By Pebbles


The very next day Luka was on the case. Catching Kerry alone in the lounge having a break he gave her a brief run down on Alice’s situation. “Do you know anyone who might sponsor her as a music therapist – she is qualified in the UK. I know it’s a long-shot but you know more people than I do” He gave Kerry one of his smiles which, if only he knew, turned grown women into putty in his hands.

 “Well we could start with Adele Newman. She would have a wide range of contacts in various institutions offering therapy of one kind of another. Why don’t I give her a call, see if she could have lunch with us.” “That would be great Kerry. Thank you.”

 The morning was fairly quiet in the ER and Luka took the opportunity to get up to date on his charts. He was working on them at the admit desk when he noticed Elizabeth Corday walking through the department. Impulsively he stood up and called her over “Dr Corday. I wonder if you could spare me a minute?”

Elizabeth stopped in her tracks “Of course Dr Kovac, what can I do for you?” Luka was hesitant, not having really spoken to the English doctor other than in the course of treating patients. He found her a little intimidating. “It, er…. is a kind of personal matter. Perhaps we could talk in the Lounge?”

  Elizabeth was intrigued. She knew very little about the Croatian doctor, other than that he was an excellent trauma physician. She had also noticed that he allowed his emotions to affect the way he dealt with patients. This was not a trait that she admired although she understood how difficult it was to remain detached in some of the very difficult situations they worked in. She herself had sometimes not acted in an entirely professional manner – they were human beings after all –not automatons.

 “Please call me Elizabeth.” She smiled hoping to put him at ease.

Luka paced nervously around the lounge. “I have a friend who has lost her passport. She is a British citizen, you see.” This was not coming out coherently. Luka started again. “Sorry, what I meant to ask was if you knew if there is a British consulate or embassy here in Chicago?” He looked hopefully at Elizabeth.

“Yes, there is a consulate here. In fact I have a friend who works there. Why don’t you tell me more about your friends situation and perhaps I could arrange a meeting.” Luka let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you. I don’t like to trouble you but my friend is very desperate. Not only has she lost her passport but also her visa would have run out by now. I am hoping to find her a sponsor but I don’t fully understand the rules and regulations.”

“Luka, I may call you that I hope?” She paused and Luka nodded enthusiastically “Please do.” “I can’t make any promises other than that I will do my best and my friend - who I was at school with – will, I’m sure do her very best within the constraints of the law.”  “I thank you again”

 Elizabeth was struck by how much younger Luka appeared today – his face was animated as he spoke. She ventured a bold guess. “This friend of yours. Is she by any chance your girlfriend?”

 “No!” Luka protested quickly - perhaps too quickly.  “No, we are just friends. She is very young..um..No, we are friends – that’s all” His voice trailed off. He looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be nosy. Well actually” She laughed “I did!” Luka chuckled lightly at this confession and they went their separate ways.

He was still smiling at Elizabeth’s confession when he ran into Kerry again. “You’re looking happy today.” She remarked. Everyone had noticed the change in Luka over the past few days. “Yes, thank you I am.” His grin widened as if to prove it.

 “Well I’ve got good news for you. Adele is coming down at one o’clock and as things are pretty quite around here we could both slip over to Doc Magoos for a bit of lunch with her.” “Excellent. I think Alice may be able to join us – if you think that would be a good idea?” “I think it would be a very good idea.” Kerry confirmed.

The meeting at Doc Magoos went very well. Adele was really impressed with Alice particularly when she described the placements she had done during her Music therapy course. In fact Luka and Kerry had barely joined in the conversation just taking time to enjoy their food for a change but listening with interest too.

 “Well Alice I have some ideas already. There is a facility on the South Side for adults with learning disabilities. It does excellent work but always has trouble attracting the right kind of staff; it's not the best location I guess. Shall I get in touch with the director on your behalf?” “Oh yes please. Do you think they would consider me with my current status – no visa I mean?” “Well we can but try.” Adele did not want to make promises she couldn’t keep.

 “Luka chipped in “I spoke to Dr Corday today – she’s English – she has a friend at the British Consulate who could help with that.”

“My, you have been busy today!” Kerry laughed. “I propose a toast: To Alice” And Kerry raised her glass of iced tea “To Alice!” For a moment Alice’s eyes filled up and she was afraid that she was going to embarrass herself by crying again. Just then Luka squeezed her hand under the table and she laughed instead “To me!”  


