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Turbulence, p.6

Turbulence, page 6

 

Turbulence
 


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  “Hey,” she protested.

  “We can’t take all day,” he told her. “In case you haven’t noticed, the rain is getting heavier and the clouds are showing some rotation.”

  She looked up. Now that he’d mentioned it, the clouds were darker and lower than before, and she could see their circular movement. But his high-handedness still irritated her. She was only partially appeased by his next question.

  “How do you want to handle our casualties?”

  “If the three in the back can walk, you can take them to the plane while I work on the two in front.”

  “Fair enough.”

  To add insult to injury, he popped the door free with only a few levering motions. A second later, she greeted the three boy’s face-to-face, noticing they were all huddled to one side.

  “How’s everyone doing?” she asked, enjoying the temporary protection from the rain and wind.

  A chorus of excited voices answered. Smiling, she raised her hands for them to stop. “If you’re this talkative, you can’t be hurt too badly,” she told them. “I’m Dana, by the way, and this is Micky.”

  The sandy-haired youth closest to Dana pushed up his wire-rimmed glasses as he introduced everyone. “I’m Eddie. Josh and Pete are in the middle.” He pointed to two dark-haired boys in the next row of seats. “Mr. Ewing and Will are in the front.”

  “Can we save the chitchat for later?” Micky mumbled for her ears only. “We’re running out of time.”

  She glared at him. “I know,” she muttered, then turned back to the boys. “Hold on a few minutes. We’ll take out the back seat to make it easier for everyone.”

  As soon as Micky helped her unload their bags and set the bench on the grass to give them more working space inside the vehicle, Dana gladly took refuge from the wind and rain under the opened door. She quickly assessed Josh’s swollen knee and Pete’s sore wrist, deciding that they could wait for more than cursory attention. Eddie was relatively unscathed, although he reported having the same bumps and bruises as his friends.

  “Here’s what we’re going to do,” she said briskly. “You two—” she pointed to Eddie and Pete, who were both ambulatory “—will climb out first. As you can see, it’s wet out, so if you have a rain poncho, wear it.”

  The van wiggled and shuddered as the two scooped up their outerwear and scooted out. Meanwhile, Dana crossed her fingers as she watched the rope. It still had enough give that she was confident it would hold.

  Before she could crawl inside again to help Josh, he’d maneuvered himself between the nearly vertical seats. Micky helped her grab his shoulders and pull him the rest of the way.

  “I’ll put a splint over your clothes for now,” she told the teenager as she hurriedly did so. “Eventually, though, we’ll look at the damage.”

  “Will you have to cut my jeans?” Josh asked.

  Sliding the taut denim over his swollen knee would be impossible, not to mention painful. “Probably.”

  “These are my favorite pair.”

  “I know,” Dana soothed, “but it can’t be helped. Micky and I will carry you to the plane.”

  “I’ll manage,” Micky told her. “You stay here and work on the last two.”

  His upward glance at the clouds reminded her that weather conditions weren’t improving. “Okay,” she agreed. “You can be his crutch.”

  While Micky led the group toward the plane, Dana pulled latex-free gloves out of the trouser pocket where she always stashed several pairs. After pulling them on, she crawled inside the van.

  It would be easier to extricate the two remaining victims without the middle seats blocking their exit, so she unlatched one from its runner. Before she could catch it, gravity sent it tumbling down on her.

  A jagged edge of metal sliced through her pants and cut her thigh. She bit back an expletive and surveyed the damage. Blood welled in the gash, but fortunately, the injury wasn’t deep.

  With a few mighty heaves, she soon had the seat out of the way and was able to reach the driver.

  “Your turn, Mr. Ewing,” she said cheerfully as she examined the slash on his forehead. The blood on his face had already dried, although the wound oozed underneath his handkerchief compress.

  “It’s Clay and I’m fine. Look after my son, Will, first,” he replied in the distinctive drawl common to Texas residents.

