(This is the second instalment of my audience-driven story. Start reading from the beginning, and then tell me what should happen next, via a comment or email, and I’ll write it).
“Oh that’s great. You’re crazy too,” I said as I took off my pristine white shirt and pressed it against his wound. I know the human body holds about 5 litres of blood; by the look of the man and the pool of blood around him, he must be getting close to the point-of-no-return.
“Will somebody call an ambulance,” I yelled toward the street, getting frustrated that I was the only one trying to deal with this situation.
The man shook his head, “I’m not mentally ill. Do you promise to look after the girl?”
Honestly after seeing the stabbed guy I’d kind of forgotten about the girl. With my arrival she’d stopped crying and backed away. I glanced over my shoulder and saw her sitting against the opposite wall, hugging her knees. A cute little girl, blue eyes, small nose and blue dress. Her cute kid routine was spoiled by the blood splattered over her hands and dress.
“You’re not going to die, I rebuked him. You’re an angel remember? Angels can’t die.” Take that, reverse psychology.
With relief I heard footsteps behind me, a woman. She stopped as she rounded the bin and just stared in shock.
“Do you have a phone?” I asked.
“Call an ambulance?”
“I need to go…” she said, backing up.
“Call an ambulance,” I lost my cool, yelling at her.
“OK, OK,” she said pulling a mobile from her handbag and starting to dial. A grunt from my patient distracted me. The woman was gone when I turned back.
“Keep the pressure on, if you don’t want to die,” I said as I put my hands back on his wound.
“I didn’t say I was going to die, you’re the one who keeps talking of death. I need to return to heaven to heal,” He grimaced at a stab of pain. “and I could be a while in returning. You need to look after the Emma while I’m gone. Keep her safe, she’s special.”
I heard sirens in the distance. I hoped they were coming for us, this guy needed a psychologist as much as a blood transfusion. I wasn’t a surgeon, or a psychologist; just some guy who had the misfortune of big ears.
“Hear that, help is on its way.”
“You need to promise to look after Emma.”
“No, I’m not going to promise. She’s your responsibility and I’m not giving you permission to die. Hold on.”
“I thought you were the one,” the man said his face clouding with doubt. Or maybe blood loss. I swore and smacked his face. Then I realised what I’d done: just smacked a guy 100 kilos heavier than me. Even in his weakened state he could probably strangle me.
“You were fading out,” I explained, “you have to stay conscious.” The sirens were close now, more than one. “See help is almost here. “
The man shook his head as tyres screeched and the sirens stopped. The alley was lit up in blues and reds.
“I’ll be back in a moment, keep the pressure on,” I ordered and stood. Two cops were coming down the alley as paramedics unloaded a gurney behind them.
“Thank goodness you’re here, a guy’s been stabbed.”
“Where is he?”
“Behind the bin. Hurry he’s lost a lot of blood.” The ambulance officers ran past me. They looked at the wall and then one of them spotted the little girl and squatted down, “Hi honey. Are you okay? Are you bleeding?”
“No it’s his blood,” I called.
The ambo gave a small jerk off his head and the policemen joined him. They both looked around and talked quietly together. But neither of the ambulance officers was working on the African man.
“He can’t be dead, I was talking to him seconds ago,” I said. I tried to walk down the alley when the other policeman grabbed my arm. “Let’s keep the scene as intact as possible for the forensics team.”
“Oh man,” the shock inundated me like a wave of dumb. I couldn’t think straight. A guy I’d tried to save had just died. A chill ran through me, and my knees began to buckle. The cop saw me starting to fade and got me to sit on the curb.
Sometime later he came over and flipped open his notebook, “I need to get your witness statement, Mr?”
“Steve Johns,” I introduced myself. The policeman asked some preliminary questions: date of birth, home address, occupation, if this was my normal route at lunch time. It all happened in such a blur that I barely even noticed the girl being driven away by Child Services. I felt kind of bad that I wasn’t ‘looking after the girl’, but I’d had entirely too much drama for one day. I’m not parent material, especially of a child who just witnessed their Dad dying.
“Okay Mr Johns, are you hurt at all? Your hands are bloody.”
“Yeah. No, um I’m fine. It’s all his blood. I was just going out for lunch and I heard the little girl crying.”
“Are you under the influence of any alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drugs?”
“What?” I asked, my face screwing up at the unexpected question..
“We need to know if you’re a reliable witness,” the cop explained. His colleague joined us but let him continue with the questioning.
“No, no drugs.”
“The little girl, what’s her name?”
“I don’t know. Check his wallet for ID.”
“The deceased,” I replied, thinking there was a sentence I never thought I’d say.
“And what’s the deceased’s name?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“And where is he?” the policeman asked.
Are you under the influence? I wanted to ask, but a smart-mouth can only get you into trouble. I bit my tongue, “the African man behind the bin.”
“There’s a lot of blood back there, but there’s no man,” the cop said.
“What?” I said, dumbfounded, “there’s nowhere else he could’ve gone.”
The cop squatted beside me, just as the ambulance officer had done to Emma. “Do you ever have blackouts, time that you miss?”
What do you want to happen next?