A State of Grace Pt. 05

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Here’s Part 5! I once again want to thank my editor, gungurl_300blk, for her time and trouble. How she puts up with my lousy spelling and grammar, I’ll never know, but I’m grateful nevertheless. I also want to give all of you readers out there a HUGE thank you! You are the reason I keep writing! As always, those who are interested are encouraged to read the Author’s Note at the end of the story. Enjoy! – CM


“KEVIN!” I cried, barely able to stop myself from shaking him.

Suddenly, a pair of strong hands gripped me beneath my arms and lifted me away from my brother.

“NO!” I screamed, struggling.

“Stop it, girl!” came Chris’s voice. His tone was commanding; it left me feeling as if I had no choice but to obey. “Hannah needs room to work!”

It was only then that I noticed Hannah kneeling by Kevin’s side, examining him. She looked behind me.

“Britt, hand me the trauma kit! Beth, hold the light for me! Chris, keep a firm hold on her in case she loses it!”

A chorus of acknowledgments rang out, and I realized the children were behind me as well. A moment later, Hannah’s blonde twin girls stepped into my field of view. One of them handed Hannah a large brown backpack that had a paramedic emblem on it. The other girl held a big police-style flashlight, which she switched on and pointed at Kevin’s abdomen.

Hannah unzipped the backpack, and it opened up to reveal a huge selection of medical implements, vials, and a few IV bags. As I watched, she withdrew a stethoscope and applied it to my brother’s chest, stopping to listen in several places. Next, she took his pulse, then she pulled out a blood pressure cuff and used it. After she finished with that, she hit me with a serious look.

“Gracie, honey, he’s passed out,” she said. “I know it looks bad, but it’s actually a good thing.”

“What?” I asked. “How so?”

“It’s one of the ways our bodies deal with high levels of pain and stress, and he had to have really been hurting! Better that he avoid feeling this while he can,” Hannah explained. “I won’t sugar coat things: Kevin’s in a bad way. However, he’s not in immediate danger of death. We can take a minute to get some things done here!”

“If I let you go, will you stay out of the way?” Chris asked.

“Yes,” I said, quietly.

Chris released me, but he stayed close to me just in case. I didn’t blame him one little bit. I’m embarrassed to admit that for a moment, I was dangerously close to panic! I watched as Hannah carefully traced her way around Kevin’s wounds, frowning in concentration. After a moment, she glanced over at the twin who’d brought her the trauma bag.

“Bethany, help me turn him on his side, please!”

“Yes, Mom!” she replied, moving to assist her mother.

I couldn’t help but note, as I watched them work, that neither child was acting afraid. Showing a strength I wouldn’t have guessed she had, Hannah rolled Kevin’s limp form onto his side. Bethany supported Kevin’s head and made sure he didn’t roll completely over. Hannah carefully examined every inch of Kevin’s back, even taking his shorts down to look lower. She frowned, apparently not liking what she saw.

“Damn,” she said, softly.

“What?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“There are no exit wounds,” Hannah said. “With a handgun, that’s not all that uncommon. With a rifle, it’s practically unheard of! Chris would you-“

Chris was obviously thinking along the same lines. Before his wife had finished her sentence, he had unslung the compact rifle Kevin had taken from one of our attackers, and ejected the magazine. He stared at the ammunition for a moment before looking back up at Hannah.

“These are frangible rounds, Hannah,” he said, quietly.

Hannah closed her eyes briefly, and winced.

“Damn!” she said again, with more emphasis.

“What…what else is wrong?” I asked, fearfully.

“Frangible rounds are bad news,” Chris said, simply. “You really don’t need to know the details, just please take my word for it.”

Hannah and Bethany gently lowered Kevin back down flat. Hannah then pulled out two of the IV kits and started a line in Kevin’s right arm.

“I’m giving him some blood expanders, and some broad-spectrum antibiotics,” she said as she worked. “But, we’ll need to be extra careful with moving him.”

She handed the IV bags to Bethany, who put away the flashlight so she could hold them up. The child looked down suddenly and frowned.

“Dad, he’s got a pistol!” she said.

“Okay, honey,” Chris replied. “Go ahead and secure the weapon.”

“Yes, Dad,” she said.

To my utter astonishment, the little girl reached down, plucked Kevin’s pistol out of its holster, and unloaded it with deft, practiced motions! Having unloaded and checked it, she handed the weapon and the magazine to her father.

“Uh, excuse me for asking, but how old are you girls?” I asked.

“We’re twelve,” Bethany said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“And a half!” Brittany chimed in.

