Chapter 10

Walker Chapter 10

Copyright 2011 Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

 

Present – Thom – Rescue mission - Washington DC

 

In desperation I call Linus on the emergency phone. It takes him a few to many rings to answer then he sounds out of breath so I complain, "Linus, what the hell is going on with you?"

 

My ears have cleared and I hear some noises in the background as he replies, "Thom this had better not be one of your pranks or drills. I'm busy as hell and if it is I'm going to kick your ass!"

 

I keep hearing the noises and since I wasn't born yesterday, I'm pretty damn sure what I interrupted. I stifle a chuckle and order, "Linus code red, Hammer and Todd are down hard, Byron has a broken wing and I've got a broken wheel. Now get your ass here yesterday! I'll text you the coordinates so get your ass out of bed and get here ASAP."

 

As he starts to complain, I hang up the phone, enable the GPS on the phone, grab the coordinates and text Linus. I hear the sirens getting closer as Jim drives up in the car. Dammit! He hadn’t bothered to move the dead guys out of the way so he just tries to drive over them and now we're screwed!

 

Present – Maria – Extended stay hotel - Washington DC

 

Linus's 'emergency' phone call makes him stop! At first I am pissed off, but then I watch his face change and realize it really is some sort of emergency. While he's busy on the phone, I finish by myself (damn I hate having to take matters into my own hands), jump out of bed, run to the bathroom, clean up and throw on my BDUs.

 

I walk out of the bathroom just as his call finishes. He gives me a funny look as I say, "Listen, I don't know exactly what that was all about. But get your ass out of bed and get ready because it sounded like an emergency and we need to roll."

 

He starts to complain, "Maria…"

 

I interrupt and order, "Listen here! If you think you're going to love me and leave me then think again. I understand that there's some sort of emergency and I'm sure as hell not letting you go and face it alone. So get your ass out of bed, go clean up in the bathroom and let's roll!!!"

 

He starts again, "You and I need to have a serious conversation about this!"

 

I override his complaint with, "Yeah, you can tell me all about it while we're driving to wherever the hell we're headed. I'll grab my go bag, do we need any weapons?"

 

Linus grabs his go bag, heads to the bathroom, kisses me on the cheek as he passes me and says, "We probably do, and we'll also need any medkits you have."

 

I head to my closet, grab a couple of rifles, all the medkits I have, and wait for Linus. He's crazy if he thinks I'm letting him do whatever he's going to do by himself. Now that I've finally found a real man, I'm sure as hell not letting him go - at least not without me!

 

Present – Linus – Extended stay hotel - Washington DC

 

Dammit! I don't know whether I'm more upset about Thom's interruption or Maria being hard headed. She (and most other people) doesn't know about TSIFFTS and I'm not sure I want her to know. But I can certainly tell there's no way in hell she's letting me take off on my own. And even if we discuss it, there's not enough time to fight her. Oh well, I guess we're going to have a new team member. I wonder what the hell Thom will say when he finds out.

 

I grab my go bag and head to the bathroom. I notice Maria left out some wet wipes so I use them to wipe off the funk from our extended lovemaking session then throw on my clean BDUs. I open the door, head out and Maria is ready to go.

 

I try one more time, "Maria, you should really stay here..."

 

She smiles at me and says, "There's no way in hell you're getting past me and out of this room without a fight. Now my guess is you have some injured friend or friends and don't have the luxury of taking the time it will take to fight my ass to get past me. Besides, I'm a pretty good medic and you can probably use my help."

 

I reply, "You're right we don't have time for this bullshit - let's go." We grab all her gear, my go bag and head downstairs. I begin, "We're going to have to commandeer a Network van."

 

She just waves a set of keys at me and offers, "No we won't, I already have keys for the one I use working for Jens."

 

Perhaps having her along is a good idea after all…

 

Present – Thom – Rescue mission - Washington DC

 

I lean over and puke! I'm sure I just lost whatever I'd eaten for the last three days. I look over and Byron's doing the same!

