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One Step

By Saluteyourdoctor All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Mystery

Chapter 1

It all started when I saw the body.  It was just floating in the water as if it had every right in the world to be there.  But me being me, I had to change that.

We were driving down the road, my parents and I, on our way to the sunny and artistic city of Portland, Maine for a weekend trip.  We were passing through Springfield, Massachusetts for a bathroom break when my dad stopped at a red light.  I was in the back seat, back against the door and feet up on the seat, listening to music on my phone, when I looked out the window and saw something floating in the murky river that ran alongside the road.

At first I wrote it off as a log floating in the water, but after a second I realized that it was a man laying face down in the water.  My phone slipped from my hand in either shock or instinct, but then I was suddenly unbuckling and pushing open the door, running across the hot tar barefoot with my shoes still sitting on the floor of the car.  

Luckily being barefoot has never bothered me as I half sprinted, half fell into the shallow river.  The cold water lapped at my knees as I slipped and stumbled across the seemingly endless river.  It was maybe fifteen feet wide, but the body was on the other side stuck on a rock that protruded from the soft current.  By the time I had reached the man I was out of breath, and curse words.  With a firm tug on his sleeve he slowly rolled over, bobbing slightly with the current as I felt his neck for a pulse.

“He’s still alive!” my voice carried across the river to the now still cars as I began to drag the man to the shore.  I flipped my hair away from my face, trying to find my footing as the weight of an unconscious grown man and the river tried to pull me down as I stumbled towards the opposite shore of the greedy onlookers.  As the small pebbles dug into my knees I could hear the faint chattering of frustrated voices and looked up to see a couple of people crossing the river on some rocks about ten yards up stream.  By the time they had reached me I had already begun CPR on the man.

I called the cops, they should be here any minute,” one guy with a really deep voice said, putting quite a bit of emphasize on I.  I gave him a small nod, not saying anything, concentrating on what I was doing, which at that moment was attempting to cut open the soaking wet t-shirt and windbreaker the man had on.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” asked Mr. Deep-Voice.  “You look a little young to know what you’re doing.”  He said it in a matter of fact voice that really annoyed me.

“Just shut the hell up and let me work,” I muttered, pushing down on the dying man’s chest in attempt to get air into his lungs.  A few moments later I felt a hand on my shoulder, I turned, ready to tell off Deep-Voice again, and saw a man wearing EMT clothing.

“We’ll take it from here,” he said as the rest of his team swooped in.

Everything happened so quickly after that, that whenever I think about it it’s like remembering a movie I saw long ago.  Things come back to me in little snippets, like scenes cut from the big picture.

There were flashing red and blue lights and a bunch of people running around who were all dressed alike.  One of the look-alikes helped me up off the ground, the bright afternoon sun blocked by his large form.  He kept hold of my elbow as we made our way back to the other shore, this time by the rock bridge.  As we stepped onto the shore people holding big cameras and little boxes with lights on them swarmed around us.  They came up to me, shoving the little boxes in my face and shouting words out so quickly that I couldn’t hear them, let alone respond to them.  One man in particular was attempting to put his own face directly in front of mine to get my attention.  My only thought was to get him away so I punched him square in the nose.  As blood began flowing out of his nose, staining his bright white shirt, the other people around me started quickly backing away.

“Well that’s one way to handle the press,” laughed my escort as we now made our way freely through the mass of cars now parked in the area.  I stopped suddenly when I remembered my parents, still in their own car and probably wondering why the hell they didn’t tie me down.

“I need to talk with my mom and dad,” I remember demanding of the officer.  He mumbled something into the radio strapped to his shoulder and nodded before looking back at me.

“Apparently your mother had a headache and they left for home.  Don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a headache bad enough that it warranted leaving my kid at a crime scene, but whatever,” he mumbled the last part, possibly in attempt to hide his judging tone.  If only he knew.

 A million thoughts flashed through my mind, none staying long enough for me to actually make sense of them as I climbed into the patrol car.  My eyes flicked over to the mirror on the side of the car, and I watched as the flashing lights disappeared into the distance.  When I could no longer see the lights, I laid my head back and closed my eyes.  

“Um, excuse me.  Miss?”  I blinked, the blinding exterior lights of the hospital bringing my focus back to the present.  Looking up at the cop who had brought me here as he held the passenger door open I climbed out, pushing it shut while continuing to blink the sleep from my eyes as my feet mindlessly followed him into the building.  We walked inside, my ability to comprehend life returning as the lights grew brighter, and were greeted with the lame excuse of a hospital waiting room.  The cop told me to sit and then disappeared down the hall.

I never saw the officer again.

