My eyes fluttered open when the car began to slow. We were climbing a small hill exiting the highway, and at the top an ambulance waited. The flashing lights blazing beams of red through the budding grove of trees lining the road.
It was eerie. Maybe because I knew this particular bone box was waiting for us. Maybe because a mist had crept in while I drifted between wakefulness and dreams, and the pulsing red glow was too reminiscent of the carnage we left behind us. No matter the reason for the dread, I was glad not to be riding to the hospital in that thing.
Brecky pulled the big car in front of the ambulance and put it in park. “You two stay here,” she ordered, unbuckling her seat belt and opening the door.
But I pushed the button on my own belt to release it and turned to Allison. “Stay here, honey. I just want to talk to the paramedics.”
She just nodded at me, her expression pure exhaustion.
My door opened as Brecky’s closed. She waited for me to close my own before saying, “I told you to stay in the car.”
Her countenance was unwavering, but I wasn’t backing down to her, or any one else.
Pointing at the ambulance, my tone was just as firm as hers. “That’s my friend back there, officer. I want to see him before they drive away. And I want to talk to the paramedics. No offense, but we’ve been screwed over and deceived by too many people in the past few days. One of which was an FBI agent. Right now, the people I trust the most are the ones in that rolling box.”
Ignoring stricken look on her face, I walked between the car and the ambulance, heading for where the paramedics were prepping Dominic for the stretcher. A hulk of a man had an arm under Dominic’s arms and around his chest, lifting him so his partner could slide a back board under him.
“I need you to lie down so we can pull you out of the car.” The big man’s voice was soft and soothing, and Dominic did as he said.
They strapped him down, being careful of his wounded leg, then pulled him from the car and placed him on a stretcher. When they started strapping him to the stretcher, Dominic grabbed the closest man’s wrist and met his startled gaze.
“I’d like to sit up, if I can.” He sounded tired. I knew he had lost a lot of blood, but he was coherent and the wound was probably an hour old.
“Let me get your vitals first,” the paramedic told him.
He checked Dominic’s pulse in several places, his respiratory rate, and blood pressure. I watched as he squeezed one of Dominic’s finger tips, the color returning much slower than what I thought was normal.
My eyes flicked between the paramedics and Dominic trying to read the inscrutable expressions of the professionals. They examined his wound. They checked his vitals again. They looked at each other with guarded expressions.
What the hell is going on? I screamed in my head.
A rush of air hissed from Dominic’s pursed lips. “I’m fine. I just want to sit up. Please”
I looked down at him lying supine on the stretcher, his eyes focused on the men standing beside him. Brushing a stray lock of hair from his forehead, I stroked my fingers through his hair. It was calming for me, and for him as well, I hoped.
At my touch those sea green eyes found mine. He took my right hand in his and turn to press a kiss on my palm. I began to melt for a couple seconds, but cold reality of the situation kept me sober.
Addressing the paramedics, I gave them an abridged version of what happened. They didn’t need all the details, just from the time Dominic had been shot. When the smaller one looked at me, his eyes went right to my bloody bandage on my arm.
“Were you shot, too, m’am?” he asked.
I followed his gaze, glancing down at my arm wrapped in tattered cloth soaked with my blood. Sighing at him, I said, “Yes. But I’m not riding with you. Officer Brecky is going to follow you in her car, and I’ll ride with her.”
He scanned my face, then looked at my arm again. When he met my eyes he must have seen my stubborn determination. “At least let me look at the wound, and put a proper bandage on it.” He stepped away from Dominic, heading toward the back f the ambulance. “I can fix you up in here,” he said as he walked.
“Go,” Dominic said. He sounded weary.
I sighed again. He had to get to the hospital, and I was only holding up that process with my pigheaded refusal to be helped myself. I said nothing as I turned away from the stretcher and headed to the ambulance where the paramedic was waiting for me.
As I climbed inside the boxy vehicle, he patted a seat next to where he knelt on the floor. Some sort of bandaging kit sat on the seat next to the one he indicated. I ambled over and sat down, turning my body to better present my arm.
“I’m Kevin,” he said as he began to cut through the scrap of cloth binding the tear in my upper arm.
“Ella,” I returned.
“Do you wanna tell me what happened?” he asked in a nonchalant tone.
The cloth fell away, revealing an ugly gaping rent in my flesh. Kevin examined it without touching, then started cutting away the sleeve of my shirt.
“I need to get this out of the way,” he explained. “So what happened?”
I told him everything that had happened at the cabin. “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell any law enforcement about this,” I said. “Not yet, anyway. I don’t know who I can trust anymore.”
His soft brown eyes found mine. “Do you trust me?”