 

Jim's a hell of an asset to the team when we need someone to man the computers or drive a boat. But sometimes he really screws the pooch and this is one of those times. He's run over the dead bastards, gotten the car stuck and made a hell of a gruesome mess trying to get it unstuck. There are pieces of dead bastards all over the place and the air reeks of dead flesh and burnt rubber! It's as bad as anything I ever saw in Nam and I sure as hell wasn't prepared to see anything like this here.

 

I yell at Jim, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

 

He opens the door, looks upset and says, "Sorry, I was trying to get here quicker."

 

I notice the sirens getting closer so I shake my head to get rid of the cobwebs and command, "Well the car isn't going anywhere now. Grab the rest of our weapons and two stretchers out of the car and bring them here."

 

As he starts pulling stuff out of the car, I look at Byron and ask, "You think if we rig up a stretcher like a travois, you can drag it?"

 

He laughs and answers, "Is the Pope Catholic? My legs are fine but what about you?"

 

I explain the plan to him, "Jim's going to drag the stretcher with Todd on it and I'm going to lean on him for support. Now get over and give Jim some help."

 

I know we shouldn't move Hammer, but we really don't have a choice. I supervise Jim getting Hammer on the stretcher, make sure the chest tube is still working, then Jim picks one end of the stretcher up and using a couple of rifle slings, hooks it to Byron's shoulders. I point down the alley and say, "Byron, bust a hump and take the second left - we'll catch up with you ASAP."

 

After Jim helps me up, I put a couple rounds into the car's gas tank, then light a flare and throw it under the car. We go to where Todd is, Jim puts him on the stretcher and we both take off after Byron. As the sirens get closer, I pull out the phone and call Linus again…

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I activate the GPS on the emergency phone and input the coordinates Thom sent me as we head toward the parking lot. I'm trying to figure a way to take out Maria when we get to the van but she threatens, "Linus, I know you're trying to come up with a way to dump my ass and go on this mission yourself. You can just forget about it mister because I'm coming with you even if I have to kick your ass and hogtie you. Now instead of being so damn secretive why don't you tell me what the hell we're doing so I can prepare for it?"

 

I decide I can't waste the time fighting with her, so I lie to her and tell her I have some friends that were jumped by a gang and have been injured. I'm quite proud of the story I concocted on the fly. We are driving by the time I finish my story, but Maria laughs and challenges me, "Linus, if you can't lie any better than that, don't even bother. I understand that you have some injured friends, and I even accept you can't tell me how or why they are injured."

 

I am going to answer her when the phone rings again, Maria says, "I'll take it, you keep driving." I don't get a chance to argue as she just picks up the phone and answers it…

 

Present – Thom – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I call Linus to tell him we're on the move but get surprised as hell when I hear some chick say, "This is Linus' phone."

 

I yell at her, "What the hell are you doing with Linus's phone bitch, give it back to him."

 

She yells right back, "Listen you grumpy old fart! When we get together I'm going to kick your old wrinkled saggy ass so hard, it will jiggle like Jell-O for a week! I am Sgt. Maria Gonzalez and Linus is too busy driving to answer the phone right now so you can either shut the fuck up or give me the message to relay to him."

 

 Shit! What the hell sort of female panther did Linus get himself hooked up with! I no longer hear the sirens so I know the cops are at the scene of the dead, burning bastards and car. If things weren't so serious I'd laugh my ass off about Linus. I decide to leave a message with her, "Listen princess, tell your lover boy the police are probably all over the position I sent him so he needs to avoid it. Have him stop a mile away and wait until I send him updated coordinates."

 

She starts yelling about not being a princess and kicking my ass so I laugh and say, "See you soon princess." I end the phone call and complain in frustration, "Dammit Jim can't we move any faster?"

 

Jim responds with, "Shit Thom, you're the one slowing us up."

 

I figure I'll teach his ass so I jump on the stretcher with Todd and say, "What's your damn excuse now!"  I'm amazed when we actually do pick up speed! I guess Jim was right, not that I would ever admit it to him.

 

When we pull up beside Byron, he looks over at me riding on the stretcher, laughs and teases, "Damn Thom who do you think you are, some sort of Raja?"

