Wounded Read online
He jerks my hair again, and I am lifted off the ground. His knee gouges into my spine, and I am left breathless. His pistol butt jabs into my side, my kidney, and now I cannot even stay upright for the blinding agony, cannot even breathe to cry.
He forces me down to all fours, his hand still fisted in my hair. His knees shove my legs apart, and now I feel his manhood at the crease of my backside. Panic flares through me, spurring me to writhe and flop against his grip, shrieking, screaming. I kick backward, and my bare foot meets soft flesh. He roars and his grip on my hair loosens, but not enough to let me get free. He jabs his fist into my kidney again, and the pain stills me against my will. Something hard and hot pokes at my backside, but does not penetrate, stuttering and stabbing, nearly ripping the delicate flesh there. I am screaming as best I can despite the pain stealing my breath, fighting. Fighting.
I wish, fleetingly, that Hunter could save me, but he cannot.
Then Abdul is gone, and he is yelling, roaring. I flop to my back, and through the haze of tears see Abdul backing away, clutching his hand. I scramble backward away from Abdul, see something wet and red sluicing between his fingers. Sticky hot blood drenches my back and my hair. There are pink things on the ground at his feet. Fingers, dismembered. Abdul is screaming. His pants are around his ankles, and he is struggling to get free of them so he can move to fight.
Hunter stands lit by the dim candle flames. His face is a mask of rage, blood-spattered. His knife is held in one fist, low near his waist. Blood drips from the blade onto the tile floor with a slow pit-pit-pit sound. Except for that, silence reigns, now that Abdul has stopped screaming.
The men face off. It is almost comical, Abdul being naked from the waist down, but it is not. The gun lies on the floor, out of reach. I cannot move, frozen by the violence. There is no warning. Hunter is standing, and then he impacts with Abdul, swifter than a striking snake. I hear the crunch of bodies colliding, and Abdul stumbles backward, bleeding from the stomach.
I want to be sick, but even that reflex is frozen.
Hunter is not trying to make this quick. Abdul is upright, clutching his stomach with his fingerless right hand. He bleeds, bleeds. He is mortally wounded, I think, but Hunter is not done. He has not said a word.
Hunter lunges again, and I see the telltale wince flash across his face that tells me he is still feeling the pain, but he is refusing to let it stop him or slow him. The knife flashes across Abdul’s chest, and the general stumbles backward farther yet. Hunter’s lip curls in disgust and contempt.
He crosses the intervening space and knocks Abdul to the ground with a brutally hard blow. Hunter stands over him, staring down with a grin of victory, but then he sways, blanching, pale and dizzy, hobbles backward to retain his balance. He does not see Abdul’s hand stretching, reaching, grasping the pistol. I scream a warning, but it is too late. The pistol cracks with a flash of fire, and Hunter grunts, spins aside, and falls.
Someone is screaming…me, I think. Abdul rolls away, grabs his pants and stumbles away, dripping blood.
He will not die, but he is very badly hurt and will not be back soon, I think. It is not an end to my troubles with Abdul, but it is a reprieve, for now. I let him go and scramble to Hunter’s side. The bullet hit him in the side, and I know enough to realize this is more serious than all his other wounds. An organ may have been hit, or something. I do not know. I only know it is a serious wound.
I am crying, pressing my hand to the crimson-seeping hole. Hunter reaches with his hand and tugs weakly at my shirt, which lies near his hand, tries to press it to his wound, but then faints. I am bawling, crushing the shirt to his side.
I do not know what to do.
I shake him, shake him. He wakes up.
“What do I do, Hunter?” I beg him.
“Need…a doctor. Surgeon. Someone. ” I understand his English, thank Allah.
There I go again, calling on Allah, in whom I have not believed since I was girl.
I pull on my skirt, dart next door for a shirt to cover myself, then run for the clinic where I get my birth control and disease checkups. It is several blocks away, but I make it in record time. I have blood on my hands.
The doctor whom I know best, a man named Hussein, is on duty. “Sabah! What happened to you? Are you hurt?”
I shake my head. “No, not me. A—a friend. Please, come with me. He needs help. ”
Hussein eyes me warily. “What are you involving me in?”
“Doctor, please. You know me. I have been coming to you for years. Please help my friend. Please. ”
Hussein’s expression changes, and I know this will not be free. I usually pay Hussein with money, but I know by the lecherous gleam in his eye that he will claim more than dinar, this time. He will claim me.
“You will get what you want, Doctor Hussein. But please, come. ”
He nods, once. “Very well, Sabah. Let me get my bag. ”
I lead him to the mosque, but stop him before we go in. “Doctor, before you see my friend, I must ask…please, just keep this between you and me. It is important. ”
Hussein’s eyes narrow. “Something tells me I will not like this. But I am here, and I took the Hippocratic oath. ”
He shook his head. “An oath to help those who need help. But I will not endanger myself or my family, Sabah. ” I nod and lead Hussein into the mosque. He halts in his tracks when he sees Hunter. “An American? Are you mad, Sabah?”
I cannot answer, except for a whispered, “Please. ”
Hussein searches my face. “Allah help me, Sabah. You are mad. You love him. ”
I shake my head, but I am not sure if I am denying what he is saying, or refusing to answer. Hussein only blows a gentle sigh between thick, fleshy lips, scratches his thick beard, and then kneels next to Hunter. He pushes Hunter’s shirt up past the wound, examining it before doing anything. He probes the wound with his finger, then pulls Hunter up to look at his back.
“Well, it went straight through, so there is no bullet to extract. Without any equipment, I cannot say if the bullet hit anything important, but judging by the placement, I would say your…friend, should be okay, eventually. Of course, he has lost a lot of blood already, and he has a number of other wounds. ” He glances at me. “Your American is very resilient. ”
He examines Hunter’s other wounds, cleans and re-bandages them as well as the new one, then digs in his bag. “These wounds on his leg are growing infected. He will need antibiotics. ”
“Do you have them?” I ask.
Hussein glances at me, a smirk touching his lips. “Yes, but they are expensive. ”
I sigh. “I understand. ”
Hunter, whom I thought was unconscious, grabs Hussein’s wrist. Hussein pales and tries to pull away, but I know well the power in Hunter’s grip, even weakened.
“No,” Hunter says in Arabic. “Not that. Leave me to be sick, but do not ask that of her. ”
“Hunter, please,” I say in English, “you will die without the medication. ”
Hunter glares at me. “No. No more. Not because of me. ”
Hussein stands up and gestures for me to follow him outside. “This is madness, Sabah,” he says. “If that infection is not stopped now, he could die. Or lose the leg. ”
“I know,” I say. “He…does not like what I do. ”
“What are you going to do?”
“Your price has not changed?”
Hussein shakes his head. “You know it has not. ”
“Fine. I will not just let him die. Come. ” I gesture at the door to my house.
Hunter will be angry with me, I know this. My stomach turns at what I am about to do, but it must be done.
Hussein demands much of me before he considers the debt paid.
He helps me carry Hunter back next door to my home.
Hunter pretends to