Smith had held up his hand to Matt again, and once again turned off the motor to listen intently. Matt heard it again, too. It sounded like a woman calling for Samuel. It almost sounded like Anna, but he wasn’t sure.
“Up ahead, over to the left,” Matt told him.
“I agree,” Smith nodded. “I think this channel curves up ahead. Maybe that will take us to her.”
They soon rounded the bend, and there in the distance sat a woman in a white robe beside the water’s edge. She was looking over toward her right, as she called again, “Samuel, where are you?”
Matt was just about to call to her, when suddenly he saw her fall into the water. They were too far away to rescue her, so Guardsman Smith fired up the main engine again with a quick burst of speed in order to cover the distance as quickly as possible.
She started to scream and struggle in the water.
“Why doesn’t she climb out of the water?” Matt asked.
Smith called, “We’re here to get you miss, remain calm. I’m part of the Coast Guard.”
“Anna, I’m here,” Matt called to her. “I’ve been looking for you for days.”
“Are you hurt Ma’am?” Smith asked.
“My arm and leg were broken in the wreck according to Samuel,” she sputtered. “I fell in the water and I can’t get out. It’s slippery and my leg hurts.”
Smith grounded the boat on the shore close to Anna. Then he jumped into the water and sloshed over to Anna. “Don’t try to stand up,” he told her. “Let the water lift you. It’s not too deep. Can you reach out one hand to me?”
She reached for Smith’s hand, and her head went under the brown muddy channel water. He quickly jumped forward and grabbed that hand, pulling her back to the surface. She came up with hair stringing in her face. Matt could see fear cross her face, as she looked at her rescuer. He floated her closer to the shore, and with Matt’s help was able to gently slide her out of the water and back onto dry ground.
“You said your arm and leg are broken, Ma’am?” Smith asked, proceeding to examine her for injury.
“Yes,” she managed to say between sobs. “Samuel said he had to take the snake away from me. I thought he’d be right back, but he never came back. Then someone pushed me into the water. I was so scared. Then you two showed up. How did you find me?” She rambled on and on. Smith listened as he examined her for injuries, glad that she was distracted. When he touched her leg she winced. The same thing happened with her arm. Both appeared to be splinted and wrapped with strips of cloth. Matt sat on the ground beside her, glad that she was found, but fearing that she had lost her mind as she rambled on.
When she stopped talking for a minute and looked at the two men, Smith asked her, “Who treated you?”
“Samuel did. He said Andriel brought me to his cabin after the wreck. I was unconscious, I guess. When I woke up that’s the story that he told me.”
“It looks like he did a good job.”
“Who’s Samuel,” Matt asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered, “just the man who was caring for me. He carried me out here this morning so I could get some fresh air. Then he left. I kept expecting him to come back but he didn’t. Then you showed up.”
“Let’s get her on the boat, Matt. It looks like her leg and arm are the only major injuries, although her face is pretty banged up. Your good leg, Anna, can you bend it for me?”
“Sure,” she told him. She bent it, and he positioned it under the broken leg just below her knee. Matt watched, fascinated, as the trained rescuer quickly devised a way to support the broken leg with the good one.
“Matt, there’s a trick to this. I’ll get in the boat and lift her shoulders. You lift her good leg, which should support her broken leg.”
When they were in position and ready, Smith told her, “Anna, this might hurt. Just tell me and we’ll stop.”
As they picked her up, she screamed and passed out from the pain. Matt stopped, but Smith said, “Come on. Keep going. It’s best we get her out of the water as quickly as possible. I don’t have much first aid equipment on board. We need to call the Coast Guard office but the water’s probably not deep enough here for the cutter.”
As gently as they could, they deposited the still form of Anna onto the front of the flat boat. Matt was just about to get onto the boat when he noticed a gold necklace on the ground. He picked it up without thinking, stuffed it into his pocket, and climbed on board. He squatted down near Anna to keep her steady, instead of sitting in the actual seat.
The small air boat ran close to the water’s surface with three people on board, but Smith expertly steered it back toward the beginning of their search. He radioed ahead to notify the Coast Guard that Anna was found, and that they should return with the cutter. He was driving the boat much slower than before, but Matt and Anna almost fell off several times.
Matt saw lightening flash across the sky. He thought that maybe a thunderstorm was coming, but when he looked up through the canopy of trees he could see only blue sky.
As the three of them made their way toward the train bridge, Matt had the chance to examine Anna like a doctor. Her pulse was strong. Her eyes were clear when he opened the lids. Her breathing sounded good. Satisfied with her vital signs, he turned his attention to her appearance.
She was wearing what looked like it used to be a white nightgown, although it was now wet and muddy. Smith had draped a rescue blanket over her to keep the chill off. She was barefoot. Her hair was a wet, stringy mess, with dried blood caked on one side of her head. She had a large black bruised area on one side of her face and around that eye.
Before they reached the train bridge he saw her eyes flicker, and she opened them and looked at him.
“Where are we,” she asked weakly.
“We’re headed back. The Coast Guard is coming to meet us with their cutter,” Matt told her. “You passed out when we were getting you on board this boat.”
“We’ve got to go back. Samuel will wonder where I am. I’ve got to thank him.”
Smith ignored her request, but continued to head to the scene of the train wreck to meet the cutter.
“We’ve got to go back,” she pleaded.
“No Ma’am. We’ve got to get you treated. While you’re being treated I can go back and let Samuel know that you’ve been rescued.”
She visibly relaxed with that reassurance. “Thank you,” she said. “He was so kind, and a good cook, too.”
“Yes Ma’am. Where was he keeping you?”
“Close to where you found me. His cabin was just out of sight through the trees. You will go back, won’t you?”
They reached the train bridge and the Coast Guard cutter met them there soon. Anna was transferred to a basket stretcher, and then on board the bigger vessel. She was taken into the Coast Guard first aid room on the cutter to await airlifting by helicopter to the hospital. Matt was allowed to go with her in the chopper. Looking out the window, he saw Smith and another guardsman in the dingy from the cutter heading back up the channel in the direction where Anna had been found. As the chopper ascended, he could see a cabin in the woods in that direction.
Anna fell asleep as soon as the helicopter lifted off. In her sleep she called for Samuel and for Jackson. He hung his head at the mention of Jackson’s name.
“How will I ever tell her?” he wondered. “How will I ever tell her that it’s my fault that Jackson’s dead. I’m so ashamed.”