  “I’ll get to him,” she said. “You look like you’re in worse shape than he is, so you get first dibs on my attention. Any dizziness or nausea?”

  “Plenty of both. Including a granddaddy of a headache.”

  “Dad was out of it for a few minutes,” Will reported. “But since he woke up, he hasn’t passed out again. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?”

  “Yes, it is.” She pulled a penlight out of her pocket and flashed it in Clay’s eyes. His pupils reacted equally, which was encouraging, as were the rest of his vital signs. “Any other injuries?”

  “A few bruises.”

  “Any pains in your back? Arms or legs? Your neck?”

  “No.”

  “I’m going to put a collar on you as a precaution,” she said as she matched her words with action. As soon as the brace was situated to her satisfaction, she patted his shoulder. “You’re ready to go. When my partner comes back, we’ll escort you to the plane.”

  “Fine by me.”

  She turned to his son. “Do you mind hanging there for a few more minutes?”

  “Nah, I don’t mind.”

  “I’ll hurry,” she told him.

  He nodded, but not before she glimpsed a light sheen of moisture on his upper lip. She narrowed her eyes. “Where does it hurt?”

  “I’m fine,” he insisted.

  She knew he wasn’t being truthful, but a quick visual didn’t give her any clues. She lowered her voice. “I know you’re in pain.”

  “My right shoulder,” he muttered. “Just take care of my dad.”

  Dana was impressed by the teen’s selfless attitude. Clay Ewing should be proud. “I will.”

  The van creaked and shuddered once again as she helped Clay squeeze free. By the time he’d inched his way to the back with her assistance, Micky had returned.

  “You’d better hurry,” Micky warned her as he held Clay’s arm while the man found his footing. “I’m not sure how long that rope or the post it’s tied to will hold.”

  “Understood,” she said as she grabbed her kit and carried it inside the van.

  “It’s just you and me, kid,” she told Will.

  Will closed his eyes, as if the stress of hiding his injury from his father had taken its toll. “And Dad’s going to be all right?”

  “I’m not a doctor, but he looks great, all things considered.” She gently ran her hands along his collarbone and felt the break. “In fact, I’d say he’s better off than you are. You won’t be able to hide this from him indefinitely, you know.”

  “I know. I just didn’t want him to worry about me.” He paused. “Is the bone broken?”

  “Afraid so.” She ran her hands down his arm to check both his brachial and radial pulses. “I’m going to immobilize your shoulder before I release the seat belt.”

  “I’ll fall.”

  “Not if we do things right.”

  In spite of her reassurance, she knew that it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for him. He’d feel any sudden or jarring movement. “Just relax while I get things ready,” she told him.

  As soon as Micky returned, she’d call the hospital for permission to use a painkiller. In the meantime, she’d learn just exactly what goodies were packed in her kit so she’d know what she had to work with.

  She pulled the drug box closer and ripped off the plastic tie threaded through the latch. As a lock, it left a lot to be desired, but she supposed it was better than nothing. At least it served to ensure that anyone who opened it would leave the evidence behind. Mentally she gave a point to Micky for ingenuity until she flipped the latch and raised the lid.

  A
gleaming black handgun lay on the top shelf.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  DANA RECOILED. “What in the world—?”

  “Something wrong?” Micky’s head and shoulders appeared in the opening at the back of the van.

  She pinched the grip of the gun with two fingers and gingerly raised it. “Do people in Texas treat their accident victims, or shoot them?”

  “Well, now,” he drawled, revealing an unrepentant grin. “That depends if they’re the two-or four-legged variety.”

  She glared at him, realizing that her reaction was becoming quite common where Micky Flynn was concerned. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

  “Shove it to the side,” he said impatiently. “It won’t bite and it isn’t loaded. Better yet, give it to me.”

  “With pleasure,” she mumbled, handing it to him before she resumed familiarizing herself with the box’s contents. “Are guns part of the standard equipment in EMS medical kits around here?”