 

I can tell Byron is using comedy to hide his pain and decide to help so I counter, "Well if I was, you and Jim would be the two ugliest elephants in India. In fact you'd be so ugly I'd make you walk backwards."

 

We all try our best to laugh then I add, "Linus is on his way and has some sort of female panther with him."

 

Byron looks over at me in alarm and begs, "Thom please tell me you didn't insult her?"

 

I laugh and ask, "What, me insult a woman?"

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

Maria's phone call with Thom actually went better than I expected since she was only half pissed, not totally pissed. Thom has a knack for being able to offend most of the women he meets. How he ever gets so lucky with his truck stop trollops I will never know. Maria is still swearing up a storm so I try a threat, "Listen, you need to simmer down because girlfriend or not, I'm going to throw your ass out of this van. Now tell me what Thom said."

 

I wonder what the hell happened because she calms right down, smiles and inquires, "So, I'm your girlfriend?"

 

I realize my 'mistake' but it's already too late to take it back. I ignore her question and ask, "Are you going to tell me what Thom said?"

 

She replies, "Well when he wasn't being an insulting old bastard, he said the police are probably at the coordinates he gave you and to stop a mile from that area and wait for him to send updated coordinates."

 

I comment, "Okay let me know when the GPS says we're a mile away. Now don't get all upset about Thom, he really is a great guy he just doesn't always say the right thing or say it the right way."

 

Maria gripes, "Well, the old bastard called me princess so I'm going to kick his ass. When I was a kid the other kids teased me by calling me princess or Speedy."

 

I nod my head and agree, "I understand Speedy because of your last name, but I don't understand the Princess part."

 

Maria says, "Well that's because you don't know my whole name: My mother thought it would be fun to name me Maria Antonietta Gonzalez. She had this thing for that French bitch and I had to suffer with it my whole life."

 

I decide to try to cheer her up and joke, "Well, don't lose your head over it."

 

It works as she laughs and responds, "Now that was a good one, much better than 'let them eat cake'. By the way, we just passed the one mile mark."

 

I pull over as Maria adds, "I'd love to haul your ass in the back of this van and screw your brains out! But it sounds like I'd better get things ready for your friends who were 'attacked by the gang'."

 

I slap her ass as she hops into the back and threaten, "Behave or I will have to put you over my knee."

 

She yanks on my ear and says, "Yeah, but you'd probably like that too much! Now don't bother me, I have work to do."

 

I sit in the driver's seat, with the engine running and wonder what the hell I did to deserve all this!!!

 

Present – Byron – Code Red - Washington DC

 

It's interesting: In a stressful battle situation with injuries, sometimes comedy is the best way to keep everyone from blowing up at each other. However I can tell Jim's struggling to drag both Todd and Thom but I know he won't complain because he feels badly and responsible for what happened. It sure as hell wasn't his fault; it was just a bit of bad luck.

 

I study the neighborhood were in - it's mostly commercial buildings which were destroyed in all the rioting and suggest, "Thom I don't know how much longer I can keep moving. I'm sure we've gone over a mile and soon the police will be having patrols in this area. We need to get into one of these abandoned buildings."

 

Thom looks at me and then agrees, "You're right, we need to get off the street and check on Hammer and Todd. Jim, head toward that building on your left."

 

As we head to the building, Thom crawls back to a standing position and says, "Okay Jim, make sure it's clear."

 

Jim heads inside, is gone for about five minutes, comes back and reports, "The coast is clear." Then he lifts the stretcher and we all head inside. I command, "Let's head to the back so we can use our lights."

 

The inside is a total mess! We almost fall several times but make it to the back room. Thom hobbles over, closes the door, puts a chair under it and says, "I'll check on Hammer. Jim you take care of Todd. Byron update our position, text the coordinates to Linus and tell him to get his ass here yesterday but to watch out for the police patrols."

 

Present – Maria – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I just 'happen' to bring the emergency phone with me in the back of the van. Okay that's not the truth; I really want a chance to verbally bitch slap that bastard when he calls again. Call me 'princess'! There's only one princess around here and that's my Princess Boss, hey that makes me wonder where the hell she went.

