Carlisle took his cup of coffee from the hospital canteen and headed back to his office. He wasn’t going to drink it. In fact he thought it smelled revolting, but it was the small touches that like these that made him seem more human –especially as a busy doctor. He had agreed to take this night shift when Dr. Schwartz had called off sick and wanted to keep up appearances. He didn’t usually work this shift after all.
Carlisle rounded the corner and found a nurse pacing in front of his office door. She was nervous; Carlisle could hear her heart racing.
“Hello. It’s Janet, right?”
The young woman nodded but didn’t speak.
“Can I help you with something?” Carlisle coaxed.
“Um, yeah. I uh–“ she glanced up and down the hall to check if there was anyone else around then glanced at the folder in her hand. “Do you think we could talk privately in your office?” Carlisle’s heart sank, but he kept a slight smile in place. He had run into problems where nurses and even fellow doctors developed a crush and sometimes made unwelcome advances. He hoped Janet wasn’t planning anything similar.
“Of course. Come in.” Carlisle unlocked the door and welcomed the nurse inside. As Carlisle settled into his chair, he subtly repositioned a photograph of Esme into the nurse’s line of sight.
“How can I help you, Janet?” Carlisle asked from across the desk.
“I um. Sorry. I’ve never done anything like this before.” Janet mumbled, and Carlisle sighed internally. “I was wondering if you’ve seen Dr. Sawant’s Jane Doe patient in 2137?”
“I wasn’t aware I was called for a consult.” Carlisle glanced down at his pager in surprise.
The nurse blushed. “No, I’m not here for a medical consult. The patient was brought in last month after that human trafficking raid. You heard about it on the news?”
“Yes, how unfortunate something like that goes on.” Carlisle nodded now thoroughly perplexed about where this conversation was leading.
“Well…she is stable and everything, but police have no leads on her identity. No family has stepped forward to claim her. Social services haven’t found a placement either. No family or group home is willing to take her.” The nurse paused here looking speculatively at Carlisle.
“I -I heard that you and your wife were foster parents?” Ah, Carlisle could finally see where this was going.
“We took in Esme’s niece and nephew. We have a full house now.” Carlisle responded in a reserved tone.
“Oh.” Janet’s voice was flooded with disappointment. “It’s just -she was cleared to go home last week, but the social worker hasn’t found a placement. No one is willing to take her in probably because of her issues. I just thought an experienced doctor such as yourself…” her voice faded away, and an awkward silence fell between the pair.
“There isn’t a group home or assisted living facility available?” Carlisle suggested.
“Not that they can find. Not one prepared to take on a teen with her handicaps.” Janet began to rummage through the file folder and produced a polaroid photo of the patient in question. “She really is a sweet girl. She doesn’t deserve to be living in a hospital. She needs a proper home, and I’m afraid she is going to fall through the cracks.”
Carlisle glanced at the photo and froze. “Perhaps I should talk with Esme.” He began slowly. “I cannot guarantee anything though. We already have teenagers, but it couldn’t hurt to…investigate the situation. Tell me a little more about this Jane Doe. Does she talk a lot?”
An hour later, the pediatric floor was quiet. Carlisle ghosted through the hallways unobserved and slipped into room 2137. Thankfully the mysterious Jane Doe was fast asleep, and the other bed was unoccupied. No one would notice his presence. Hesitantly, Carlisle began to sniff the air. Nothing smelled off; it was the usual smells of the hospital: sweat and fear, the pungent alcohol-based disinfectant, the repugnant smell of a half-eaten dinner on the bedside table, and the intoxicating iron rich aroma of blood. Yes, Jane Doe may be as pale as a vampire in the weak moonlight, but she certainly had blood pumping through her veins.
Carlisle silently crossed the room and picked up the chart from the foot of the bed. Without turning the lights on, Carlisle paged through the medical history. It was a short history; the doctor finished reading in a matter of seconds.
Then he turned his attention to the girl in the bed. Or a young woman perhaps? Dr. Sawant had estimated an age of 14. At first glance, she certainly looked like a young teen 14 years old –maybe even 13. However, the longer he looked at her small figure curled up in bed, the more Carlisle was convinced that she was somehow older than her body let on. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Was it the crease between her brow or the way she rolled over gingerly as if she was as frail and arthritic as an old woman? Maybe it wasn’t anything physical about her but just one old soul meeting another. After all Carlisle was deceptively old -centuries old, but he could barely pass for 35.
Carlisle shook his head. This was all mere speculation. He had come to this room with a purpose after all. He wanted to confirm what he had seen in the photograph. Carlisle stepped around the foot of the bed and made his way towards the young woman’s head. Slowly carefully so as not to wake her, he pulled the blanket off her shoulder. He swept her dark locks off her neck without touching her and stared in disbelief.
There where her neck met her neck met her shoulder was a crescent shaped scar. With Carlisle’s superior vision, he could see it glisten faintly in the moonlight. Carlisle had never had reason to mistrust his vampiric vision before now, but this was a sight he’d rather not see. He fought the urge to check and touch the scar – to feel if it was cooler than the rest of her body, but he resisted. There was no two ways about it; this girl had been bitten by a vampire.
Carlisle pulled his cell phone from his pocket and opened a group chat with his entire family.
Carlisle: Family meeting as soon as I get home.