd just had it cleaned - last week.

Now as they drove toward Los Angeles City Hospital Styles leaned back into the seat with his head against the headrest. McCabe glanced over at him. He wasn't happy with the younger man's looks. Jake could insist that it was "just a scratch" but he was too pale for McCabe's taste. His face was covered in a fine sheen of sweat. It was obvious to J.L. that the "scratch" was bothering him more than he was letting on.

Fifteen minutes after they left the home of Alan and Samantha Shay they arrived at the hospital and J.L. escorted his favorite investigator into the emergency room. When a nurse approached them McCabe explained that Jake had been shot in the line of duty and he needed medical attention in spite of anything he might say.

J.L. had become suspicious of Samantha Shay. There were too many inconsistencies in the crime scene as compared to her statement as to how the man who had blinded her wound up dead and her husband, Alan, critically wounded. When Jake reported that he'd tested her with the stove and Samantha had burned herself the older man's suspicions became even stronger.

They'd set Samantha up by calling her house and Jake taking a phony message that Alan was doing better. When Samantha left the hospital in a cab - ostensibly to change her clothes because she wanted to "look perfect for Alan" she'd come downstairs, with packed suitcase and a large bundle of cash taken from the safe, to find Jake standing in the entryway with her white cane. After a short "discussion" Samantha had taken a gun out of her purse and winged Jake who was standing just a few feet away. That she hadn't killed him was likely due to the fact that he had turned at the exact second she fired the gun.

There had been a short period of time where Samantha stalked the wounded man through the house but he'd managed to elude her, and then snuck up on her. Striking her in the face he'd caused her to drop the gun and fall, stunned, to the floor. It was shortly after this that McCabe had arrived with a black and white and sent Samantha off to be booked on two counts of murder one.

"What are you staring at me like that for?" an aggravated Jake asked his boss.

"You're looking pretty pale," J.L. told the younger man. "I think it's a good thing I brought you in here."

"I told you before - it's just a scratch," Jake protested.

"I think it's more than 'just a scratch', Jake. The blood is running down your arm."

"It's nothing serious, J.L., really. It's just a scratch," Jake insisted.

"What's this about a scratch?" a new voice asked.

The newcomer was one of the physicians on call in the ER that night. The doctor, a medium height Oriental with graying black hair, entered the cubicle where Jake was waiting for treatment.

"I'm the doctor, here," he told his patient. "I'll decide if it's just a scratch and what to do about it."

"You'll have a fight on your hands, doctor," the DA told him. "Jake here thinks he's capable of diagnosing his injuries on his own."

"In my hospital we don't let patients make the decisions," Dr. Wong told him. "If you'll take a seat in the waiting room I'll see what needs to be done for him. I'll either send a nurse for you or come and get you myself when I'm through."

Reluctantly The Fatman, as McCabe was known, went to take a seat in the lounge. While he was waiting he received a call from his young assistant, Derek Mitchell. Derek had heard the news about Jake and wanted to know how he was doing.

"He's as stubborn as ever," McCabe told the younger man over the phone. "He insists it's just a scratch."

"It's always 'just a scratch' with Jake," Derek confirmed. "Is he going to be all right? Is there anything I can do? Should I come down there?"

"I'm sure he'll be fine now that I got him to the hospital to have a doctor look at it," J.L. said. "There's nothing you can do here that you couldn't do there. I'll call you when the doctor gets through."

McCabe hung up the phone and went back to his seat. It seemed like an eternity before the doctor finally came and got him. He followed the doctor back to the cubicle where Jake lay, still pale, but cleaned up. His shirt sleeve was rolled up and his damaged jacket was draped over the chair next to the bed. The nurse was putting the finishing touches on a bandage for the wounded arm.

"Well how is he?" J.L. demanded.

"He'll be fine," Dr. Wong told him. "He's had five stitches put in that wound after we cleaned it out. It's important that he keep that arm still for a few days so I'm going to give him a sling."

"A sling?" Jake was incredulous. "Doc, it's not that bad. I've had worse."

"That may be so," the physician said, "but I'm in charge here and I say you're going to keep that arm quiet for a few days."

"Aw, come on!"

"Jake! Don't argue with the doctor! If he says you need a sling you're going to use the sling." Turning to the Oriental man, J.L. said, "Is there anything else?"

"Yes. He's got a prescription for some antibiotics that he needs to take for a week. It's just a precaution but, after all, that wound had to be cleaned of threads from his shirt and his jacket. The antibiotics will make sure nothing happens. Plus he's got a slight fever." Giving his patient a severe warning look he added, "He's to go home, go to bed and take it easy for the next few days. It would be best if he took the rest of the week off."

Jake started to protest again but was cut off.

"You'll do like the doctor says," McCabe told him. "How about his going back to work?"

"Today's Monday. He should stay home - resting - until he comes back here on Friday." To his patient he said, "Call my office in the morning and make an appointment for Friday afternoon. Now get out of here and stop cluttering up my Emergency Room. I want that bed free for somebody who really needs it."

Arguing all the way, Jake signed his release forms, got up and started for the door. McCabe was right behind waiting for the moment when Jake would remember that he, J.L. McCabe was his transportation - unless Jake wanted to call a cab. The younger man stopped up short, just outside the door as that realization hit him.

"I don't suppose I could trouble you for a ride to the office?" Jake asked.

"No, I don't suppose you could trouble me for a ride to the office," his surrogate father answered. "You can trouble me for a ride home, though."

"The office," Jake repeated.

"Home," J.L. told him.

"I have a report to fill out," his investigator said.

"You can do that at home - tomorrow." The DA was adamant.

Arguing all the way J.L. got Jake in his car and took him home. A week later he escorted him to the doctor's office to assure himself that Jake was indeed well on the road to recovery and able to go back to work - the only stipulation being that he was confined to a desk until the arm was completely healed. It was a very long, miserable recuperation period - for both men. It wasn't much easier for Derek who was caught in the middle of the arguments.