The Well of Souls – Chapter 01

(Prologue)

Pizza and a Car Crash

At 33 feet long, Rescue 99 easily took up four parking stalls. I eased the massive red rescue truck to a stop, set the air brake and shifted to neutral. I’d only been driving the truck for a few days and was still getting accustomed to the massive truck’s sluggish handling.

“What about yours, Hammer?” Matt, the new kid, asked me. He was a few years younger than me, fresh out of fire and rescue academy.

“It’s nothing fancy.” I answered, pulling up my sleeve and twisting to show him the simple blue lines on my left shoulder. My tattoo was an outline of a star of life superimposed on a Maltese cross, the symbols of my chosen profession. It paled in comparison to the intricate, multi-colored full sleeves on the arms of Saw, our truck’s captain.

“My mom would freak out if I ever got a tattoo.” Matt laughed nervously.

“My mom still doesn’t know.” I answered truthfully. She wouldn’t approve.

“My mom’s got more ink than I do. Now go get our pizzas, Kid. I’m starving.” Saw teased.

“I’m going.” Matt sighed, opening his door and sliding down to the ground.

“You keep talking about getting that thing fixed up. That ever going to happen?” Saw asked me.

“It’s in the works. Victor recommended an artist, and I like her work. I’ve got an appointment to meet her tomorrow evening.”

“Who?”

“Carolina dos Lobos, from Mystic.” I answered, waving my hand in the direction of the tattoo parlor a block away.

“She does good work. Expensive though, and I hear she’s got a long waiting list.”

“Yeah. Victor pulled some strings for me. Otherwise, I’d still be six months out.” I answered.

“Damn. Worth it, though. A good artist is worth the money and the wait.”

“True.” I agreed. My current tattoo had been a learning project by a former college girlfriend. At least she’d managed to follow the pattern and draw straight lines. I’d seen some tattoos by artist who couldn’t even manage that.

Matt emerged from the pizza place with a stack of pizzas in his arms and a stupid grin on his face.

“Looks like it went well.” Saw cajoled as Matt slid the pile of pizzas into the back seat of the truck.

Matt just blushed. He had a serious crush on a girl who worked there, and it sounded as if she was just as into him. The kid was still pretty awkward when it came to girls, despite being 21 years old.

“You got a date with her yet?” Saw pushed.

“I got her number.” Matt squeaked as he climbed in beside the pizzas.

Saw shook his head and smiled. “You move too slow kid. Never gonna get a girlfriend at this rate.”

“How many times have you been divorced?” Matt asked defensively.

“Four and a half, so you know I know what I’m talking about.” Saw responded with a laugh.

He and his current wife had just recently separated. Being a firefighter was a great way to pick up women, but it wasn’t a great way to hold onto them. That was part of why I wasn’t currently in a relationship.

“There’s no need to rush it.” I advised, putting the truck in gear and releasing the brake. “Take the time to get to know her.”

“That your strategy with Sergeant Boob-job?” Saw snickered.

“Oh hell no.” I answered with a grimace. “I already know enough about her to be sure it isn’t ever happening.”

The woman Saw referenced was more properly known as Sergeant Sara White of Payson PD. For reasons I couldn’t fathom, she had an obsessive, unrequited romantic interest in me. I couldn’t stand her. It wasn’t just the obviously artificial look she had, or her bullyish personality. What I really didn’t like was the cold, slimy vibe I sensed whenever she was around. I usually pictured her as a swamp monster hiding inside the corpse of a stripper. Not a TV stripper, but the nasty real-world kind that probably had a dozen different STDs.

Our discussion was diverted by our station’s tones on the radio.

“Station Nine, please respond to a 10-50 PI at the 800 South I-15 southbound off-ramp. Time of page 1837.” Katie the dispatcher sounded calm and soothing as she informed us of the crash.

The energy inside Rescue 99 changed as I flipped on the emergency lights and gunned the engine.

“Dispatch, Rescue 99 is 10-17. We’re about three blocks out.” Saw barked into the radio mic.

“Copy, Rescue 99 10-17. 1838.” Katie echoed.

