The Considerate Killer(10)By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis
Head trauma. How bad was it? No respirator, and while her thoughts did not line up in neat straight lines, she was able to think, speculate, articulate, remember . . . mostly. So . . . probably not life threatening in spite of the vague sensation of . . . of dread. Of having come much too close to death.
It was worrisome that she couldn’t work out how to move. What if she was paralyzed? What if this sensation of the body as a heavy, unresponsive prison of flesh was . . . permanent?
No, damn it. She ignored her headache and focused all her concentration, all her power on an attempt to use her left hand to grip Søren’s fingers. She never discovered whether she succeeded, because the pain would not be forced back; it rose up like a violent dark flood and tore her back with it into nothingness.
• • •
The second time was better. There were voices around her. Activity.
“Her eyes,” said Søren. “It doesn’t look . . . very nice. Did someone hit her in the face, or . . . ?”
“Not directly. It’s what we call a raccoon-eye hematoma. It’s an effect of the fractured skull.”
She still felt heavier than usual. Her eyelids were fat and sticky, but she managed to establish a form of control over the lower part of her face.
“I’m thirsty,” she said.
“Nina!” Søren exclaimed. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t hear . . . What did you say?”
“Yes. Um . . . Could she have something to drink?”
“It’s best to wait until you’ve got things a bit more under control, Nina,” said the nursing staff voice. “You don’t actually have a need for liquids; we put in a drip. Your mouth is just dry, so you feel thirsty. We can moisten your lips a little. How are you feeling otherwise?”
“Headache,” she said irritably. She was perfectly able to determine whether she could drink. Or . . . was she? She didn’t want to choke—just the thought of coughing started a pounding in her battered skull.
“That’s understandable. Now that you are conscious, we can look into treating the pain. You were hit twice in the back of the head, and one of the blows created a small fracture. You need to relax for a while, but the prognosis is good.”
Relief slid through her in the form of a heavy dullness. The battle had been canceled; she could relax. She wouldn’t need the adrenaline reserves after all. She yawned carefully and felt a secondary soreness in her jaw.
“Just give me a little water,” she said, somewhat more clearly. “I promise not to cough.”
“A little bit, then,” said the voice. “You can have more later.”
A fat plastic straw was pushed in between her lips, and she sucked carefully. Even the sucking sent waves through her entire cranium and made it hurt even more. But at least her mouth immediately felt less mummified—it was easier to move her tongue, easier to swallow. Small victories, very small victories, but right now she’d take what she could get.
“The local police would like to speak with you,” said Søren. “When you feel ready.”
“Why?” she asked stupidly.
“Because you were the victim of an assault. Did you see who did it?”
Assault. A couple of blows to the head. It didn’t make any sense.
“No,” she said. “I didn’t see anything.”
The instant she said it, fear returned. It wasn’t even a fight-or-flight reaction. It was worse. It was the hopeless passive terror of the prey when there’s nothing more to be done except wait for death.
Stop, she whispered silently to herself. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re safe here.
She could hear her own pulse crackle in her ears. Her body did not believe her reassurances; it knew better.
• • •
The young detective sergeant reminded Søren of one of his own officers, Gitte. Who wasn’t his at all, of course, even though he couldn’t help feeling a certain possessive pride because he was the one who had originally hired her.
It wasn’t that they looked so very similar—the DS from Mid-West Jutland Police was somewhat smaller and darker and did not have quite Gitte’s impressive swimmer’s physique. But she had trimmed her hair just as short; she was just as young, and just as determinedly intelligent.