At a Birmingham hospital.
They navigate the lobby with only a few harsh intakes of breath from Janet, and Adrian holds open the taxi door for her. "Could you take us to the hospital please, sir, my friend has been injured." he to the driver as he enters the back drivers side door and slides into the seat next to her.
"Can do," the driver replies.
A few minutes later, Adrian and Janet are dropped off at the emergency room of the hospital. Inside, there are several other patients waiting to be seen. Many look as if they've been in a brawl. It doesn't take too much eavesdropping to determine that several people present were also at the rally earlier that evening.
The receiving clerk, a slight man missing several teeth, is quick and courteous. "Just have a seat, please," he says. "Doctor'll be with ya'll soon."
Adrian directs Janet to the nearest open spot on waiting room's wooden benches. After a few moments of listening to the conversations around them, he leans back comfortably into the chair and prepares himself for a long wait. In his mind, he starts running through the designs he had seen on Wasp and Fasces equipment, trying to find other ways to use those advances in his own work.
The young blonde takes the place offered by her elder caretaker. She looks around the room, trying hard to look at anyone in particular. Her thoughts can't help but to stray back to the rally, and wondering if she could have done something more. "I hope the wait isn't long." Janet makes small talk, having little else to do.
All things considered, the wait isn't too long. Only about an hour. Eavesdropping on their neighbors, Adrian and Janet learn that several people present were at the rally. All of them are discussing the evening's events. Many thank God for the miracle of the strange air tunnel and the mysterious voice that saved them from that horrible "Negro" man. Many also expressoften with colorful expletivestheir disapproval of the whole Wasp-Fasces-Warmonger possee idea.
"Connor must be a dumb ass," one lady nearby shared. "Gonna cuss about outsiders messin wid our bidness, an den hire outsiders to come mess wid our bidness."
There are also lots of questions and theories about the missiles, about the two frightening creaturesthe flaming skulled one at the rally and the dark-winged man earlier in the day.
"Miss Van Dyne, the doctor will see you now."
The doctor, a short, heavy set man with remarkably delicate hands waits in the doorway of an examination room. He wears thick glasses, has a stethoscope about his neck, and his head is surrounded by an unruly shock of salt and pepper hair. He grins and waits.
Janet rises slowly, and joins the doctor in the small room.
Adrian rises with her, supporting her on his arm on the trip to the examination room. Once there he wiats patiently outside, still listening to the conversations around him.
Janet goes in to see the doctor. She disrobes to the waist. The elderly man pokes around her ribs, making her wince. He shines a light in her eyes. Checks her ears. Cleans the cut on her head while shaking his own.
She explains her symptoms, trying not to go into detail about how they came about.
"I don't think any of your ribs are broken, but that gash will need stitches. I'm surprised you don't have a concussion," he says. There is a faint trace of an accent. French, maybe. He shakes his head again. "You were at that rally, eh?"
Janet sits speechless for a moment. As she is about to reply, the doctor continues.
"What's an attractive young woman like you messed up with that sort of thing for?" He is preparing the needed materials for the stitches. "Ah, but I'm being nosy. Forgive me. Who knows, eh? Maybe this disaster will turn out to be a good thing. Even the worst of situations can lead to good."
Janet looks quietly at the old man. Her yankee accent about as out of place as his. "I got a phone call from a friend, I tried to keep him out of trouble, but .." She shrugs her shoulders, as much as the pain allows. "Then all hell broke loose." She pauses for a moment, as if deciding how much to say. "I did hear that the Wasp and his hooligans were captured. That can't be a bad thing."
He raises his hands to start the stitches. His sleeves slide down, revealing his bony wrists and forearms. A number, six digits, faint blue, is tatooed on his left arm. The needle stings as he starts to work.
Though she notices the numbers, and her heart weighs heavy with what they mean. She doesn't make comment.
"I'll keep the stitches tight," he says. "Shouldn't even leave a scar."
She bears the pain with as much dignity as she can round up. "Thank you." is all she manages between stitches, hoping the doctor is right.
In the lobby, a man in blue jeans, a short sleeved button up shirt, and baseball cap sporting a Confederate flag turns to Adrian. He has blood stains on his shirt, along the chest and left sleeve. He's holding a towel to his left ear.
"Lady your daughter?" he asks, his voice a lazy drawl. Adrian looks confused at first, but the man nods toward the room Janet entered. "She your daughter?"
Adrian takes in the whole of the man taking to him, from his cowboy boots to his baseball cap, then answers in polite a voice as he can muster, "No. She's my niece. I'm looking after her."
He then leaned back against the wall, fighting the suit to make himself look more tired than he really felt and hoping the man was just a potential suitor to the pretty young girlone who will take the hint and go away. In the pit of his stomach, Adrian suspected something more menacing. _C'mon Janet. Let's get out of here..._
The man in the cap nods. "That's nice. I got my daughter up here. She's in with the doctor and her Maw right now. Fool girl went and spilled hot grease on herself while cookin. Screamed so loud I nearly cut my ear off while shavin." The man talks a little more, and then falls silent. He seems tired, and a bit worried.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al