When we crested the overpass and got our first glimpse of the crash, all three of us groaned. A baby-blue sedan was wrapped around the base of the traffic light pole, with a big semi pinning it in place. The semi’s tandem dumpers, which had been loaded with rocks, were in a twisted wreck across the roadway.

“Kid, you’re with Hammer. See if there’s anyone alive in that car. I’ll check on the truck driver and see if there’s anything on the other side we can’t see.”

I pulled to a stop and parked the truck across the lanes to provide a shield for us in case any other vehicles tried to add to the carnage. The three of us jumped out and put on our fire turnouts, which would also provide protection against sharp metal and glass. I grabbed a Halligan bar and insulated bolt cutters along with my jump kit. Matt had an oxygen bag and a monitor.

A teenager in a white button-up shirt and violet tie was standing by the wreckage of the car, his face as white as his shirt. He clenched a cell-phone in his hand.

“Hey, man.” I tapped the teen on the shoulder “I’m a paramedic. My name’s James. What’s yours?”

The boy turned and looked at me, relief washing over his face when he saw who we were.

“I… I’m Will.” he stammered.

“Hi Will. Did you call 911?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I did.”

“That’s awesome, Will. Did you see what happened?”

“I… I was right behind her at the light.” He mumbled. “The light turned green and she started going. Then this truck just came out of nowhere. His brakes were locked up, and he was already practically sideways, and he just…”

“Do you know the driver of the car?” I asked.

“Uh… no. no. I was just behind her at the light.” He answered.

“Did you see anyone else in her car?”

“Her car? Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

“Great. Hey, you’ve been a great help. I’m sure the cops will want to know what you just told us too. Would you mind standing over by our truck until they get here?”

Will nodded and started walking towards the truck.

“We’ll need to check on him later.” I mentioned to Matt, who was already at the wreck.

On closer inspection, the blue four-door sedan had struck the pole at exactly the middle of the rear driver’s side door. It was a modern model, and had all kinds of nice airbags for just such an occasion. While the airbags were great for that moment of impact, they got in the way after that. The driver’s door was more-or-less intact, although the window was shattered. I braced myself for the worst, reached through the opening, and pulled the side-curtain airbag aside.

Miraculously, the one occupied seat, the driver’s, was also the only one that was mostly intact. Between the semi’s nose crushing in the entire passenger side and the light pole where the rear driver’s side seat had been, nobody else could have survived.

The woman in the driver’s seat looked to be around 35-ish, and was slumped over in her seat belt.

“She’s alive.” I said, breathing a sigh of relief. It sucked when there was nothing you could do.

Matt and I spent the next few minutes trying to stabilize our patient and determine the extent of her injuries. We really couldn’t do much below her waist, though, because parts of the car were in the way.

“IC, Hammer. Patient one is unresponsive and breathing.” I reported to Saw over the radio. The other first responders on their way would hear that too. “We’re going to have to extricate her.”

“Copy, Hammer.” Saw replied. “Patient two is a fourteen on the GCS. Only minor injuries apparent.”

“Copy. We only have the one patient here.” I added.

“Copy, two patients.”

Our station’s ambulance and pumper truck arrived a few minutes later. Saw, Matt, and I passed off patient care to the others while we tackled our specialty, extrication.

Extrication is probably the highlight of any firefighter’s job. While all firefighting tools are pretty bad-ass, nothing tops getting to cut apart cars with massive hydraulic shears. It’s as close as a normal human can get to being a superhero. It feels pretty damn awesome.

The semi and the light-pole were already doing a great job of preventing the car from going anywhere. Matt set about making sure that it didn’t move after we cut parts off, while Saw and I began prepping the hydraulic tools.

We cut away the door and peeled back the roof of the car. That gave us enough room to get in and check on her legs before we used a hydraulic ram to roll the dash of her car up off her knees. After that, we helped the ambulance crew pull her out and put her on a backboard.

The fun was over now. The ambulance loaded her up and took off for the hospital. We began cleaning up. That’s when Sara came over. She was dressed in her police uniform, but somehow it looked more like a sexy cop halloween costume. I’m sure the push-up bra and artificially enhanced breasts contributed to that effect. She also had the shirt unbuttoned well below the regulation top button.

