By Fern Driscoll
Please see Chapter 1 for disclaimers and contact information
Chapter 2: Caution - Dangerous Curves
It took the better part of an hour to work the trapped passenger free of her confinement. Harmon Hewitt, captain of the Callaway, Maryland Fire Station, had blithely disregarded Kate's instructions not to send a fire truck, and had sent not one but two of his three-truck arsenal to the accident. Having known Kate nearly all her life, he was accustomed to her downplaying any kind of danger. Also, being a true firefighter, he relished the chance to dispatch the large, noisy trucks, given any halfway legitimate excuse. So luckily, assorted firefighters, paramedics, police, and an abundance of rescue paraphernalia were available to help extricate the injured woman with a minimum of further damage.
Kate ambled back to the copse of trees, having returned hastily to the house to throw on a t-shirt and cutoffs, after the arriving firefighters' whistles and catcalls had reminded her that she was still attired in her damp and rather revealing sleep wear. She had also snagged a well-cooked cup of coffee. She stood sipping and watching the rescue process, and chatting with the recently arrived Chief Hewitt.
"Jaws of Life, Harmon? You sure you need to cut a hole in that poor little truck?"
"Aw hell, Katie, we hardly ever get to use the damn thing. And it's not like that little riceburner ain't totaled already as it is. And look how happy it's making the boys."
It did, indeed, appear to be the center of the attendant firefighters' attention, all 'boys' save for one rather androgynous female firefighter. Or perhaps it was the damsel they were saving who had so thoroughly captured their interest. The blond driver, who had by now recovered admirably from her terror, kept up a running barrage of questions, aimed at any and all of the firefighters. Occasional laughter could be heard from the group.
Kate snorted softly."Well, something's keeping them entertained. I don't know if it's the Jaws, though." She peered thoughtfully at the small portion of the driver's face that she could see. Blond, shaggy hair framing an animated face. A flash of greenish/bluish eyes. Hard to tell, Kate mused, from here what the attraction is. She certainly seems to be handling the accident well.
"Looks like she's not really injured, huh?" she remarked.
"Well, I wouldn't say that just yet", allowed Harmon. "Once they get that leg free I'd be willing to bet she's got some kind of hurtin' going on down there." He raised his voice and shouted "Leslie, go ahead and brace it up now, and give it a try." The female firefighter turned, gave him a thumbs-up sign, and began organizing the now-businesslike crew to finally free their driver from the wreckage. Four of the crew gave a concerted heave, and through the large hole in the truck's roof popped the compact, loudly protesting body of the blond driver.
"Ow ow ow OW!! Shit! My leg!"
The paramadics quickly took over, laying the woman flat and beginning their assessment. Kate found herself moving closer, listening to the back and forth between the two medics, trying to catch any information about the extent of her unexpected guest's injuries. As they began immobilizing her leg, Kate saw a sudden flash of black fur from the corner of her eye, and, lunging forward, was just in time to grab - not Fred, but to her surprise, the usually reticent Ethel - making a beeline for the woman's face.
"Hey, sorry, she doesn't usually act like this - I don't know what's gotten. .."
The woman looked up at her with pain clouded sea-green eyes. "That's ok, I love dogs. Let her come over - it'll take my mind off whatever torture they have planned here." She held out her hand to Ethel, who scurried over with a guilty backwards glance at Kate, and began licking contentedly.
Kate watched for a minute. Traitor, she thought. Though I guess I can't blame her, I wouldn't mind licking some of that myself. . .wha? She gave herself a mental slap across the face. "Uh. . . my name's Kate Hellman, that's my tree you had a disagreement with earlier."
"Cameron Jackson. Thank you for saving my life." Cameron replied, suddenly serious, gazing steadily up at her tongue-tied hostess.
"I, uh. . ." Kate trailed off, returning the steady blue green gaze with one of her own, quite a bit more blue, but lacking in green. Stop this right now! Any minute you're going to say 'Gawrsh, Ma'am, t'weren't nuthin', and scuff your toe in the dirt! Kate managed to salvage some of her usual sang froid, and said, "Oh, uh, I just happen to have lots of garden hoses around - guess it came in handy." Casting about for further topics of conversation, she came up with " Hey, it looks like they're going to take you over to the hospital. Is there anyone I can call for you?"
'Huh. You know, I am late for an interview - must have slipped my mind somehow" Cameron gave a wry smirk. "Would you mind calling, uh, I think my stuff is still in the truck - or what's left of it. ." she trailed off as Kate, thrilled to be able to move from the spot she had been inexplicably rooted to, zipped over to the truck and began rummaging for something purse-like. After a moment, the tall woman questioningly held up a black tote bag. "Yes, that's it - do you see a Palm Pilot in there?"
But the two paramedics had chosen that moment to load their charge into the ambulance. Kate just had time to say, through the closing double doors, "Don't worry, I'll find it and bring it on over to the hospital", and then they were off, flashing lights, sirens, and all.
Cameron Jackson wasn't used to not being in the driver's seat. And she definitely wasn't used to having her pants removed by scissors (new, Dana Buchman pants!), her body strapped to an extremely uncomfortable board-like stretcher, and her person transported God knows where in a careening, wailing 'meat wagon' (as she had heard one of the drivers refer to it) while she stared up at the ceiling. No, this day was not shaping up quite as well as she'd hoped.
