Shades of Grey: Lost and Found (Prequel)

Story created by Paulette Holmes based around original stories by E.

Illustration borrowed from collection/object/P_1907-0930-507

Thank you for choosing to read this tale where I have had the temerity to present a short series in what I call 'stepping stone' style giving the reader suggestions or brief insights into some of the significant events that may have happened to and around a young Christian in the period between his mother's death and his arrival at his new permanent home with the Trevelyan-Grey family.

This approach means I have been deliberately vague about timings and left gaps between chapters. I may also have tweaked a few matters from the original trilogy; please, don't be mad at me for that.

I hope you will enjoy imagining and reimagining and shaping and filling those gaps in your own way so that you too become a storyteller, as indeed we all are.

I look forward to your feedback: positive and negative.

Enjoy

PJH

Chapter 1 Lost and Found: Grace

She heard him first. A keening, painful whine: loud, high-pitched, and pitiful.

It disturbed everyone - even patients looked up.

Grace found it hard to believe such a heart wrenching noise could come from someone so small and, apparently, so frail.

'Hi, Doc.'

'Evening, Jacob. What's all this?' She says as she reaches over and peeks in at the bundle he is holding. Matted hair and stick-thin arms wave at her. As the child twists the smell leaks out, a mixture of soiling, grime, sweat and most probably, if possible, fear. Through gaps in his ill-fitting clothing bones poke at pale dirty skin and his midriff competes with distended stomachs more common in Third World countries.

Distrusting gray eyes and tiny limbs move constantly as he tries to wriggle out of Jacob's strong but gentle grip.

'Please. Put him here.' Grace says pointing to a cot behind her.

'Doc, if I do that he'll run, even if it means falling. I had to give him a shot to get him from home and into the truck. He's only just woken up. That's why I'm holding on tightly.'

'Okay, Jacob. Child Services aware?'

'They called us. They couldn't manage him. He was wild and uncontrollable with fear whenever they tried to lift him away.'

'Away?'

Jacob drops his voice, 'Away from…' Jacob turns to the doctor and mouths, 'Away from his mother's body.'

Grace winces.

'Right, um…um. Okay. Let's take him to a side room and take it from there. Can you manage? I think it best that no-one else tries to carry him.'

'I'm good, Doc. Let's get the wee man sorted.'

'Do we know his name?'

'Christian, we think.'

Turning towards the small bundle she says, 'Christian, I'm a doctor, my name is Grace and I am going to try to help you. Is that okay?'

The plaintive noise does not stop. It is as if she has not spoken.

Cautiously, she reaches for the hand in which he is gripping his dirty tatty blankie. He pulls away turning in towards Jacob. The noise becomes even more feral as he lashes out with his other hand.

Reassuring him, Grace says, 'Okay Christian. Okay. I am not going to take it and I am not going to hurt you. Do you hear me? I am notgoing to hurt you.'

Aside she says, 'Jacob, I think we'll have to run the risk, rule out gas and cream and repeat your earlier intervention. What do you think? At least his lungs seem strong and there's nothing wrong with his flight or fight reflex. As for the rest… we'll see.'

'Sounds good to me, Doc.'

'Okey dokey. What dose did you use?'

'Given he's all skin and bone. I used 5cl less than the minimum. But he was only out for twenty three minutes.'

Grace looks at Jacob indicating her intentions: and then steps behind him. Jacob locks Christian's right arm out behind him so Grace can have, relatively, easy access. When he looks back at her she nods. He holds the boy more firmly, with Christian's torso, legs and other arm all bundled in together.

Grace takes her chance: after two failed attempts she injects.

The dreadful howling ceases almost immediately as Christian's taut body goes limp and Jacob lays him down.

Grace says, 'Jesus! He is a mere bag of bones, and a small bag at that. Give me one minute, please Jacob?'

Grace steps out into the main ER corridor. On catching sight of Nurse Charmaine's colourful locks, she waves to get her attention and beckons her.

'Hi, Doc. What can I get you?'

'Hi, Charmaine. Am I glad to see you! I need some clean warm clothing for a two year old and …this,' Grace holds up the blankie, 'washed, dried and ready to put back in his hand within sixty minutes, at most.'

'Okay,' Charmaine says. 'Anything else?'

'Some good but well diluted non citrus juice and some food but only a small portion of each. Can you do your usual magic?'

Smiling, Charmaine, says 'Sure can.'

'Good. Please put in a face to face urgent request for a full MRI as well. Get them to page me a time slot. Come back to assist if you can?'

'I'll do my best.' Holding the blankie at arms-length Charmaine walks towards the stores.

'I owe you.' Grace says.

A faint, 'Yes you do', comes back.

Smiling, Grace steps back into the room now silent except for the soft snores of a serene looking boy.

'Thanks Jacob. Before you go. Any other details I need to know?'

Jacob sighs. 'Where should I start? The mother appears to have been dead for at least four days. The vomit next to her body was probably older. Child services tell me that he was lying next to her. His clothes seem to indicate that that's where he spent most of the last few days. There was no food in the house and the freezer door was open. Only thing left in it was stuck on the back wall. That gunge on his face? Seems to indicate that he had been gnawing at some pack of resin-like substance. We assume it to be from the freezer - contents as yet unknown. CSI office will let us know. If you look at his fingernails, you'll see some of them are broken and that they've got the same coloured gunge underneath. God only knows what was stuck to the back of that freezer.'

