“I need a disinfectant,” I said. “Then needle and thread. Clean cloths and a bowl of warm water. If we can’t find alcohol, fire will do to sterilize the blade.”
Anishaa blinked tears away, then she and Cassie tore through the dining saloon to get the supplies. I’d need to perform the surgery now. Here. Time was almost up.
“You stay here with me, Wadsworth.” I clutched her hand. “I will follow you beyond death and drag you back if I must.”
“Here!” Anishaa skidded to a halt and handed me a needle and thread. Cassie was a moment behind her with a pitcher of water and a bottle of spirits she must have filched from the kitchens. I’d forgotten we were still in the dining saloon. I couldn’t fathom how they’d moved so fast to retrieve the items. Fear and love were powerful motivators.
“I need fire,” I said, turning to Cassie. “Here, put as much pressure on her wound as you can.” I refused to let my grip ease until Cassie had her hands firmly in place. To her credit, she didn’t so much as blink at the blood spurting up through her fingers. Her jaw was set, her gaze determined. She would do whatever needed to be done, no matter how terrifying it was.
“Anishaa, when I remove the blade, I need you to splash alcohol onto the wound and give me the needle and thread. Dr. Wadsworth should arrive soon and he’ll take over.” I glanced up. “Are we all clear on how to proceed? Once I take that blade out, it’s going to go to hell.”
Cassie flicked her gaze up. “Aren’t we already in hell?”
“True enough.” I sucked in a deep breath, steadying myself. “One. Two. Th—”
“Thomas.” Dr. Wadsworth appeared in front of me, his face grim. “Allow me.”
Part of me didn’t trust him, didn’t trust anyone with the impossible task. Which was ludicrous. He’d taught me everything I knew about surgery. I moved away, waiting for his instructions.
“Hold her leg at the ankle and upper thigh,” he ordered. I did as I was told, taking over from Cassie. Someone shifted beside me and held her ankles. I focused on applying enough pressure to her upper leg without harming her.
The doctor carefully pulled the knife out, making sure he removed it in the exact direction it had entered. He wanted to do the least amount of damage on the way out. Dr. Wadsworth and I had much practice with reattaching limbs and digits thanks to our secret work, but stitching an artery would prove tricky, even for him. If he miscalculated, she could bleed internally.
The blade slipped free and blood spurted up, spraying me in the face. It wasn’t pulsing at even intervals, suggesting her heart rate was slowing.
“Anishaa!” I cried. Without hesitation, the performer poured the spirits onto the wound, Cassie handed her a damp cloth. “Douse the wound with water now!”
Blood pooled too quickly for us to see properly. A hand came down on my shoulder, but I refused to look up from my task. I had to hold her leg tightly enough to staunch the bleeding, I had to—
“Thomas.” Dr. Wadsworth’s calm voice nevertheless held a command. I paused to look at him. “You can let go of her leg now. Put the cauterizing rod in the flames.”
I didn’t want to let go. Part of me felt like if I did, Audrey Rose would forever slip from my grasp. But arguing would destroy the girl I loved. I jerked my head in a semblance of a nod and hurried to do as I was instructed. The doctor had much more experience with veins and arteries. If anyone might save her, it was him.
Things moved in a blur of precision interspersed with panic. I mechanically followed instructions, ignorant of everything outside of the doctor’s voice. There wasn’t anything but science and determination now. Eventually the chaos in both the room and on the floor before me evened out. Dr. Wadsworth barked at someone to help me hold her leg steady while he took the rod to her limb. I hardly noticed who had come to assist. Blood suddenly ceased. It was like a spigot turning off. The pair of hands that had helped hold her disappeared. After adding more disinfectant to the interior of the wound, Doctor Wadsworth expertly stitched her skin together, nodding for me to dab a bit of Thayer’s witch-hazel astringent once he’d completed his task.
Mephisto edged into view. His arms were crossed and his expression was carefully controlled, but he couldn’t hide the twitch of his jugular as he stared down at Audrey Rose. I saw what he was trying to hide—the blood covering his hands. He was the one who had helped me hold her, then. For some reason, despite how hard he fought to get to the doctor, that made me want to launch myself at him. He had no right to worry over someone he tried winning through a game of manipulation. He and his cursed bargains and his secret agenda. I could strangle him right here.
“What now?” he asked, his tone devoid of its usual teasing.
Dr. Wadsworth pushed his spectacles up his nose, leaving a crimson smear across his face. He inhaled deeply, his expression haggard and worn. “Now we wait and see.”
I stopped imagining all the ways I’d strangle Mephistopheles with Houdini’s chains, focusing instead on the chalky pallor clinging to Audrey Rose like an unwelcome ghost.
Judging by the wide crimson pool around her, if she made it through the night, it would be a blessed miracle. As it stood, my chances of becoming a career murderer—a role most everyone in London already accused me of—were far greater than her opening her eyes again.