Larissa struggled to find the right words that might break through the woman’s wall of denial. “Annie, you don’t have to put up with anyone hurting you. We have programs that can help keep you safe.”
“No one’s hurting me,” Annie swiftly denied. “I told you I fell off the porch.” Her voice rose with indignation, and instinctively, Larissa knew she needed to back off or the woman might bolt.
“Okay, I’m sorry. I just don’t like the idea of anyone hurting you.” She forced a reassuring smile. “You’re such a nice woman, and you certainly deserve to be treated as such. Oh, look, here comes Dr. Allen now.”
“How are you, Mrs. Hinkle?” he asked. “I understand you may have broken your wrist.”
“I fell off the porch,” Annie said, repeating her story like a parrot.
“Hmmm,” Gabe murmured as he removed the ice pack from her wrist. His eyebrows pulled together in a dark frown when he saw the extent of the injury. He probed the skin gently, his expression serious. “We’re going to need several X-rays of this wrist,” he said.
Larissa swiftly logged on to the computer. “AP and lateral views?” she asked as she entered the order.
“Yes.” Gabe replaced the ice pack and gave Annie a stern look. “You know this didn’t happen from a fall,” he said bluntly.
“Yes, yes, it did.” Annie’s voice was beginning to sound desperate. “I’m klutzy and I fell off the porch.”
Gabe’s frustrated gaze locked on Larissa’s, and she knew exactly what he was thinking. She gave him a tiny nod, acknowledging their dilemma, and then turned toward Annie. “Okay, just relax for now. The radiology tech will be here shortly to take you over to get the X-rays. Dr. Allen, do you think she could have a dose of Percocet for the pain?”
“Great, I’ll be right back.” Larissa walked over to the automated drug-dispensing machine and punched in her password along with Annie’s name and ID number. The Percocet drawer popped open, and she removed one dose before closing it up again. When she spun around, she nearly bumped into Gabe.
“We have to notify the sheriff’s department,” he said in a low voice.
“I know.” The Wisconsin state statutes were pretty clear regarding cases of suspected abuse. Still, she knew that doing the right thing could also backfire in a big way. “But you heard her. There’s no way she’s going to press charges against her husband. And I’m afraid that he’ll only get angrier once the deputy questions him. What if he takes that anger out on her?”
Gabe thrust his fingers through his dark brown hair. “You could be right, but what choice do we have?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted, hating the feeling of helplessness. The system was supposed to work for victims, but more often than not, it created a vicious cycle, one that couldn’t be broken unless the victim took a stance. But too many of those victims didn’t. “Let me talk to the social worker first, okay?”
“Okay, but giving her pamphlets on domestic violence isn’t going to help,” Gabe said with a dark frown. “We have to call the authorities.”
She nodded, knowing with a sinking heart that he was right. She could only hope that the police could get through to Annie better than she and Gabe had been able to.
She closed her eyes and prayed that Annie wouldn’t end up back in the ER with injuries that were far worse than a black eye or a broken wrist.
Please, Lord, keep Annie safe!
Gabe stared at the deputy in disbelief. “You’re telling me there’s nothing you can do?”
Deputy Armbruster held up his palms in a helpless gesture. “What do you want me to say? I could haul Kurt Hinkle down to jail, but if she doesn’t press charges, he’ll be out by morning.”
That couldn’t be right. “Surely there’s enough evidence there to charge him with abuse even without her testimony?”
“Look, maybe he admits he grabbed her too hard, and she jerked away and oops? Look what happened?” The deputy sighed heavily. “Without Annie testifying against him, this could be made to look like some sort of accident rather than an intentional act of abuse. With no priors, he’ll walk.”