“I’ve never met kids your age that know how to handle mersin seks hikayeleri firearms and help injured people! I’m very impressed!” I praised.

“Mom and Dad have taught us all kinds of stuff!” Brittany enthused. “We both like shooting! When I grow up, I want to be a sturgeon!”

Chris stifled a laugh, and Hannah smiled.

“That’s surgeon, honey,” she said after a moment.

“I’m gonna be a nurse like Mom and Aunt Jennifer,” Bethany confided.

“What do you think about an ambulance?” Hannah asked Chris softly. “Medically speaking, we have the time, and the ride would do him less harm.”

Chris sighed and rubbed a hand over his face.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “With an ambulance, we’d also get the police. That’s especially true when you’re talking about gunshot wounds!”

“Okay, so why is that a problem?” Hannah asked.

Instead of speaking, Chris again unslung the compact rifle Kevin had taken. He held it out so Hannah and I could see the left side of the receiver. There, stamped into the metal, were the words “Military/Law Enforcement Use Only,” and right below that, “Property of Highland, IN Police SWAT.”

My blood ran cold. I remembered Kevin saying that the HPD Chief’s name was on Trent’s list of clients, but the true meaning of that fact hadn’t really sunk in – until now!

“My God!” I whispered, horrified. “They were cops?”

Chris nodded his head affirmatively.

“Oh yeah, they were cops,” he said, firmly. “I know that clown over there.”

He gestured at the body that was sprawled out on the ground nearest to us.

“I don’t know him well, but I do know him. He’s the team leader for one of the two SWAT teams the HPD has. He’s a member of my gun club. He’s also an overbearing as…uh, jerk. Besides the two guys in suits, there were also two uniformed officers that showed up right before all the shooting started, although you might not have seen them, Grace,” he finished.

“Yes,” I said, slowly, as I thought back. “I do remember seeing them, actually.”

Hannah gazed at her husband, deeply alarmed.

“But, the hospital is always full of police, too!” she said. “If we can’t trust them, how…”

She broke off her sentence and sat back on her haunches. She looked back and forth between me, Chris, and Kevin.

“He’s going to need surgery to get the bullets fragments out and to repair any damage to his internal organs. Otherwise, he might contract peritonitis, or even worse,” she said. “There’s no avoiding that! We’ll need a surgeon and an operating room.”

“You can’t do it?” I asked.

“No,” she said, flatly. “I can stitch small wounds, but this kind of thing requires a bona fide surgeon.”

“Then we have no choice,” I said. “Call an ambulance, then get yourselves out of here. You have a family to protect, and you’ve already done more for us than I could ever repay you for!”

Neither Chris nor Hannah moved a muscle.

“Go on!” I urged them. “You have a family to protect! I’m not going to have you risk yourselves or your kids for me and Kevin! That’s not right! Just let me borrow your cell phone long enough to call 911!”

“Mom, Dad, I don’t wanna leave them,” Brittany said.

“Me either,” Bethany echoed. “It isn’t right! They’re in bad trouble, and we can help!”

“For better or for worse, we’re already involved up to our noses, anyway,” Chris stated. “We were in the park when that Charger pulled in, and I’m pretty sure they ran our plates. When the shooting started, they knew we hadn’t left, so they knew there were potential witnesses close at hand. They knew we’d all seen their faces. They opened fire anyway!”

Chris shared a look with his wife, then looked steadily at me.

“I’m pretty sure you can put those facts together and figure out what they mean for yourself.”

He was right, of course. There could only be one reason they weren’t worried about witnesses, and that would be because they planned to take care of the problem before they left. Of course, they never planned on there being any resistance to their murder plot! The thought of murdering a whole family wouldn’t bother people like them in the least; not if it meant they had a chance of staying out of prison!

Hannah and Chris shared another look; the silent communication between the two of them was of a kind you only see in couples who’ve been together for a long time, or who have a very strong bond with one another. The moment they reached a decision was obvious.

“I’ll go get the truck,” Chris said.

He looked at me and held out the rifle.

“Do you know how to use one of these?” he asked.

“Kevin tried to show me how to use his AR-15 a couple of times, but I’m more comfortable with a handgun,” I told him, and showed him my Smith & Wesson Shield that still rode in its holster.

He nodded his head, silently thanking me for my honesty. Then to my surprise, he turned and handed the rifle to Brittany, who took it and cradled it expertly.