 

I'm hanging up IV's when the phone rings. I finish the IV, grab the phone and yell, "You son-of-a-bitch!"

 

Then I hear, "Excuse me Miss, but I think you have the wrong person." And I suddenly realize it's not – who did Linus call him – oh yeah Thom.

 

Linus orders, "Give me the damn phone!" I blush furiously, hand him the phone and swear I'm going to get that bastard if it's the last thing I do.

 

Present – Byron – Code Red - Washington DC

 

Yeah right, Thom didn't insult Linus's girlfriend, just like he didn't plan for me to be the one to get an earful about it – damn devious bastard. One of these days his mouth is going to overload his ass and I can't wait to see that day. Linus comes on the phone and says, "Sorry about that Thom."

 

I reply, "Linus, this isn't Thom, this is Byron. I'm going to text you updated coordinates as soon as I'm done with this call. We are in the back of the building so see if you can access the alley. Make sure to give the first area a wide berth and keep a lookout for police patrols. Now what are you doing bringing a new person, especially a woman, on this code red?"

 

He replies, "Byron, it was either fight her ass and be late as hell or bring her with me. So I made the decision (I hear a bunch of yelling in the background that sounded like 'he didn't have a choice') to bring her along. Besides she says she's a good medic and I figure the extra hands will help."

 

I hear more shouting in the background and have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Thom is right, she sounds like a female panther – a female panther in heat! I reply, "Well you know how Thom is, especially about skirts, so do your best to keep her from killing him. Now get here as soon as possible!"

 

I hang up the phone, grab the new coordinates, text them to Linus's phone then look over at Thom, who looks like the cat that swallowed the canary. He says, "Now tell me was I right about her?"

 

I shake my head, "Thom, I think you've really messed up this time."

 

He laughs, ignores my warning and brags, "They both deserve it! What the hell is Linus doing bringing a civi, especially one that wears panties, on a mission - let alone a Code Red!"

 

I reply, "Well, did you ask him?"

 

Present – Thom – Code Red - Washington DC

 

My leg hurts like hell and I sure don't have time to play patty cake with some chick Linus is banging. I don't care if she is a Sgt., she's probably a pogue.1 And, as Carlos Hathcock said, 'If I had to choose between taking a civilian or pogue on a patrol, I'd happily take the civilian. At least he hasn't made the conscious decision of being a coward in the military yet.'

 

1A pejorative military slang term used to describe non-infantry, non-combat soldiers and staff, along with other rear-echelon or support units.

 

I'm sure once she sees our injuries she will puke all over herself and run back to her mama! I reply to Byron, "Hell no, I didn't ask him! He should know better than to bring a pantie wearing pogue on a mission."

 

Byron shakes his head and says, "Thom, one of these days…"

 

I interrupt, "Yeah one of these days you guys are going to start listening to me!

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I'm sure Thom arranged this whole thing and put Byron in the middle. It's just the sort of devious trick he likes to pull. I was in the middle between Thom and Hammer and now I'm in the middle between Thom and Maria! But I decide that this time I'm through protecting his ass. If Maria wants to kick his ass, when he gets better, more power to her. I noticed the bruises on her face and body and recognized they were from fighting. Then I remember Jens telling me about how she and Maria fought to a draw. Yes, this time Thom might have bitten off a lot more than he can chew.

 

I grab the new coordinates, enter them into the phone and watch it plot the route. I say to Maria, "Okay, we should meet up with my friends in a few minutes. I know you're pissed off, but you need to save it for later…"

 

Maria interrupts, "Linus, get your head out of your ass, I'm not a REMF2! I fought like hell in the sandbox right beside men and I know for right now I need to focus on the task at hand. But later I want a chance to kick his mouthy ass!"

 

2 Rear Echelon Mother Fucker

 

I start to drive and wonder about how lucky I was to find Maria and to be able to sweet talk her into bed. She's a hell of a lover and a marvelous woman!