I sat down, making myself comfortable in the surprisingly squishy waiting room chair.  I looked around, leaning forward and resting my clasped hands on my knees, taking in my surroundings.  The waiting room was decorated like any waiting room I had ever been in; shelves of flowers and stuffed animals that you could buy in the overpriced gift shop, and tables with old magazines that people had torn apart.  I looked over to the reception desk where an old lady with grey hair and big glasses was sitting, pecking at the computer keyboard with her wrinkly fingers.

Quickly getting bored, I reached for my phone.  My hand slid into the back pocket that I usually kept it in, but feeling nothing I frantically began patting my pockets multiple times searching for it, but found only my knife, lip balm, and a crumpled receipt.  I sprang up, ready to break into hell in search when I remembered that I had dropped my phone on the floor of the car when I first saw the man in the water.  Disappointed and annoyed, I fell back into the cushy chair.  I got up again moments later and walked over to the magazine table.  I shuffled through them for a second. Finding only home décor magazines with pages torn out and scribbled on coloring books, I spun around and slumped back into the chair.  I looked at my watch and saw that I had only been there for about five minutes.

I sighed, looking around for something to do.  Thinking of nothing better to do, I reached over and grabbed one of the coloring books off the table.  Opening to a random page, I glanced over the random scribbles before tearing it out.  The old lady didn’t even look up as I folded the paper into an origami crane.

By the time I heard footsteps in the hallway I had about twenty paper animals scattered around the table.  I dropped the frog I was folding, thinking my wait was over, and got ready to stand just as a man wearing a long, black trench coat rounded the corner and entered the waiting room.  I exhaled, disappointed, jumping to the conclusion that he was merely another guest in the building.  I picked up the half finished frog just as the man pulled what looked like a short, black flute out of one of his pockets.  I picked up my knife I had been using to cut the paper, the familiar weight in my hand somehow giving me some sense of safety.  There was a small click, then a sound like someone shooting a blow dart, and then blood dripped down the old lady’s face and onto her flowery blouse.  Without hesitating I threw the knife at the man, hitting him just below and to the right of his left shoulder.  He slowly turned around as if nothing had happened, his arm slowly raising until the gun was pointed directly at me. I felt the sudden horror flood my body as I quickly reacted, diving behind the table just as he fired once more, before promptly dropping to his knees.  I felt the bullet as it grazed the side of my right arm, sending tingles through the nerve system hiding just below my skin.  Warm blood dripped down my arm and stained the carpet as I lay behind the table.

“Shit,” I muttered under my breath.  I watched from behind the shield of my arms as the man fell to his knees, and then onto his face.  The guy had one hell of a shot for a dying man.  If I hadn’t move, that bullet would have just about gone directly through my heart.  I grabbed the cylindrical glass flower vase off of the table with my left hand, pushing myself up with my right, dumping out the flowers as I sidestepped over to the man, ignoring the searing pain in my other arm.  I bent over and felt his neck for a pulse.  There was a small fluttering and then it stopped altogether.

Just then a nurse, followed by two security guards, came sprinting around the corner.  They stopped short when they saw me standing over the dead man with blood running down my arm.

“What happened?” panted the shorter, and fatter, of the two guards.  “The nurse called saying she found a dead cop in one of the storage closets."

“Is that the guy who killed the officer?” asked the other guard, nodding to the body on the ground.  He was a tall man, a good head taller than the nurse next to him.  He looked strong too, like a weight lifter.  I got the odd feeling that he was a nerd in high school.

“Yeah,” I answered.  “He just walked around the corner, pulled out a gun and shot Glasses over there.  She that was when I threw the knife.  He some how managed to get off another shot as he died.  Have to give him credit though, he nearly got me too.”  I looked down at my bloody arm, then reached over and grabbed some tissues off the reception desk, attempting to diminish the blood flow.

“Where’d you get the knife?’ asked the short guard.

“My pocket,” I responded as I bent down and pulled the knife out of the dead man’s back.  What little color was left drained from the guards’ faces as I held up the bloody knife.

“Where’s the bathroom?” I asked.  “Blood stains and these pants are already dirty enough.”  Now all three of them had a look of fear and astonishment painted on their faces.  Considering the fact that I had run through a river and just got shot at, I probably looked like a total wreck.

“It’s just around the corner on the right,” said the nurse, indicating with her hand what she was saying, her eyes never leaving the dead man’s body.  “Joe, can you call the police and tell them what happened.  Gram, I want you to stay with…”

“Kasey,” I filled in.

“Stay with Kasey until they get here.”  The taller one, Joe, made his way gingerly to the desk to use the phone.

“Tell them to bring whatever they need to get a bullet out of the wall,” I said cocking my head towards the hole in the wall behind where I had been standing.  He nodded, showing he understood, though he looked like he would rather throw up then do what the nurse had told him to do.  Fear was still very clear on all of their faces.

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