'Thanks. Any father contact details? Any other known relatives?'

'Child Services are on it. They don't hold out much hope.'

Grace asks, 'Anything else that would or could help sooth him when he wakes? Toys, Mother's perfume? A picture of her? Of them together? Anything?'

'I'll get Child Services on to that too. I did look, but the only toys in the whole place were two model cars they found under the boy. All I got was a faint smell of jasmine in the sole bedroom. Not exactly fresh but it was there.'

'Thanks, Jacob.'

'No problem, Doc. I'll try and pop in again.'

'Right, I'd better move. I haven't got much time.'

'Doc?'

'Yes?'

'One last thing.'

'Go on.'

'We think he's much closer to four, maybe four and a half than two.'

Grace looked at her patient. 'Four? Dear God! Are you sure?

'Neighbours told us that they had lived there for over three years and that he was a little more than a baby when they moved in.' Jacob replied.

Grace's mouth fell open. It didn't seem possible. And if it was it wasn't right. She shook her head and began her investigations with body measurements.

Height: thirty-four inches tall. Roughly six or so inches shorter than expected.

Weight: nineteen pounds. Less than half the average.

Contusions – nearly too many to count but count she must. Grace inhaled. Clear signs of bone breaks: some relatively current and others much older.

Sadly, this checking procedure was well established and much needed.

Grace worked quickly, almost mechanically. Charmaine came in softly as she was checking Christian's chest. As was Grace's practice, she closed her eyes, as she moved her fingers over the rib cage, sternum etc testing each bone, until her fingers told her to open her eyes to investigate an anomaly further. She felt rough raised skin patches she knew, instinctively, were not chickenpox scars.

'Charmaine, we're going to need the trauma kit.'

He stirred as she tilted him to look at his back. There she identified more of the same on his upper back. To make sure, she inspected with a magnifying glass.

Charmaine came closer and said, 'Shall I start now?'

'Yes please, Charmaine. Can we use the audio feature too?'

'Of course.'

Two clicks told Grace the audio and video were ready.

She said, 'Young male child, ca. four to four and a half years old. Clear evidence of maltreatment, extensive malnutrition, severe dehydration, fear of adults and of being held. Possibly hapnophobia given his earlier reactions…or, perhaps, he is autistic. Maltreatment may or may not have been of a sexual nature. The full body scan will speak to that. Scarring appears to be burn scars from cigarettes, twisted, almost in a figure eight configuration.'

Grace pauses and turns Christian fully onto his back.

She breathes in deeply and continues.

"Arm and leg limbs reveal evidence of fractures. Skin colouring is pale and excessively dirty. Also indicates recent and extensive bruising and raised welts consistent with the size of… an… adult… fist…, most likely male and a belt buckle or similar implement.'

Looking up at Charmaine she whispers, 'Thank you, Charmaine. You can switch it off for now. Let's get him to the MRI. Their page message said about twenty minutes so they should be ready for us.'

'Oh, Doctor…'

Grace says, 'Charmaine! No! You know how this works… we have to hold it together until we have completed our duty. Understood?'

Grace paused, barely able to compose herself.

Charmaine sniffs.

'Ready?' Grace asks.

'Yep, I'll grab his blankie and the clothes so we can bathe him then dress him again asap.'

'Good. I hope we've enough time. If we get there and it looks like we have to wait we can quickly bathe him first and then go back after.' Wrinkling her nose, Charmaine continues, 'Though he looks as though one bath isn't going to be nearly enough.'

In the end, the bath came first. Finally, he looks fully human, and in his sleep at least, much less haunted. His hair is a beautiful mop of copper strands in amongst dark brown curls.

Grace wraps him in a towel, strokes his face and kisses his cheek.

She says, 'There you are. I see you now.'

Minutes later they're on their way back to the ER and had just settled him down when he starts to come round, in clean warm clothing with his blankie right where it should be.

'Charmaine? Do you have the drink in a sipper cup?'

'I do. Here you go. I'll go warm up that food.'

'Hello Christian, how are you feeling?' Grace says, gently.

There was no audible response. She continues, 'would you like a drink?'

Wary eyes follow her movements. Long shaky fingers reach out for the sipper.

She hands it over, careful not to touch or surprise him with sudden movements. 'Slowly, if you can my lovely. Slowly.'

In no time it was gone. Grace smiles.

'Would you like some macaroni cheese now?'

His eyes widen.

Charmaine returns and Christian scoots to the back of the bed on his haunches. His eyes large and anxious: he looks from Charmaine to Grace and back again. As if he was speaking, his mouth opens and make shapes but no sounds.

Not taking her eyes off him for a second, Grace reaches out behind her and takes the bowl. Quietly she points behind her and says, 'Christian, this is Charmaine. She made the food for you. She is a good friend of mine and I promise she won't hurt you.'

