Long Dark Night

How do I get myself into these messes? I know, if I manage to survive this, Iíll never hear the end of it from my mother.

"Jessica Ann Miller,"sheíll say. "None of this would ever have happened if you had stayed in school!"

Thatís her answer for everything. Everythingís so cut and dry with mom. Dadíll at least listen to me before he goes into his lecture about responsibility and taking risks. And its not like I chose to be here.

Okay, it was my decision to come out here and take a job as a paramedic. And it was my decision to take this Ďextra gig.í But it was that or sit back in my safe little apartment in Baltimore and do nothing while three of my brothers are missing in this god forsaken hole.

Amy and Dad, they said I should let the police handle it, but they havenít done a thing. For all I know the police are part of the problem. For all I know my brothers are dead, and Iím not too far behind them.

I donít see Jenny, Mitchell or Mark doing anything. What do they care anyway? They stayed with mom when things fell apart. Alan, Matthew and Andrew, theyíre all Iíve really ever had when it came to family. Yeah dad was there, but he was so busy, and now heís got Amy. Jennyís got two beautiful kids and Iím happy for her, but they made it clear, they had their lives, and Al, Mat and Andy just donít fit into their happy little world.

Now Iím staring down the barrel of a gun being pointed at me by a kid no older then twelve and thereís no doubt in my mind heís going to use it. I smile at him. Thereís not much else to say.

"What you smiliní Ďbout,"he growls at me.

"Nothiní really,"I answer with a shrug. "Just my luck I guess."

My luck. It seems to run hot or cold, never just one way or the other. Right now it looks like its run dry. This whole job seems to be in the frost-bite column when it comes to luck.

I got the job because of some of my Ďodd talents.í ĎDemoí as Nickíd called it. And Decking from the master himself PushCiti. Oh, if they could see the mess Iíve gotten myself into. Again, Iíd never hear the end of it, but with them around, at least thereíd be a long time of not hearing the end of it.

I need to learn to ask more questions. I need to learn to never trust a grinning fixer. I need to pay attention.

I hear it now, gunfire. We were dumped in the middle of what Nick would call Ďa situation.í Damn the man, I wish he were here. Heíd know what to do. A bullet ricochets by and my Ďbig sister mode kicks into overdrive.

"Will you get down,"I plead with the kid. "Bullets donít care who they hit and standing up there like that, you make too big of a target.Ē

He stares at me like Iím crazy and maybe I am. He kind of reminds me of Andy when he was twelve. So concerned about proving that he was as tough as his older brothers, tougher than his sister, he was always getting hurt.

My pleading has no effect on the kid. Heís got the advantage and heís not about to give it up. A bullet takes it from him. One minute Iím about to die, the next Iím working overtime to keep a kid breathing, just another night in the shadows.

Now Iím wishing I have my full kit with me. But again, I wasnít planning on playing Ďdocí tonight. Thatís my day job. Three days on, three days off. Guess the shooter didnít check my time card.

His pulse is thready and weak. Kid needs a mast suit and all Iíve got is a handful of trauma patches. I grab one and check the dose. Heís too small for the full hit so I tear it in half. Iím applying pressure with one hand and trying to administer the patch with the other when his friends come back.

Theyíve got the rest of my Ďteamí at gun point.

"Move away from him,"their leader orders.

"Not until you get an ambulance here now,"I tell him. I know that if I let up on the bandage the kidíll bleed to death and I tell him as much.

"You shot Dar?"the man demands as he draws a bead on me.

"I donít know who the hell shot the kid,"I yell. "He got shot: he needs a doc."

He looks down at us and shakes his head. "Canít afford no doc,"he tells me. "No ambulance gonna come here for one aí us.Ē

"They will tonight,"I tell him. "Get me a phone."

Iím pissed now. I havenít been able to do a thing for Andy and the others, Iím not going to loose this kid too. He gasps for air, so much like Andy...

He looks at me. I donít know what he sees, but he lets Fritz, our illustrious leader make the call. He hands me his wrist link and before I know it Iím talking to dispatch. I get them to patch me through to Ray. If anybody can pull this off its Ray. I tell him Iím in the barrens, that weíve got a kid whoís just this side of pneumothorasic. He says heíll be there in ten minutes.

The leader is staring at us. "Why are you doing this?"he finally asks.

I point to the stylized caducous on my jacket and then I look back at the kid. "He reminds me of my brother."

He nods. All our problems are put on hold. All that matters is the kid. Heís family and Iím protecting him. As far as they know, theyíve got my family and we can work something out. Fritz gives me a nod. This whole thing wasnít what any of us expected. Again, weíll deal with that later.

It all comes down to a heartbeat.


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