â€œMrs. Townsend, are you in there?â€
â€œIs that you, Kathy?â€ Jack shouts from inside.
â€œYes, can you let me in?â€ I scream back then cup my ear to the door to listen for a response.
Mr. Stevens shouts at Ruth. â€œRuth, itâ€™s the nurse. Get the door.â€
Mrs. Townsend is screaming. â€œI canâ€™t. I need to get the rest of my pieces.â€
â€œDamn it, Ruth, get the door!â€
I shake my head and grit my teeth. Typical, Jack Stevens. The lock jiggles, and I turn the knob again. Turning the knob, the door opens on its own and thuds against the stopper. Ruth stands before me with flushed cheeks, smeared with tears. My eyes are drawn to her hands. Both are cupped together. Blood drips from where she joins them. She looks down at her hands as if sheâ€™s holding something.
â€œWho are you?â€ She asks with eyes wide open. Her pupils are dilated. Sheâ€™s in shock.
â€œIâ€™m Kathy Connelly, the charge nurse, Mrs. Townsend.â€ I put my arm around her.
As I turn her, I can see Mr. Stevens sitting in his lazy boy, tilted back.
â€œIs that the nurse, Ruth?â€ Jack turns his head and nods at me.
I nod back and curtly bow. â€œYes, Mr. Stevens, it’s me.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Ruth softly speaks over my voice.
â€œLetâ€™s get to the bathroom, honey. Weâ€™ve got to stop this bleeding.â€ I drag the first aid kit behind meâ€”my good oleâ€™ first aid suitcase with wheelsâ€”with my left hand. With my other hand, I turn Ruthâ€™s shoulder away from the entrance.
â€œCan I bring my pieces?â€ Ruth asks.
I donâ€™t know what sheâ€™s talking about so I just nod. â€œSure, honey, you can bring whatever you like.â€ Iâ€™m more concerned about the blood flow at this point. I look down at her bare feet. They are covered with blood. Some of it is fresh and some has dried. Between her toes, the blood has crusted. Their blue carpet is smeared with red and footprints, dragged from print to print. I look up once I have turned her and see Mr. Stevens more clearly. He is watching a golf tournament.
â€œWhereâ€™s your bathroom?â€ I ask.
He turns and points behind him down the hallway beyond his forest green recliner. â€œGo down the hall then make your first left.â€ The animation on his face betrays his reclined position. He nervously fiddles with the remote to his chair as I pass.
I walk Ruth to the bathroom. She holds her hands together in front of her, while I rub her back with my hand. â€œItâ€™s gonna be O.K., honey. Weâ€™re just gonna get you cleaned up.â€ Her hyperventilating begins to slow. I walk into the bathroom and pull back the blue and yellow plaid shower curtain. â€œO.K., Ruth, I want you to climb in the tub.â€ She gets in, and I ease her down on her back. She is still cupping her hands together in front of her. â€œLift your feet, Mrs. Townsend.â€ I leave her for a moment and jog into the living room. â€œWhereâ€™re your clean towels, Mr. Stevens?â€
He turns his torso and points to the hall on the opposite side of the apartment. â€œSecond door on your rightâ€ He eases his seat into an upright position. â€œIs she going to be all right?â€
I ignore his comment and pick through the towels and pull out a set of black towels. â€œHowâ€™d she get so bloodied, Mr. Townsend?â€