“Hey, handsome.” She purred.

It made my skin crawl. Something about her voice was as artificial as her appearance.

“Hey Sergeant White.” Matt chirped. “We were just talking about you.”

“Oh, really? Do tell.” Sara asked.

“James was telling me all about how much he enjoys it when you visit him on scene like this.” Matt delivered the line dead-pan.

I had to admire the effort he was making. There was a part of me that wanted to tell Sara exactly how she made me feel, but that better person my mother had taught me to be kept my mouth shut.

“I have a date with the pizza girl tomorrow night,” Matt suddenly added, “and I was hoping you two could double with me, cheer me along.”

I stared daggers at Matt’s grinning face as Sara burbled with enthusiasm for the idea.

“Oh, bad luck, kid.” I sighed. “I’ve already got a date planned. I won’t be able to go.”

Sara’s expression changed instantly. “A date? With someone else?”

I shrugged. “Yup.”

“Do I know her?” Sara asked pointedly. Jealousy was just one of her personality traits that bugged me.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask her.” I answered.

Sara fumed.

I put the last of our equipment back on our truck and took a look around. “You’re gonna be here a while, I imagine. We gotta head over to the hospital and fill out some reports. See you later.”

I nudged Matt towards the cab of the truck where Saw was waiting for us.

“You two crack me up.” Saw laughed as we approached. “Great save, James.”

“Thanks, Boss.” I smiled. “It’s ok, Kid. You made a good effort.”

“You were just outmatched.” Saw snickered.

“Let’s get out of here.” Matt grumbled.

“That’s right. You’ve got to get a date for tomorrow night.” Saw prodded. He had the ability to be absolutely merciless.

“Yeah, what about James? He said he had a date too.”

“He does. With a tattoo gun.” Saw laughed. “Probably less painful than spending the evening with you.”

We all climbed into the truck and I put it in gear. Because we were the first medical responders on scene, we had to meet up with the ambulance crew and help write the report. The rest of the firefighters would stay on scene to get things cleaned up. Our now-cold pizzas would have to wait until everyone got back to the station.

I parked Rescue 99 on the side street near the ER entrance. Saul, the HeliMed pilot, was on the helicopter landing pad prepping his aircraft for flight. Saul had flown blackhawks in Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring from the military to fly for HeliMed. I had a lot of respect for him.

“Hey, James.” he waved me over.

“Hey, Saul. What’s up?” I walked over to the fence that surrounded the helipad.

“You cut that girl out?”

“Yup. She headed north?”

“Looks like it. She’s pretty banged up. They’re checking for a subdural hematoma right now.” Saul answered.

“It’s a miracle she’s alive.” I replied. “They tell you what the car looked like?”

“Said it was bad. Victor says she wouldn’t be alive if you hadn’t been there.”

I shrugged and laughed awkwardly. “Just doing my job, Saul.”

Saul grabbed my arm and looked at me seriously. “You’ve got something special, James. Don’t dismiss it.”

That just made me feel even more awkward, but I nodded and muttered an “ok.”

I left Saul and headed into the ER, where I found Saw and the Kid helping roll our patient’s bed back from the MRI. Victor was close behind them.

“Hello, James.” Victor offered his fist for a bump as I joined them.

“How’s she doing?” I asked.

“Quite well, considering what she’s been through.” Victor said with his slightly British accent. “You have a gift, you know.”

“I like what I do.” I answered.

We spent the next few minutes working with the HeliMed team getting our patient ready to be flown north. Once she was loaded into the helicopter, Saw and the Kid headed inside. Victor and I watched the helicopter take off and fly into the night.

“I understand you’ll be meeting with Carolina tomorrow.” Victor said with a smile.

I nodded.

“She’s looking forward to meeting you. I’ve told her quite a bit about you.” Victor smiled.

I eyed him warily. “I’m getting the feeling you’re up to something.”

Victor laughed. “Of course you are. You have a gift, my friend. You see things others don’t, you feel things others can’t. This is what I have tried to tell you.”

“So you are up to something.”

“Indubitably.” Victor smiled.

(Chapter 02)

Advertisements