The next few weeks flew by. Alice was kept very busy, firstly with work at the Diner but also with interviews and meetings until it was all settled. She was to start work at the beginning of August by which time all her papers would be in order. Whenever they could she and Luka would spend time together. Sometimes they would go out exploring the city but more often they would just hang out, mostly at Luka’s apartment. 

Luka had a heavy workload, as the department was still short by one resident - plus, as it was summer there was a number of staff taking vacations. Mark Greene had taken a week out at the end of July to spend time with his daughter, which put an added strain on the system. Often, after pulling a double shift Luka would need to catch up on his sleep, which meant that he didn’t see Alice for several days. When this happened he found he really missed her and would try to spare a few minutes to catch up with her at the diner before his next shift. As the end of the month approached Luka realised that he would soon not be able to even do this.  

There was one last remaining problem to sort out and that was accommodation. Corrine’s sister was due home soon so Alice would be out on the street. The South Side Centre had rooms available for staff members but Luka was very reluctant to see Alice move so far away - he’d hardly see her at all. But so far he had not come up with any sensible alternatives. His apartment had only one bedroom and although he would have willingly given up his room for her he knew it was not really appropriate.

Finally the solution appeared right under his nose. One evening as he was finishing up running the board with Kerry he overheard Chuny complaining to Frank the desk clerk that her aunt’s tenant had disappeared owing a month’s rent. He mulled it over for a little while and then decided he had nothing to lose.

“Chuny, pardon me for eavesdropping, but does your aunt now have a room for rent?” “I guess so, Dr Kovac. Was it your girlfriend you were thinking of?” Luka blushed – it was barely discernible under his olive skin but Chuny noticed. “Alice Finlay? Yes, but she’s not my girlfriend!” he insisted. Chuny smiled “Of course not, Dr Kovac! Would you like me to phone my aunt about it? It’s a nice clean house not far from here.”  “Thank you, yes.”

The last part of the puzzle had fallen into place. Alice met Chuny’s aunt and was delighted by the little room in their attic. The rent was reasonable – at least she could make it on her new salary and she allowed Luka to put down the first month’s deposit for her.

It had been hard to rely so heavily on Luka but she was looking forward to having her own financial independence and being able to occasionally treat him. His friendship meant the world to her and these days she no longer even thought about returning to the UK. After all there was nothing there for her. Her brother Robbie was more often out of the country than not as his unit was posted to Kosovo then Africa and who knows where next.

Everything that mattered was here in Chicago.


Luka was back on nights. He had been able to take Alice out for a meal to celebrate her first day in her new job but since then he had not seen her.  It was nearly a week and all that they had managed was a few brief phone conversations. He was pleased that she was enjoying her work but frustrated that his was keeping them apart. Still, it would not be for much longer. Tomorrow he would have a day off and then start back on earlies. 

The shift seamed to drag by. It didn’t help that they were not very busy. No major traumas and mostly a succession of medical cases that barely taxed the residents. Malucci was winding Luka up with his constant whinging so he kept well out of his way feeling his fuse to be getting very short. He was so looking forward to seeing Alice again and was already planning where to take her. But first of all he needed to fall into bed and sleep for twelve hours at least.

As soon as Luka got home he took his usual shower but then fell straight into bed, his body needing sleep more than nutrition. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep when the phone ringing woke him with a start. It was the director of the South Side Centre, Bernard Huwyler.

 “I’m sorry to bother you Dr Kovac but Alice hasn’t turned up for work today and I was a little concerned because I couldn’t reach her at home.” It took Luka a moment to gather his thoughts. “Urgh what time is it?” “11 a.m.” The other man seamed somewhat surprised by the question. “I’m sorry I’ve been working nights and I was sleeping. She hasn’t phoned you?” Luka was still struggling to take in the information.

“No, she hasn’t. I was worried because I sent her home early on Friday. She was not very well but I thought she would have got over it during the weekend. It seams out of character for her to not call if she wasn’t coming today.” Luka was worried too. “I’ll find out what’s going on and let you know. Thanks for calling” He hung up without waiting for a reply. Immediately he dialled the house and when he got no reply tried Alice’s cell phone. There was no answer. A knot began to form in Luka’s stomach. His last call was to the hospital – at last Chuny came on the line.