  “I wouldn’t know. And before you jump to the wrong conclusions, this box is the safest place for me to store a weapon on my plane. Plus, I don’t expect to use it except in a dire emergency, so what better place to put it than in the emergency kit?”

  “The plastic tie wouldn’t keep out a persistent two-year-old,” she pointed out before she found the drug she wanted. “For absolute safety, you should use a padlock.”

  “I should,” he agreed. “And I used to.”

  “Then why not now?”

  “Because when our paramedic needed my supplies, the key turned up missing. We finally used a crowbar to get inside and completely broke the latch. Since I can count on one hand the people who know I keep a medical kit, I feel safe with my system.”

  “You’re flirting with disaster,” she told him.

  “Flirting?” He arched one eyebrow and his eyes held a definite sparkle.

  Aware of how handsome she thought he was, and remembering how she’d watched him charm the women at the fire station that morning, Dana regretted the word she’d chosen. Clearly her subconscious was hard at work.

  “Courting danger,” she amended.

  “Well, now,” he said in his lazy drawl, “there’s danger and then there’s danger. And speaking of which—”

  “I know, I know. The storm’s coming. I’m working as fast as I can. You don’t have any nitrous oxide on board, do you?”

  He shook his head.

  “I didn’t think so. We have to call Dr. Sherwood. I need her permission to administer morphine.”

  He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and punched in the number. “Can’t you just give it to him?”

  “I could if I were a paramedic, but I’m not. An EMT can’t administer drugs without the permission of a physician, but a paramedic can.” While she waited for Micky to reach the doctor, she readied her supplies.

  A few seconds later, he snapped the phone closed. “I can’t get through.”

  “What do you mean, you can’t get through?”

  “Just what I said. I can’t get through. The weather is causing problems with our reception.” His dark gaze met hers. “So now what?”

  “Try somewhere else,” she insisted. “The hospital where you’re going to fly us.”

  “It’ll take a while,” he warned. “I don’t have the number and I’m not sure I can get through there, either.”

  “Try. Otherwise all I can give him is baby aspirin.”

  “Tell me you’re joking. Baby aspirin?”

  “Without proper authorization, I can’t give anything else out of that kit. Stop arguing and make the call.”

  He punched in more numbers while Dana prayed for him to get through. If she didn’t find a doctor to give her a verbal order, Will would suffer far more than necessary. And if she acted without those orders, she’d be doing exactly what she’d accused Micky of doing—flirting with danger.

  He clicked the phone closed. “Can’t get through.”

  “Keep trying.” She pushed two aspirin out of a blister pack. “Do we have any water?”

  He pointed to the window. “Plenty, but none of it’s drinkable.”

  “I have a bottle up here,” Will said. “Can’t reach it, though.”

  Dana found the bottle wedged between the gearshift and driver’s seat, then passed it to him, along with the aspirin. As soon as he’d swallowed the tablets, she moved back toward Micky.

  “That’s it?” Micky asked, incredulous. “You’re going to rely on aspirin? Maybe I should find a bullet for him to bite on.”

  She tried not to take offense. He was anxious to get them on their way, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, hurricane or not, if she acted outside of her legal limits, the law wouldn’t let her close to a drug box ever again.

  “Can’t you bend the rules this time?” he asked. “Extenuating circumstances, and all that?”

  She edged closer to him and spoke softly. “I wish I could. I don’t like this any better than you do, but if I give him anything stronger without a doctor’s okay, I won’t be bending the rules, I’ll be breaking them. I don’t know what happens when pilots break rules, but I won’t get a minor slap on my wrist. I lose my license. Period. No exceptions, no matter the outcome.”

  “Okay. I’m sorry. You’re in charge.” He glanced through the window toward the sky before he ran his hands through his hair.

  “It’s just that if we don’t get out of here soon, we’ll be stuck. I don’t have to tell you that neither my plane nor this van will give us much protection.”

  “I know. The thought of weathering the storm here gives me the willies, too. So try calling again.”

