Inquest Chapter 23

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Chapter 23


The steady beep-beep of medical equipment finally sinks into my brain and pulls me back to the waking world in a nauseating sweep. Getting my eyes open is another trick entirely although I don’t really want to open them anyway. My breathing is picking up by the second, reaching near panic very quickly. I need to wake up and find Milo. He’s the only thing that will calm me down. My eyes feel like they have lead weights on them. An image from a Jack the Ripper movie I once saw assaults me, reminding me of how people used to put coins on the dead’s eyes to pay the ferryman on their way to Hell. My eyes flutter open immediately, no coins falling away like I feared. Milo’s concerned face and the antiseptic walls of a hospital greet me.

“Hey, you finally decided to wake up,” Milo says.

“You brought me to the hospital?” I gasp as I sit up. I hate hospitals. An irrational desire to have Lance by my side grips me fiercely. He’s been there every other time I’ve been hurt. He knows how to keep me calm, to stop the panic. Thinking about him only adds to my pain, but I can’t help wish he were here with me now. My breathing rapidly starts climbing to hyperventilation. My head starts swimming, and I have to grab the side of the bed to keep from tipping over drunkenly. One thing I do notice is that my leg feels much, much better. The bandage indicating a needle prick on my arm might have something to do with that.

“Libby, calm down. Your ankle was dangling like a loose tooth. What else was I supposed to do?” Milo pulls his chair close to my bed and brushes my hair back from my face in slow, soothing motions. Every stroke takes my panic down a notch. “You slept through the worst part, at least. Your leg has already been X-rayed and the bones set back in place. We’re just waiting on the doctor to start putting on your cast.”

My vision begins to clear as I tap my Naturalism and force my breathing to slow. I lock my gaze on Milo to stave off another wave of panic, forcing away thoughts of Lance. It takes me a moment to focus enough to process what Milo just said. “A cast? Manuel must have died laughing about this.”

Milo grins. “Just a little.”

“He’s hopeless,” I mumble through my clenched jaw.

“Funny,” Milo says with a laugh, “that’s exactly what he said about you.”

Maybe it’s the drugs, or Milo’s ability to somewhat distract me, but I laugh too. Another broken bone. What does that make now, thirteen? Unlucky thirteen, that would definitely make sense. My morphine-induced laughter subsides by the time the door pushes open. I’m shocked to find a familiar face when it opens all the way.

“Doctor Layton?”

“Good afternoon, Libby. It’s always nice to see you, though you do know you can come say hello without breaking a bone first, don’t you?” he says. His words are as cheerful as they’ve ever been. I’m immediately suspicious. Everyone else is at least a little nervous around me. What exactly did he give me? My eyes narrow as I scour him for a clue. He notices my reaction and sighs. “Sorry, Libby. I’ll admit that when they told me you were here I was nervous, but seeing you laid out unconscious, it sorts of takes away the ‘you’re going to kill everyone’ vibe. You’re the same girl I’ve treated a dozen times before.”

There is no deception in what he’s saying. I manage to relax a little more. Maybe this will work on the kids at school, too. It’s hard to be afraid of the gimpy loser kid hobbling around on crutches. “Thanks for seeing me, Dr. Layton. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else trying to fix me up.” Seriously. Hospitals freak me out bad enough without having to go through it with a stranger.

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