“No, I don’t know Dr Kovac. I think my aunt has been away for the weekend. Yes, I guess Alice was alone in the house….Dr Kovac?” Luka slammed down the phone leaving Chuny talking to herself. Throwing the same clothes he had worn to work back on Luka was out the door in moments. Thanking God that she was only a few blocks away he drove his old Saab like a maniac, abandoning it on the sidewalk outside the house. The front door was locked and repeated hammering on it got no response apart from an elderly neighbour coming out to see what the racket was.

Luka hurriedly explained himself before throwing his entire weight at the unyielding door, which surprisingly collapsed under him. Picking himself up off the floor he tore up the stairs yelling for Alice. At the door to her room he hesitated, a wave of nausea sweeping over him. Fighting it he entered to room, which was in darkness, the drapes pulled shut.

“Alice?” There was a faint sound from the bed. Pausing only to find the light switch, Luka hurried over to the bed. Sinking to his knees he gingerly pulled back the covers. Alice was as pale as marble her skin cold to the touch. Feeling for a pulse Luka discovered that she was tachycardic. At this moment the elderly neighbour appeared at the door.

“Call 911!” Luka barked. “She’s in shock! Hurry!” He continued to examine her, cursing that he had not brought his bag with him. “Alice, can you hear me? Are you in pain?” She barely responded, her eyelids flickering briefly.

 “I’m here my darling just hang on and we’ll get you to hospital soon.” Panic stricken he searched her body for signs of trauma, finally discovering that her abdomen was swollen. Just then the paramedics arrived. Luka started giving them the bullet.

 “Female, 25. Hemorrhagic shock. Tachycardic, Loss of Consciousness, significant distension of abdomen…” His voice cracked and he struggled to continue. “We need to get in two large bore IVs and get her to County NOW!”      

“It’s OK Dr Kovac, we’ve got It.” the paramedics were already moving her down the stairs and Luka staggered after them. They were only a couple of minutes from the hospital – there was barely time to warn the ER. Chuny’s blood ran cold when she heard Luka’s voice on the radio.

 “We’ve got it Dr Kovac, trauma 1 is ready and I’ll page Dr Corday now.” Only moments later the gurney was crashing through the doors. Kerry and Elizabeth were ready waiting. Elizabeth took the bullet from the paramedics whilst Kerry intercepted the distraught Luka. “We can handle it now, Luka – she’s in good hands.” For a moment Luka resisted and then the nausea overtook him again and, struggling out of Kerry’s arms he rushed back outside to throw up.

Straightening up Luka found Frank the desk clerk beside him. “She’s in good hands” He repeated Kerry’s words. ”Come with me” and he gently led Luka back inside. Luka stopped outside trauma 1. Looking in, he could not see Alice for the crowds of his colleagues working on her. He felt weak at the knees and leant heavily against the doorframe.

 His eyes met Kerry’s across the room. She came out for a moment to appraise him of the situation. “It was an ectopic pregnancy. It ruptured causing severe blood loss. Elizabeth is performing a laparotomy right now – there was no time to transfer to the OR.” Luka visibly paled “Don’t let her die Kerry. Please don’t let her die!” Kerry gave him a reassuring squeeze on his arm “We’ll do everything in our power, Luka” and she returned to the room.

The minutes seamed like hours as Luka waited slumped in chairs. He felt so cold as if his blood had turned to ice. At last Kerry and Elizabeth were coming towards him. Luka stood up slowly, trying to read their faces – was it good or bad?  Elizabeth was the first to speak.

“You got to her just in time. She’s still critical but we’re transferring her to the ICU. If she gets through the next 12 hours she should make a full recovery.”

“I had no idea – that she was pregnant.” Was all that Luka could say. “Would you like to see her?” It was Kerry speaking now. Luka nodded and Kerry gently took his arm and led him there. 

Alice lay still on the table. Her colour was a little better than before. She was on a respirator, a central line inserted in her chest. Machines beeped, blood dripped through tubes – her life had hung in the balance. Tears streamed down Luka’s face as he bent over her, smoothing her hair away from her face. “Alice, don’t leave me. I beg you, don’t leave me.”

 Kerry and Elizabeth exchanged a glance and backed away leaving Luka alone with Alice. Lifting her hand he pressed it to his lips, silently praying for the first time in years. “Please don’t take her from me. Not Alice too.”  

