Descent Into Panic

Chapter 13

Accordingly, they were met by a couple of paramedics – a bald man of around forty-seven and a tall willowy youth in his early twenties - as they emerged from the remains of the building a few minutes later. The firemen explained that they were likely suffering from smoke inhalation, as borne out by the dry hacking coughs they both displayed. They also indicated that both men appeared to have various minor injuries.

Close behind the paramedics stood a disheveled but unhurt Bryony Kingston, in the comforting arms of her beloved Henry, looking very relieved to see them both.

She immediately began inquiring of the paramedics if they were going to be all right.

"If you let us examine them, Madam, we'll be better able to tell you," the bald one returned, somewhat impatiently. It had been a trying evening, with a number of casualties already dispatched to the hospital, including Jerome McFarlane. An ambulance was on its way back to the scene even now, one of several that had been ferrying guests with various ailments from burns and smoke inhalation to cuts and bruises and broken bones from attempts to escape the conflagration.

They soon had Sam lying propped up on a gurney, an oxygen mask on his face to help him breathe. Getting him there had caused him to wince and shield his chest with his arm again.

"He did that before," Drew told them, brushing aside all attempts to examine him for injuries of his own, and removing the mask they'd given him. "Is it his heart?"

Sam looked up at him.

"Will you please stop worrying about me, and let them take care of you, Drew?" Sam ordered, coughing with the effort of talking.

"I'll be fine, sir," Drew replied, though he coughed again himself, "As soon as I know you will be."

"Let us be the judge of that," while his colleague examined Sam, the younger one was trying to attend to Drew's injured hands.

"See to Mr. Quincey first," Drew insisted, pulling off his tattered gloves to stop the medic fiddling with a tiny pair of scissors trying to cut them off with punctilious caution.

"It's nothing," Sam told him, though his face now betrayed the pain he was finally starting to register. "I was lucky. No broken bones, honest – I just...arh..just bruised my ribs when I slammed into that wall."

The older paramedic gently unbuttoned Sam's shirt and turned it back to take a look. A huge angry purple bruise stained the entire left side of his chest from his pecs to his waist and from sternum to underarm.

The bald man winced sympathetically, "Jeeze, that's gotta hurt!" he observed somewhat redundantly.

"Only... when I breathe," Sam returned sarcastically. Or more accurately when he coughed, which he did now, long and hard. Of course it damn well hurt. Everything hurt. Now the adrenalin rush of escape was over, and the initial shock was receding toward a sort of numb acceptance, his body was complaining at the prolonged mistreatment he'd heaped upon it.

"Take it easy, Sam," Al advised. "Ziggy says there's nothing life threatening, but you need to rest. With the panic attacks and all, you've overdone it - big time. Your body needs time to recover."

Sam could have told him that. He was shattered. He ached all over, physically, mentally and emotionally. His hands hurt, his ribs hurt, his back hurt, his leg hurt. His heart and soul hurt most of all.

"Drew?" Sam reached a shaky hand toward the young attendant, fingertips lightly touching his wrist, "Thanks for saving my life. Now, let them check you over. Get some rest. Please, to make me happy?"

Drew nodded, his eyes moist, as were Sam's. How much was due to emotion and how much to the smoky atmosphere they'd just escaped neither could have said for sure.

"What day is it?" Sam asked suddenly, of nobody in particular.

"Saturday, Sam," Al would have been worried about Sam's mental state given that question, had he not remembered that they had never gotten round to the mundane date and time elements of the leap.

"Saturday night, sir - remember?" Drew was concerned by the question.

"Do me >cough< a favor?" Sam asked his young friend, who nodded again.

"Anything, sir," he replied earnestly.

"Book me a wake up call for Thursday."

As those around him smiled, or laughed, at his comment, Sam slipped into unconsciousness with a weary careworn sigh.

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