He was young, maybe in his early twenties. His features still mostly untouched by life. But his eyes carried the scars of a spirit that had seen much in his short life. They were warm copper and good-natured. Trustworthy.
My head bobbed in a slow nod. “Yes. I do. You took an oath to help and heal.”
He began to swab the dried blood from my skin surrounding the wound, the slight pressure causing my skin to yelp as pain unfurled under his fingers. I imagined my entire are would be purple and black blotches by the end of this very long day.
As he cleaned, he gave a nod. “I did take an oath to help and heal, Ella, but the police and FBI take oaths to protect and serve. Your trust in them put you in this situation.” His coppery eyes met mine, his expression earnest. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust me. I honor my oath. You should know, however, that they can subpoena me if you go to court. In that case I would have to answer their questions honestly, including disclosing anything you told me now.”
I took a deep breath through my nose, immediately regretting it when the pungent fumes of the alcohol burned my sinuses. I wanted to talk to someone. Needed to. But maybe Kevin wasn’t the right person.
I studied his face as he went back to work on my shredded skin. His touch was feather-light as he examined the area where the bullet tore through my flesh, but it still hurt. “I’m going to wrap this with sterile gauze. I’ll do my best, but it will hurt. The bullet didn’t graze you. It went through the outer part of your triceps and biceps, which is why you can’t move your arm. The damage it caused leads me to believe it was a ballistic tip. It’s likely that your bone was damaged, too, though it isn’t obviously broken. There may be splinters of glass, too.
“Open your mouth,” came his gentle order. He pushed a wad of gauze between my lips. “Bite down on this when it hurts, Ella.”
I nodded to him through my fear. The crackle of a sterile wrapper being opened had me turning my head away, eyes closed.
Light pressure just above the wound had me pulling air through the dampening gauze in my mouth is a swift rush. “Easy, Ella. Try to breathe normally. I don’t want you to hyperventilate on me. Concentrate on your breathing, and bite down when it hurts,” came Kevin’s mellow directive.
He resumed wrapping the clean dressing around my arm with deliberate movements, using less pressure when he got to the tattered gash. Still, the pain was excruciating, and I clamped down on the gauze hard, soaking it in the saliva that flooded my mouth. My mind went blank in the face of the electric bolts shooting through my body, and I began to suck shallow breaths through the gauze.
“Breathe with me, Ella.” Kevin’s voice drifted through the haze of pain. “In. Out.” He drew out each word for several seconds before repeating.
I focused on his voice and pattern they formed, breathing in and out with each command. My breathing slowed. While I was still in exquisite pain, the focus on filling my lungs helped.
As he finished taping the loose end of the wrap, I dropped my head and removed the sopping gauze from my mouth. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly as Kevin took the wad from me in his gloved hand.
“Don’t apologize. I do this every day. And I have gloves.” His grin warmed me, but then the stretcher bumped into view.
Dominic wasn’t sitting up as he had requested. Instead, he was strapped flat to the back board. He wasn’t talking or moving.