In his neighborhood, a stray gunshot here and there wasn’t unheard of. Quite common in fact. When he heard a child’s cries follow, however, Michael rushed into the house, grabbing a flashlight and the pistol in his nightstand. He switched the light on and bolted, following the sobs down the street. He turned down an alleyway, shining the light to see a figure pointing a gun at a little boy.
“She had to fight, didn’t she?”
The boy took no mind to this, however; he cradled the head of a woman in his lap. “Mama, wake up! Mama!”
Michael lifted his gun at the armed figure. The man panicked and repositioned the gun to aim at him, but whatever sense he had left made him run off instead of risking the confrontation, leaving Michael alone with the boy and his mother. He sheathed the pistol and crouched down, leveling himself with the sobbing boy. The child’s eyes shifted to him full of tears in his terror, and Michael reached two fingers to the woman’s neck, checking for a pulse. It took a moment, but he found a weakened beat and scanned her body to see where she’d been hit. Blood trailed from her back and her head, soaking the child’s lap. He lifted the woman into his arms and stood.
“Can you walk, son? What’s your name?”
“Joseph, and yeah I’m not hurt. Where are we going?”
“I’m gonna take you to my house and help your mother.” He started toward his home.
He followed, reaching for his mother’s hand. “Shouldn’t we go to the doctor?”
“Don’t worry, I am a doctor.” Not entirely a lie. Though not a licensed doctor, Michael was an army medic who’d seen all too many gunshot wounds.
The boy accepted the statement and followed him home. Joseph opened the door for him and he told the boy to find some sheets in the hall closet while he got his first aid kit. Rushing to help the woman, he returned within a minute and laid a layer of sheets out of the couch and set the others aside. Michael eased the woman onto the couch and checked the wound on her head. The gash poured blood, but he knew the bullet in her back needed attention. He turned her onto her side and lifted her shirt to see her blood stained back. He wiped at the wound and found the entry point for the bullet. He found the bullet had lodged nearer to her shoulder blade. Good, at least no damage to her spine.
He retrieved the scissor-like tool from his kit and Joseph’s eyes widened. He grabbed Michael’s wrist before he could try removing the bullet.
“I know it looks bad, but this is gonna get it out.” He eased the tool into the wound and clamped on to the bullet, prying it out.
He set the tool aside and worked on closing the wound, cleaning and applying thick bandages. Keeping the woman on her side he tended to the gash in her head. He gave her five stitches after reassuring Joseph when he grabbed at the needle.
“Is she gonna be okay?” His voice cracked as he held her hand.
“Sure, she’ll be in pain for a while, but the wounds weren’t fatal.”
Michael finished cleaning and bandaging her, checking once more before he could actually clean up, wiping the remainder of the blood from the woman’s face and back. He got three sets of fresh clothes. When he came back Joseph helped his mother into the nightshirt and sweatpants that he’d given her. He changed his blood-soaked clothes in the bathroom while Michael threw on a flannel shirt and jeans in his room.
He removed the bloody sheets and outfits, putting them to wash and coming out to finish with his kit. He disinfected his tools and came back to the living room. He saw Joseph clutching his mother’s hand, and pulled a blanket off the back of his recliner, draping it over her. He swept the stray brown strand away from her forehead and knelt down by Joseph.
“Thank you, sir.” His eyes never left his mother.
“Name’s Michael, but you can call me Mikey.”
“Okay, thank you, Mikey. Call me Joey.”
“You’re a brave kid, Joey. Your mom is lucky to have you.”
At that, he broke and a few tears rolled down his cheeks. Michael pulled him into his arms as he sobbed.
“She was trying to protect me. Why’d Dad hurt her?”
“Your father did this?”
“All she wanted to do was leave, but he wouldn’t let us. They were fighting and she pushed him out of the way. He fell into the table and she told me to run. She shoved me out the door and we made it into the alley.”
His blood boiled as the boy told his story between hiccups.
“He caught us and grabbed Mama. He slammed her into the wall and pointed his gun at me. He said he’d let me go if she just came home. She put herself between us and he shot her.”
Michael recalled the sight of the man still aiming at Joseph when he found them. He held the child, assuring him that it was over, that his mom would be okay. He pulled back and nodded as he looked back as his mother. She stirred and tried to sit up. Her eyes fluttered open and widened at the strange house and the sight of Michael so near to her son. She lunged at him and clawed his cheek, getting between them.
“Wait, Mama!” He grabbed at her, trying to stop her attack. “He helped us. Look, he saved you!”
She froze, taking in his words as she felt the bandages on her head and shoulder. She looked at his clothes, then her own, realizing they weren’t theirs. Then she looked at Michael.
“I’m sorry, I thought…”
“Don’t worry about it, Miss-”
“Kate, Kate Warren. Thank you. Mr-”
“Thank you, Michael, for saving us.”