Christian remains resolutely at the back of the bed as if willing himself to merge with the bedding and the frame.

'Shall I leave it here, next to the bed, for you?'

Christian's eyes follow the bowl. He breathes in. A slight crinkle appears at the edge of his mouth as the aroma reaches him. His nostrils flare.

He shuffles towards the bowl, watching the women all the while.

Grace stands stock still, smiling, encouraging him to eat with her eye movements.

Once he has the bowl in his lap, his head drops, and his attention is directed solely to it. A flurry of spoon to mouth movements ensue.

Grace turns slightly towards Charmaine. 'I know he must literally be starving, but I cannot run the risk of giving him too much too soon. I'm also betting we have a cat in hell's chance of feeding him intravenously even overnight.'

Charmaine agrees, 'Bless him. I can't imagine what…No! No! I won't go there. I'm going to make myself useful and collect the scans so you can read them and decide what's next.'

'Thanks Charmaine, good idea, though I figure, sleep is what's next.'

'For him or for us?'

Grace drops her voice to a whisper. 'Hmm, for all of us, but for him first. God help me, Charmaine, I feel so angry, so helpless! I could so ignore my 'Do no harm' oath if I ever found the miserable SOB responsible for this.'

'All of the above maybe, but definitely not helpless. Look.' Charmaine replies.

Christian had put down the empty bowl, slid down into the bed and covered himself and was looking at them cautiously, thumb in mouth, blankie under his chin, in that way that only children on the verge of sleep do.

A few minutes later he lost the battle with his eyelids.

Over the next week, it wasn't necessary to consider alternative modes of restriction or even additional medication. The raised sides on the bed kept him in bed, safely. Overnight, Christian was sedated, via his food, and slept solidly for at least thirteen hours and occasionally for more than fifteen, interrupted only by two reoccurring incidents of screaming, during which he sobbed and shouted, quite lucidly, 'No. Leave me alone! Don't touch me! Please don't!' and 'Mommy, wake up. Please, please wake up.'

It was strange to hear his mournful voice.

Ella Nutini, from Child Services, arrived early on to deliver two newly sanitised toy cars that helped to keep Christian occupied and calmer. She was pleased to hear that breakfast was always bolted and lunch had to be administered in stages.

A week later she arranged to visit and observe, and to discuss the medical situation.

Watching him from the ward office through the glass, Grace summarised the situation for Ella and concluded with, 'the blood test results show signs of strong cannabis in the bloodstream. Bad but better than a whole heap of other substances, I suppose. What are Child Services' plans for him?'

Ella usually hesitated to answer this question. It was invariably prefaced with a negative like, 'Well, we don't have a bed or a family right now, so…blah, blah…'

This time though she was really happy to be able to say, 'Thankfully, there is a place and in an excellent foster home, not nearby but somewhere I am very confident will be excellent for Christian. There is a downside. They won't have space until about three weeks from now. In the meanwhile…'

Relieved, Grace responded, 'Good. That gives us sufficient time to check him out thoroughly. We're still concerned about a hairline fracture to the left of his skull, just above his ears. He must suffer from tremendous headaches, as a result, but as he does not speak, at least when he is awake, we'll have to do most of the leg work on that.'

'Will he recover?' Ella asked.

'Physically? Most likely. It will be long haul. It's a good sign that he has tolerated food and drink relatively well. Everything gets swept clean off the plate. No messing. Every single pea, leaf, seed and pasta shell. It's a joy to watch. I wish my boy would eat so well.'

'And mentally?' Ella probed.

Grace sighed. 'That's a totally different ball game. In a few days, when they've finished monitoring him here in Sky ward, we'll move him to Snow Fox. Fewer children, less noise so easier to monitor once he's awake for most of the daytime. We have no idea yet of the extent of or even of the full and true nature of the mental damage. Physical evidence is only part of the puzzle, as I am sure you know. Lyndsey Stobbart is coming to observe him today or tomorrow. She'll need quite a few sessions before she can give us an informed view. If he doesn't start to communicate in any way, it will all take much much longer.'

Ella said, 'Of course, I understand. I've had dealings with Lyndsey before. She's excellent and very calming, I can't help but feel…'

Grace interrupts,'…Can't help but feel that this case will be, shall we say, much more of a challenge, far less easy to unpick, and that the longer he spends in the system the more of a disaster it will become?'

Ella stands up. 'Exactly.'

Ella's phone rings for the fifth time. Once again, she checks the number and ignores it.

'Now, I really must be going. As you know, Child Services is always busy, busy, busy. I'm so relieved to see him looking relatively well already and I look forward to your completed report. Sorry, I don't think I caught your name. Dr Grace is it?'

'Please, it's Grace. Officially, I am Grace Trevelyan-Grey, but that's far too long. And, err even under these circumstances, it's lovely to meet you Ella.'

As Ella left, Grace reaches for her own phone, dials, and waits, 'Hello?'

'Grace, darling. Everything alright?'

'Cary, how long will it take you to get here? I've found him!'

'Are you sure?'

'Oh yes. I can't wait for you to meet him.'

'Then, I'm on my way.'

Total story word count 11551 Page 20 of 20