  He punched in a number and this time, to Dana’s relief, made contact. “Ruth? Is Dr. Sherwood there?” He covered one ear as if to hear better. “Then can you give me the number for the hospital in Alice?”

  He started repeating the numbers, then stopped. “Say again,” he urged.

  Dana waited impatiently for him to place the second call. The next few seconds lasted forever, but soon he was speaking to someone. “Here—” he handed her the phone “—it’s the E.R.”

  Dana gratefully took the unit. After identifying herself, she explained the situation and hoped the physician at the other end caught enough of her conversation to help her.

  His reply came, although she had to listen carefully over the static.

  “Please repeat,” she said, wanting to verify the dosage she thought she’d heard.

  A crackle sounded, nearly blasting out her ear drum. She winced, then recited what she thought were his instructions, and waited for his response.

  “Affirmative,” came through loud and clear.

  She glanced at Micky. “What’s our ETA?”

  “Thirty minutes. Give or take.”

  Dana passed along the information, not certain if they’d heard her transmission, but at least she’d received her required authorization. After snapping the phone closed, she passed it back to Micky and carefully inched her way to Will’s side.

  “I’m going to give you something to take the edge off the pain. It won’t completely disappear,” she warned, “but it should drop to a level you can handle.”

  Relief spread across his face as he nodded. “I was worried about that,” he confessed.

  “Don’t,” she said kindly as she slid the needle home in his arm. “Between the medicine and a splint, you’ll do just fine.”

  She leaned away to discard the sharps, only to find Micky had moved in close. “You’re blocking my space.”

  “You’d really lose your license? Even under extenuating conditions?” A wrinkle appeared on his forehead, as if he were trying to believe her but had a hard time doing so.

  “In a heartbeat,” she assured him. “It happened to a fellow at our station. Oh, he’s still a firefighter, but he can’t work as an EMT. It’s all part of protecting the public.”

  She pointed to the splints and neck brace lying nearby. “If you’ll hand those to me, I’ll package our
patient so we can get out of here.”

  While he passed her the supplies, she shifted positions to alleviate the ache in her thigh. Suddenly, he frowned.

  “What did you do to yourself?” he asked.

  He’d obviously noticed the blood on her pant leg. “It’s just a scratch.”

  “Scratches don’t bleed that much.”

  “It’s fine,” she insisted.

  “You have to take care of it.”

  “I will. Later.” She grabbed the splints out of his hand and inched closer to Will. Ignoring Micky for the moment, she immobilized the teen’s shoulder, taking care to observe his vital signs. With his pulse in his injured arm pounding strong and no reports of sensory loss in his fingers, she was satisfied with her handiwork.

  “Are you almost finished?” Micky demanded.

  “Yeah. Why?”

  The van shifted again. She lost her balance and fell backward, answering her own question in the process. “The rope?” she asked after she’d righted herself.

  “Tighter than a drum. We don’t have much longer.”

  “Will’s splinted and ready to go, but we have to keep him from falling when you release his seat belt.”

  “Why don’t we switch places so you can handle the seat belt? You shouldn’t put extra strain on your leg.”

  “I appreciate your concern, but I’m already in position and we’re in a hurry, remember? So just do it.”

  With obvious reluctance, Micky reached for the seat belt latch. “Are you ready?”

  Dana braced herself as she wrapped her arms around Will. She intended to lower him to a safe position rather than let him drop. “Hold on to the door handle as best as you can, Will. And use your feet to brace yourself.”

  “Okay.”

  Micky released the seat belt. Her plan worked without a hitch, and soon she and Micky had pulled Will free of the entangling harness. Under Dana’s direction, Micky maneuvered the youth through the van until they were both on solid, but soggy ground. Dana retrieved her supply kit before she scrambled after them.

  And not a second too soon.

  The post that served as their anchor suddenly gave way and tumbled against the vehicle. The force was strong enough to rock the van’s center of gravity, causing it to roll into the water with a giant splash that would have completely drenched them if not for their protective gear.

 
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