“You have the overwatch duty, Britt,” he said quietly. “When I come back with the truck, I’ll let you know it’s clear by blinking the lights twice. If I don’t do that, you’ll know something is wrong, and that you need to run. If you absolutely have to shoot, keep it on semi-auto only. Understood?”

“Yes, Daddy!” she said.

“Off you go, then,” he said. “I love you – all of you!”

Brittany touched her father’s hand lovingly, then dashed off into the treeline and started climbing a sturdy old oak. When I turned back to look at Chris, he was already moving rapidly away from us, heading toward the entrance to the bike trails.

Hannah continued to tend to Kevin while Bethany held up the IV bags.

“You have a truly amazing family, Hannah. Thank God you were here!”

She smiled up at me and shook her head.

“I’m glad for you and Kevin, but for myself, I wish I’d stayed home!” she said.

Bethany giggled, and I laughed too, in spite of the fear and tension.

“Yeah, me too!” I agreed.

I sighed and rubbed a sore spot on my right hip. Hannah saw the motion and looked at me with a frown.

“Come here for a sec, Grace,” she said.

I did as she asked. I was startled when she abruptly unfastened my capri pants and tugged the right side down and away from my hip.

“Hannah? What the-“

“Some of this blood is yours, Grace!” she said, silencing me.

She took a sterile wipe from her trauma kit and scrubbed around the sore spot. I hissed at the sudden sting. Hannah worked for a few moments, cleaning the area thoroughly with the sterile wipe. She examined me, then her tense facial expression eased.

“It’s just a light scrape,” she said, as she finished her examination.

“I fell a couple times on my own, then Kevin knocked me down,” I said. “It probably happened then.”

Hannah nodded her head in agreement as she applied some antibiotic ointment to the scrape and covered it with a bandage. As I pulled my capris back up and fastened them, I gazed lovingly down at him. Hannah caught that look.

“Grace, Kevin is going to make it!” she said.

“He covered me with his body when the shooting started,” I said.

I looked Hannah in the eye, wanting her to understand.

“He literally put his body between me and all those flying bullets! He knew what was probably going to happen to him, but he did it anyway!”

I knelt once more by Kevin’s side and tenderly caressed his sweet face.

“What have I done in my life to deserve that kind of love and sacrifice?” I asked. “What makes me worth so much to him that he would give everything for me?”

“He’s gotta love you an awful lot!” Bethany said. “I bet he loves you more than anything in the world!”

“‘Out of the mouths of babes!'” Hannah paraphrased, grinning at me. “She’s right, you know, Grace. That kind of love isn’t really something a person earns. It’s something that you’re given, and it’s the most precious gift you can ever give or receive!”

The way Hannah was looking at me, I could tell she knew that Kevin and I were lovers as well as siblings. Chris most likely knew as well, though they’d both refrained from saying anything.

“The only thing you can do is return that love, freely and unconditionally,” she said, softly, looking into my very soul with her bright green eyes. “I know that because I have someone who loves me to the same degree, just as I love him. I recognize that same, unconditional, selfless love between you and Kevin. Never let go of that, Grace, because there is nothing more rare or precious in this world!”

Kevin stirred, and Hannah instantly put a hand on his shoulder to keep him from thrashing around too much and injuring himself further.

“Grace,” he whispered, fitfully.

“I’m here, Love,” I said, soothingly, stroking his sweaty brow. “I won’t leave you!”

He settled down; the physical contact seemed to soothe and relax him. Hannah looked up at the bag of blood expander, noting how much remained. Her lips thinned with concern, but she said nothing. Suddenly, we heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. I turned to see a red 4-door pickup truck coming towards us! It stopped a short distance away. To my relief, the headlights blinked twice.

“That’s the signal!” Hannah said, her relief plain.

Seconds later, I heard a light thumping sound as Brittany dropped down out of the tree and ran over to us, the rifle held at low-ready.

“Ready, Mom?” she asked, not taking her eyes off the truck.

“Yes,” Hannah replied.

“Okay,” Brittany said and waved one hand over her head.

At her signal, Chris got out of the truck and approached. Brittany put her weapon on safe and held it out to her father.

“Keep it secure, for now, Sweetheart,” he said. “I’ll need to carry Kevin and lift him into the back seat. I want you to ride in the bed of the truck with your sister and the dogs. Once I close the tailgate, break the weapon down and hide it in the toolkit. Understood?”

“Yes, Daddy!” she said.

“That’s my girl!” he said with a fierce grin. “Alright, Kevin, let’s get you moved. Keep those IV lines straight, Beth!”

“Yes, Daddy!” Bethany said, keeping an eagle eye on the plastic tubing.