He took comfort from the gentle warmth of her hand. The deathly coldness had gone – life was returning. At last Kerry came back. “We need to move her now. Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea with me, then you can go and see her in the ICU when she’s settled in?” “OK” Luka had recovered some of his composure and followed Kerry to the lounge.  “Thank you Kerry – for saving her life. I have only just realised that I…..I love her.”

 “You’re not very quick on the uptake are you?” “What do you mean?” Luka stared at Kerry his eyebrows knitting together in a frown. “Well it was quite obvious to me that you’re both besotted with each other – I can’t understand how you could keep denying it.” Kerry was nothing if not frank.

“But I am so much older than her, Kerry. She could never see me as a lover I am sure.” Kerry thought for a moment before replying. “Luka, I know you are afraid of being rejected. God knows we all are. But you have to seize hold of love before it passes you by. Alice loves you. She may be ten years younger than you but she has an old soul. Please let her know how you feel.”  Luka did not answer but carefully considered Kerry’s words.


A couple of hours later Elizabeth popped her head around the door to check on her patient in the ICU. She was not surprised to see Luka asleep in a chair beside the bed. Quietly, so as not to wake him, she checked on Alice’s chart and made a few observations of her own. The young woman had lost a lot of blood and one of her fallopian tubes but otherwise it looked as if she were on the road to recovery. She smiled a little to herself recalling the day that Luka had first approached her about Alice and how he had vehemently denied any relationship with her. There could be no doubt now about his feelings.

It was about midnight when Alice regained consciousness. The strange sounds of the ICU were the first things to register and then the antiseptic smell. Opening her eyes she gradually took in the room with its array of medical equipment and finally the figure of Luka slumped in the chair. She tried to speak but found that her mouth was filled with plastic tubing – all she could utter was a low grunting sound.

 Luka stirred his eyes flicking open. For a moment he fought the stiffness in his limbs and then he was on his feet. “Alice, It’s OK, I’m here. You’re going to be all right.” He sought first to reassure her. He touched her forehead, smoothing her brow. His fingers tracing the outline of her finely arched brows.

 “We should be able to get these tubes out now – I’ll page Dr Corday. Don’t try to talk yet.” He was only gone for a moment but Alice began to panic. She had always been afraid of hospitals since both her parents had died in them. Her father - blessedly quickly after a massive Stroke; her mother - more tortuously after a long and bitter struggle with Cancer.

Luka returned to her side. He knew that he would have to tell her what had happened but he was struggling to find the words. She was so young to have her future fertility compromised.  Alice noticed the play of emotions across his face and became even more alarmed.

 Just then Elizabeth arrived in response to Luka’s call. “Alice has regained consciousness and I hoped you would agree to extubate her now?” Luka deferred to the senior doctor’s judgement.

“I don’t see why not.” Elizabeth responded to his courteous manner. “You’re doing very well Alice. We’ll get rid of this tube and then we can fill you in on what’s been happening – unless Luka has already…?”

 “No” Luka interrupted “I thought it best to wait until Alice could speak.” After the tube had been removed and Alice had rinsed her mouth with water she looked towards Luka  - her eyes full of questions.

Luka began by asking her one. “Do you know what was the matter with you, Alice?”

She frowned. “No. I started to feel bad last week. I had a lot of pain. I, er, thought I was having a bad period. Only it didn’t start and the pain got worse. I had to come home early on Friday – I was feeling giddy and my shoulders were aching. I thought I must be getting flu so I went to bed.” She paused for a moment recalling the terrible pain, which had thankfully now gone. “I don’t remember much more – what happened to me?”

Luka had one more question. “Did you know you were pregnant?”

“Pregnant!” Alice could not believe it. “No!”  Then she remembered something and her face grew pale. Luka squeezed her hand, which he had been holding all this time.

Elizabeth now spoke up. “Alice, Luka brought you into the ER this morning. You had been pregnant but the embryo had implanted in one of your fallopian tubes and it had ruptured. You lost a lot of blood and were in shock. We gave you a blood transfusion and I performed surgery to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately I was not able to repair the damage done to the tube but you still have one which is fully functional.”

There was a moment’s silence. Luka admired the way Elizabeth broke the news – and was grateful that she had not left it to him – where Alice was concerned he could no longer detach himself and treat her as a patient.