 

I bypass the first area along with a couple of patrol cars, pull up behind the target building, start to slow and say, "We're here." Maria bails out the back and orders, "Linus cover my six!"

 

I jump out of the van and watch as she heads toward the building, making sure to cover it with her rifle but also move quickly. With that I'm positive she's not a REMF…

 

Present – Jim – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I see a van pull up, a woman jump out of the back with a rifle and work her way toward our building. I gladly announce, "Hey guys, the cavalry is here."

 

Byron comes over watches her and laughs, "Damn, it's Linus and his new friend. By the way Thom, she sure as hell doesn't move like any pogue I've ever seen."

 

Thom hobbles over takes a look at her and responds, "I bet she learned that from watching TV shows."

 

Linus is covering her and as she gets up to the back door she asks, "Is anyone there?"

 

I say, "Hell yes we're here and we're glad as hell to see you!"

 

She flies into the room, quickly looks at me, Byron, and Thom. Then she quickly evaluates the two stretchers, pushes past us and states, "What the fuck are you three doing looking at me and not taking care of these two! Now which one has been injured the longest?"

 

I answer, "Hammer, the one with the chest tube."

 

She kneels beside him and starts working on him…

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

Shit! Maria doesn't waste any time. I walk through the doors and she's already working on Hammer and cussing up a blue storm! I hear her say, "Who's the god damn moron that put in this chest tube and didn't realize he's got a flail chest. You could have killed him!"

 

No one answers, but she sees me and orders, "Linus, I've got serious work to do on this guy or he's going to die. Don't just stand around whacking off, get your ass busy and check on the other guy on the stretcher."

 

She points to Jim and says, "You, over here now! You're my nurse. The rest of you stop standing around and help Linus."

 

 I head over to Todd, kneel beside him and Maria asks, "Linus, what are his injuries?"

 

I pull back the field dressing roll him to the side which causes him to stiffen, see an exit wound that someone missed dressing and say, "Todd has a belly wound, the round passed through him. Someone missed the exit wound and he's lost a large amount of blood. I'll start an IV and push the fluids while I redress both wounds…"

 

Present – Maria – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I can tell these old farts have been away from battlefield surgery for too long. They are lucky as hell I came along or this cute guy in the kilt would be dead. That makes me wonder how Linus would look in a kilt, it would certainly make certain things easier.

 

I can't believe they missed the paradoxical breathing, a sure sign of the flail chest where the ribs are broken in more than one place and it moves the opposite of the respirations. I gently touch the flail area, and count three ribs broken in two places and wonder how the hell that happened with one gunshot wound.  So I yell, "Did this man get beat or kicked after he was shot?"

 

I recognize Thom's voice when he says, "Yeah they kicked and beat the hell out of both of us after Hammer went down. I sure hope to hell Hammer makes it."

 

I ignore him for now and tell the guy who's my nurse, "Look we're going to need a bunch of suture kits, the ones with larger silk and some way to set up traction on this man's right side. I will also need three to six small weights. They can even be rocks to attach to my traction lines. And I need all this yesterday.

 

The man I identified as Thom comes over and asks, "Do you mind if I watch what you're doing because I sure hope Hammer is going to make it."

 

I respond, "Well over fifty percent of patients with flail chests die. Both of these guys and probably the two of you with injuries are going to need hospital care."

 

The other old guy, the one I mistakenly insulted on the phone, who's helping Linus explains, "I've already called and there's a medical plane waiting for us."

 

I'm not sure what the hell he's talking about: A fucking medical plane. They need a hospital with for fucking real surgeons!

 

I push the hell out of the fluids by opening the IV valve all the way and gently clean the hell out of the flail area using betadine swabs. I open a suture kit, take the curved needle, and being extremely careful to follow the curvature of the rib, pass the needle under one of the flail ribs bringing it out the other side and then tie a bowline knot so it won't tighten. I look at my nurse and say, "Get your ass over behind me and gently pull on this."

 

He scoots behind me as I pull on the suture material and command, "This is the exact amount of tension I want on this. Any less and his ribs will go into his lungs; any more and you will cause more damage."