Cameron, or Cam as she was universally known, was a journalist, used to coping with diverse situations, new people, and challenges. She liked to think of herself as flexible. She had just two weeks ago relocated to the Washington, DC area for her job with CNN. A dream come true, really - she had been promoted from the legions of desk-bound journalists at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, where she had labored pursuing information via phone and internet for the past 4 years, since finishing her Master's Degree. Now, she was finally getting a chance to be what she thought of as a real reporter - actually going out on assignments and interviewing face to face. There was also the possibility of on camera work, if all went well.
That morning, Cam had been on her way to interview the Commanding Officer of the Patuxent Naval Air Station, Captain James Lake. PAX River, as the base was nicknamed, was the home of the Naval Air Detachment that had, since September 11, 2001, provided combat air protection (CAP) support to Washington, DC, New York City, and other major east coast cities. Captain Lake's probably not too used to being stood up, she mused. I hope that woman is coming to the hospital. I really need to call the base, and call the office, too. . .her mind thus preoccupied with strategies for salvaging the wreckage of her morning, Cam was surprised to realize that the jiggling of the vehicle and relentless siren had ceased, and her keepers were flinging open the doors in preparation for her removal.
"Oh good, we're here" she muttered, bracing herself for more manhandling.
Kate watched the ambulance round the bend, keeping a firm grip on Fred's collar. Fred, thus prevented from physically accompanying the vehicle, provided musical accompaniment instead, howling along with a creditable rendition of the siren's song. Ethel did not join in, but allowed an uncharacteristic whimper to escape her doggy lips, watching her new friend depart.
"C'mon, you hounds, time to go inside" Kate said, turning back to the house. Her day was taking off without her, and she needed to hurry and catch up. Normally, such a disruption would have made her extremely grumpy. When Kate had her mind set on a day in the garden, she did not take kindly to interruptions of any sort. Especially interruptions that involved destruction of her precious flower beds. Previous automotive trespassers (it was, in fact, a notoriously bad curve) had paid dearly. Interestingly, though, this time the desecration of her New Guinea Impatiens was not uppermost in her mind, as she hustled the dogs inside and prepared for the short trip to Leonardtown to the St. Anne County Hospital.
Why am I doing this? Kate mused, as she sped along in her battered Mercedes SLK320. I should've just given this to Harmon or one of the guys, they would've gotten it to her. The 'this' in question being, of course, the large black tote bag she had retrieved from the wreck. She could see now that it had a large CNN logo emblazoned on its side, and though damp, appeared to be water-resistant enough to have protected its contents from the dousing the truck's interior had received. I better check, though she thought, in case it's all wet in there. . .And so, at the next (and only) stoplight in Leonardtown, she zipped open the bag, spying the usual 21st century complement of business paraphernalia: cell phone, palm pilot, daytimer. All appeared to be dry. As she closed the bag, a small plastic picture holder caught her eye. In it there were two pictures: one, of Cameron and a tall, blond young man; the other of a fiftyish man and woman, the woman an older version of Cameron. Both men wore military uniforms, though what branch Kate could not say. Hm. she thought, I guess she's a dependent from the base. Surprisingly, she felt a small jab of disappointment. I wonder if they ended up taking her to the base hospital? She considered. Guess I'll find out in a minute.
Kate unfolded herself from the car, giving its battered appearance an apologetic glance. Though only a few years old, the luxury car had fallen upon hard times in the past year, with Kate's retirement to St. Anne's County. She had purchased the car on Long Island, where she had lived until the previous year, commuting every day into the city to her job as a stock analyst. Now, however, the coupe was used as a hauler of leaf mulch, peat moss, and even manure, and had visited every out-of -the-way greenhouse, farm market, and Amish plant stand in the area, acquiring a constant coat of grime as well as assorted dings and scratches. Really gotta trade this thing in. . . She shook her head, heading towards the hospital's emergency entrance.
"No, I did not 'lose control of the vehicle'" Cameron was explaining, in an exaggeratedly patient tone, to the stolid county police officer who stood taking notes at the entrance to her curtained-off cubicle. "As I said before, another truck sideswiped me going the other way. It happened too fast to get a license number or anything. And he didn't stop - in fact, didn't even slow down."
"Did the other driver maintain control of their vehicle, Ma'am?" asked the officer.
"What possible difference. . .ok" sighed Cameron. let me just get through answering their asinine questions, please Lord. "From what I could see in my rearview mirror, it looked like he - I'm pretty sure it was a he - kinda veered into the woods a little on the other side of the road, and then got back in control and took off." She thought for a moment, picturing the chaotic scene in her mind. "It was like he was intentionally running me off the road - it seemed like he was heading straight for me."
The police officer wrote laboriously for another minute. "Alright, ma'am, I'll just write out this citation for you and be back in a minute."
"Fine, fine," Cam murmured, exhausted. Her mind drifted for a moment, but was brought up short by one of the officer's words. Citation? As in ticket? "Hey, wait a minute, buddy, er, I mean officer - you're not giving me a ticket are you? I was run off the road! I'm an innocent victim here!"
The officer appeared unmoved. "Sorry ma'am, I don't have any evidence of that, and there was some destruction of property."
"Oh, for Christ's sake', Cam sputtered hopelessly for a moment, then turned her face to the wall. "Destruction of property my ass - nothing but a big old indestructible tree and a bunch of damn weeds!"
Continued in Chapter 3
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