Alice appeared to have taken the news calmly. “Thank you Dr Corday. God I feel stupid for not realising I was pregnant and I guess I should have let Luka know I wasn’t feeling well” She gave him an apologetic look before he could retort. “But I honestly had no idea what was happening.”

Satisfied that her patient was fully appraised of her situation and required no change in meds or treatment, Elizabeth excused herself with the proviso that Luka should let Alice get some sleep. After she had gone, Luka pulled up the chair so that he could continue to hold her hand but get the weight off his feet – he was feeling so tired.

“Alice” He began but she interrupted him. “I need to tell you something, Luka”

“Can it wait?” Luka was anxious that she didn’t over tire herself.

“No, I want to tell you now.” Alice swallowed hard. Her throat felt raw from the intubation and she had been bottling this up for so long – it was going to be hard to get it out.

“That night when you stitched up my face.” She hesitated. Luka was watching her intently as if he knew what she was going to say. “I didn’t tell you everything. I didn’t tell you that Lennie didn’t just hit me. He….he raped me.”

 Luka felt as if a red-hot poker had just been plunged into his guts. “Oh, Alice why didn’t you tell me?” his voice was hoarse with emotion. Alice looked away – she could not bear to look at him, to see the pain in his face. “I was ashamed.” She whispered.

Luka took her head in his hands and gently turned her face to look at him. Gazing into her tear filled eyes his own tears poured down his face, falling onto Alice like rain. “No! No.” He shook his head. “It was not your fault.”

Alice began to cry. “I felt so dirty. I didn’t want you to know – how could you bear to….to” Her sobs now wracked her whole body so she could no longer speak. Luka was concerned that she was getting too agitated.

“Alice, Alice it’s alright. Shush, shush.” He cradled her head against his shoulder, cursing the lines and wires that prevented him taking her properly into his arms. For a long time he held her tight whispering assurances in her ear until she eventually stopped crying and fell asleep.

After she had been asleep for some time Luka realised that time had been passing by and he had better get himself cleaned up before he was on duty again. Heading towards the elevator he bumped into Kerry who was on her way to the ICU to check on him and Alice. She was dismayed to see the state Luka was in – his eyes rimmed with dark shadows, clothes rumpled, his unshaven beard giving him an even more gaunt appearance.

“Look Luka, I can cover the first hour or two of your shift. Why don’t you go home any get yourself a shower and some clean clothes?” She went on “Alice will probably sleep for a good many more hours and we can ask the ICU to page you when she wakes up.”

“Yeah, I already asked them to do that.” Luka still looked indecisive. “Kerry, can I talk to you for a minute - somewhere private.” They found an empty office near the elevators. Kerry waited patiently for Luka to start talking; observing his agitation as he paced up and down in front of the window like a caged animal.

“She was raped!” He spat out the words so suddenly that Kerry was taken completely off guard. “Oh, my God!” She covered her mouth with her hand. Luka continued “It was the man she was living with. The one who beat her. I stitched up her face after the attack but she never told me she had been raped. All this time she has never told me, Kerry ” He turned to Kerry, his face stricken with confusion.

“It’s not uncommon for rape to go unreported, Luka. Especially if the attacker is known to the victim.” As she spoke Kerry realised that this was not want Luka wanted to hear.

“I know that Kerry! But we have talked for hours and hours about – well, everything. And yet she kept this from me. I just don’t understand.” Luka raked his fingers through his already tousled hair. “She is such a good listener. I have been able to tell her things that I have kept inside me for years. She has helped me so much. I just can’t bear to think she has been unable to tell me… this thing.” He broke off emotion cracking up his voice.

“You mustn’t feel that you are to blame, Luka” Kerry touched him briefly on the arm. “This is something that has happened to her very recently. She may have been trying to deny that it even happened. Just give her time and space. She will open up to you when she is ready.”    

“I want to kill this man.” Luka’s voice was cold and harsh. Kerry had no doubt that he was capable of doing it. “I don’t think that would help Alice. She needs you to take care of her – not get yourself put in jail for manslaughter.” Taking Luka’s arm again she began to lead him towards the door. “Right now you need to get yourself freshened up and get something to eat, too. I’ll see you later and we can talk some more, OK?”  He nodded and forced himself to follow her suggestion.


to part 4

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