 

I do the same with two more suture kits, then adjust how hard my nurse is pulling on the suture material and ask, "Did you get me the other crap I asked for?"

 

He replies, "It's all right here."

 

 I look at Thom and say, "I'm heading over to help Linus because this one's going to be fine until we get him to a hospital. You need to figure out how to rig up a support on this stretcher so we can apply traction to these suture lines while he's being transported. I look at my nurse and say, "After Thom rigs up the support, hang the suture lines over it and make the hell sure the pull looks exactly the same. And make sure he doesn't run out of IV fluid."

 

Present – Thom – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I say, "Thank you prin… I mean missy for saving Hammer."

 

She jumps up and replies, "Get the fuck out of my way gramps and my name is Maria! We're still not out of the woods yet but if we don't have to transport him too far, he just might make it."

 

I look and notice Hammer's color is already better. I sit down on the floor, pull out my knife and start to jury-rig a support for the suture lines. I ask, "I bet it needs to be high enough to support the lines at the current angle."

 

She answers, "That's right gramps!" And hear her cussing as she works on Todd.

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I would have loved to watch Maria work on Hammer, but I've been busy working on Todd. After getting the fluids in him, he's at least regained consciousness. Maria comes over and orders Byron, "Let me take your place. Why don't you call and alert the place we're taking these guys that we have one coming in with a chest wound and flail chest, another coming in with an abdominal wound, you with a broken arm and Thom with a wounded leg. Make sure they know these guys are going to need transfusions ASAP."

 

Byron heads away and Maria take his place. I look at her and explain, "The guy you were working on is Hammer, and he's a good friend of mine. Thanks for everything you did for him. This guy is Todd, the guy who just left is called Byron, he's the peacemaker of the group. Your nurse as you called him is Jim and I think you already recognized Thom."

 

She smiles at me and says, "Good job with this guy, I couldn't have done better myself. This is a pretty interesting group of guys. It's funny how they all were attacked by a street gang." She looks at Todd and says, "Now tell me how you're feeling?"

 

When he signs to her, she smiles and signs back, while verbalizing what she says, "Hell no you're not dead and I'm not an angel. Now how do you feel?"

 

He signs to her and she responds, "Yeah it would be better if we don't give you anything for pain right now. It might screw up the anesthesia. Once Thom gets the traction unit setup on Hammer we will transport all of you."

 

Thom yells, "Well, I think I'm done. Come over and take a look."

 

She touches my hand, jumps up, heads over to Hammer and says, "That's a damn fine job. Now let's get Hammer into the van. Linus, would you and Jim each take an end of the stretcher and I will make sure the traction unit continues to do its job."

 

Jim and I each take an end of the stretcher as Maria directs, "Let's move him carefully on three." She reaches three then we pick him up and get him into the van. Maria says, "I'm going to lightly cover his wound. Now go get Todd and place him right beside me."

 

We return to the building, grab Todd and slide the stretcher right in beside Maria. She points to Jim and says, "Get your ass in here and keep an eye on Todd. The rest of you pile in the front and let's get the hell out of dodge. Just remember Linus, this time don't drive this van like you stole it!"

 

Present – Thom – Code Red - Washington DC

 

Linus hops in the van behind the wheel, Byron and I struggle to share the passenger's seat, Byron finally says, "I'll sit on the floor." and moves.

 

We're all settled as Linus announces, "I'm driving now."

 

Maria nags him, "Just make sure to take it easy."

 

I look over at Linus and say, "I sure as hell don't know where you found her. She's sort of a pain in the ass, but I'm sure glad she was here today."

 

She shouts from the back, "Hey I heard that pain in the ass comment. It's a damn good thing you're an injured old cranky fart otherwise I'd teach your ass the real meaning of pain!"

 

I lean over as far as I can and whisper to Linus, "Just where in the hell did you find this female panther and what did you tell her."

 

Maria yells, "Female panther my ass! I found him and he didn't tell me damn near enough!"

