There was only one thing he could do; take the money and keep his
mouth shut. The threat was implicit in the guns on the soldier's
belts. To refuse the money would be an act of defiance and
superiority, and he needed this job. He took it without making eye
contact with the younger Ivanov. As Malik walked down the steps of the wooden field hospital building he sighed.
From the position the girl was in, with her feet up in stirrups, they
were apparently performing an abortion without her consent. It was all
too common. A white man gets involved with a local girl, and refuses
to take responsibility when she becomes pregnant. But he hesitated to
judge the young man too harshly. Perhaps it was his father who had
insisted on the procedure. That could explain the soldiers. The only
baffling thing was the hidden room. Malik turned and looked back at the white wooden structure. No windows down
at that end. He hadn't noticed that before. Why go to the trouble to
hide a room way out here in the middle of nowhere? It was a three hour
drive to the nearest settlement.
About a week later, Malik was helping unload a truck of supplies. He had pushed thoughts of the hidden room out of his mind. It was best to leave these men's secrets alone. He was carrying a bag of animal feed on his shoulder over towards the monkey enclosures, when he noticed a girl sitting in a chair on the front porch of one of the small servants cabins. He greeted her and said hello, but she didn't seem to hear him. She just stared past him at nothing in particular. Concerned, Malik set down the sack of feed, and approached the girl. He could see a white square of medical gauze taped to a shaved patch on her head. It was half concealed by her hair scarf. He bent over to look into her dark eyes. They were vacant, and unfocused. She looked strikingly similar to the girl he had seen struggling in the hidden room, but he couldn't be sure. He tried asking if she was alright.
"She can't hear you." said a woman's voice with an English accent from
the darkened open door of the cabin. As she walked out onto the porch,
Malik could tell from her wet brown cheeks that she had been crying.
"I'm sorry." Malik offered. "What happened to her?"
The woman spoke to Malik, but never took her eyes off the girl. "The doctors say she had a fever from... a blood infection." The woman sounded hesitant. Malik wondered if she was lying to avoid telling him about the abortion. She continued, "From the fever, there was swelling in her brain. They tried to make an opening, to relieve the pressure, but there was some brain damage. Now she's... like this." The woman's eyes welled as her voice trailed off.
Malik looked down at the ground. "I'm very sorry ma'am. If there's ever anything I can do, anything you need, My name is Malik. I work with the animals, mostly, just ask anyone over there for me."
"Thank you Malik, you're very kind. We'll be fine. I'm just worried about the baby." she said.
"Ma'am?" Malik was confused. "Baby?"
"Yes." the woman said, never taking her eyes off the girl. "The doctors told me. She's pregnant."