Chris lifted Kevin into his arms and carried him toward the truck. Bethany kept the drip bags elevated and the lines straight, while Hannah got into the back seat of the truck to help pull Kevin’s torso into place. Things went much more smoothly than I thought they would; Kevin was quickly placed on his back on the big bench seat, his head resting in Hannah’s lap. Once settled, she took the IV bags from her daughter and hung them from the garment hook.

Chris smiled faintly and patted Kevin’s leg.

“You’re just about the only guy in the world I’d let put his head in my wife’s lap!” he joked. “Come on, Grace, you’re up front with me.”

Chris hurried to the back, making sure his daughters and the dogs were settled in the bed of the truck, then he closed the tailgate and the door of the cap. Then, he hopped into the driver’s seat. I buckled my seatbelt out of habit as he shifted the truck into drive.

Chris drove carefully, keeping the truck exactly at the posted speed limit. Strangely, we didn’t encounter a single police car until we reached Community Hospital. Once we were there, we saw a lot of them! Chris pulled into a spot at the far edge of the parking lot and parked. He turned in his seat and looked back at Hannah.

“What do you think, baby?” he asked.

“I’d say head for the ER entrance, except…” her sentence trailed off, and she gestured helplessly at the collection of police cruisers gathered in the lot.

“Can Kevin hold out for another few minutes?” I asked Hannah.

She eyed the level of fluids in the IV bags with unconcealed worry, but she finally nodded her head.

“Yes, but Gracie, there’s a hard limit to how long we have!” she said, urgently.

“Okay. I’ll need to borrow someone’s phone,” I said.

Chris dug into his pocket for a second, then handed me his cell phone. I took it and dialed Crystal’s number.

“Hello?” came Crystal’s voice after several rings.

“Hey there, girl!” I said, in bright airy tone. “No need for you to ask who this is, cause I’m pretty sure you know, right?”

The line was silent for a few seconds, then Crystal’s voice returned.

“Well hey there, yourself! I was starting to wonder when I’d hear from you again! So how’s it hangin’?”

“Normally, I’d say hard as a rock, but unfortunately that isn’t the case right now. In fact, things are kind of lame at the moment, and I need some help pretty badly! But, just my luck, the closest place I can get help is just full of bacon, and you know I’m a strict Vegan!”

There was silence on the line yet again, lasting somewhat longer this time. When Crystal’s voice returned, it was full of real worry.

“Aww, girl! I’m sorry to hear that! I tell you what, though, I have some friends over here at my place who can help you out. If you like, they could be there pretty quick, and do something about all that bacon!”

“I knew you’d come through for me!” I said. I thought quickly, then noticed the Chevy emblem on the steering wheel. “You’ll find me wearing a red bow tie, out in the boonies. Please hurry, time is really not a friend of mine!”

“You’ve got it, babe! TTFN!”

There was a soft click as she disconnected the call. I handed the phone back to Chris and closed my eyes.

“What was that all about?” Hannah asked, confused. “I mean, I know you had to be using some kind of code but was that some kind of Valley Girl crap?”

“I was talking to my friend, Crystal,” I said. “We don’t have any kind of prearranged code, so I had to think on the fly. Still, I’m certain from the way she responded that she understands what’s happening. Hopefully, the FBI – the real FBI, I mean – is on the way. When they get here, they’ll escort us in.”

“Well, since we appear to have a few minutes,” Chris said, “How about you tell us what the hell is going on?”

So, I proceeded to tell them the whole story. I didn’t leave out a single detail, even when it involved Kevin and I being intimate (and the lack of surprise on their faces confirmed my guess that they already knew about us). They were, however, shocked and utterly horrified when I told them about Trent and his ‘business dealings.’ Hannah looked like she was going to get violently ill. Chris looked like he was going to get violently…well, violent.

“That’s…that’s…monstrous!” Hannah whispered vehemently.

“Thank God Kevin already killed the bastard,” Chris growled. “If he hadn’t, I’d do it myself, this very day!”

I then explained about Crystal calling her contacts in the FBI, and about them sending in a SIRT team. I filled them in on Kevin’s suspicions about the cell phone tracking, and then the resulting pursuit and gun battle.

“What about the bit about finding you in the boonies wearing a red bow tie?” Hannah asked. She looked a little dazed at everything she’d just been told.

“Oh…well, I needed to give them a way to find us once they got here,” I said. “I figured they’d guess a ‘red bow tie out in the boonies’ meant a red Chevy at the edge of the parking lot.”

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