 

And I suddenly remember: If there's one thing I don't like about women is they have this uncanny ability to hear whatever the hell you don't want them to hear! I decide it's better for right now, to keep my damn mouth shut…

 

Present – Linus – Code Red - Washington DC

 

I don't have all the details about what went on, but I can tell Thom's ears are a little fucked. He thinks he's whispering, but everything he's saying is pretty damn loud and mostly serves to piss Maria off more. Finally he figures out it's time to shut the hell up and we drive toward the airport and the medical plane in relative peace. I say relative because Maria is still yelling about my driving.

 

"Linus, when the hell are we going to get to the hospital…"

 

"Linus stop cornering so fast…"

 

I would like to know how the hell I can do both of those things at the same time!

 

We finally pull up to the airport and the emergency medical plane. I look and see some of the medical crew is waiting for us and say, "We're here…"

 

Present – Maria – Code Red - Washington DC

 

The van stops and Linus announces, "We're here, now don't get upset…"

 

I shake my head and wonder are all men idiots, because telling a woman not to get upset is almost a sure way to get them upset. The van doors are opened by a couple guys I don't recognize. I reach for my rifle as Linus steps around the corner and says, "Maria, don't shoot, these guys are on our side."

 

One of the guys says, "I'm Neil." The other says, "I'm Bob." I fight back a giggle as their names combined remind me of what I was doing with Linus earlier – when we were rudely interrupted (kneel and bob).

 

I direct, "Hammer is awake now and needs to go first but take it easy on him."

 

I hold the rib traction as they slowly slide the stretcher out; I can tell Neil and Bob know what the hell they are doing by the way they move him. When I get out of the van, I expect to see a hospital, instead I see we're at a fucking airport and complain, "Linus, where the fuck are we? These guys need real medical care with surgeons and all the other bullshit!"

 

Another man walks up and responds, "I'm Joe and I'm one of the surgeons. This c-one-thirty is our MASH unit. Don't worry Ma'am we're going to take real good care of your men."

 

Hammer grabs my arm as we head towards the C-130 and says, "Thenk ye lass fur savin' mah life!"

 

"Thank you, girl for saving my life!"

 

The ramp is down at the back of the C-130. When I look up the ramp, I blink my eyes at the lights because I can't believe what I'm seeing. It's a fully equipped if tiny surgical hospital with four areas cordoned off by clear medical looking tents - I can't help myself when I say, "Now just who was the interior decorator, Sanjay Gupta3?"

 

3 Sanjay Gupta is a media personality on health-related issues. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and best known as CNN's chief medical correspondent, hosting the network's weekend health program Sanjay Gupta, M.D., and making frequent appearances on their American Morning, Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360° programs.

 

Joe laughs and says, "No, but I bet he would like to have a MASH unit like this one."

 

We take Hammer right into one of the cordoned areas. Joe looks at Hammer and says, "You did a hell of a job with him but you look exhausted. We'll take over now, so head on out, grab a cup of coffee and get some rest."

 

Linus leads me to what I guess could be called the waiting room. I see they already have Todd in another area and are prepping him for surgery. Byron is in a third area and someone's working on him. Thom's still in the 'waiting room' so I walk up beside him and ask, "How come no one's working on you."

 

He smiles and says, "I'll be fine. They ran out of staff so I'm having them treat my men first. After the guys are taken care of, they can treat me."

 

I see one more open treatment area, grab his hand and say, "I'll probably regret this, but come on, let's fix that leg of yours." And I lead him off for treatment.

 

Linus's phone rings and he says, "Let me answer this and I'll be there to help."

 

I make Thom sit on a table and start working on his leg. It's not bad at all and I will clean it out then leave it for the surgeons to get a closer look. I start debriding and irrigating the wound and Thom whines, "Damn, can't you be more careful with my leg."

 

I spit, "Stop complaining, this is barely more than a flesh wound."

 

Linus walks in and looks like he's seen a ghost! I ask, "Linus, what the hell is wrong! Don't tell me after all our hard work one of the guys died."

 

He shakes his head and I simply can't believe what he tells me next…

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