The Exile: Episode 24

I froze as the gunman watched me, the barrel of his rifle held steady at my face. My muscles tensed and sweat dripped off my brow, rolling down my cheeks as the seconds turned into what felt like minutes. Suddenly, the man lowered the weapon and said,

“Go ahead, sir. I’ll cover your exit.”

Confused, I managed to mumble a feeble thank you and carefully lifted the wounded Carmen into my arms. Was this a trick? I wasn’t going to wait around to figure it out. Moving as quickly as I dared, I descended the stairs and made my way out to the parking lot. I decided to head for the nearest car, taking a chance that the keys had been left inside. After I tenderly seated Carmen in the passenger side and pressed my handkerchief against the bleeding bullet wound, I ran around and climbed into the driver’s seat. I checked the ignition. No keys. Maybe the visor. Nothing there. I flipped open the glove compartment and fumbled around. Success. Grabbing the keys, I slammed the compartment shut and started the engine. Tearing out of the parking lot, I turned left and headed back into town.

“Just hold on,” I said as I looked over at the unconscious Carmen.

Maybe she could hear me. Maybe not. Either way, I felt better saying it.

I remembered we had passed a hospital on the way to the estate, so I started looking, twisting my head back and forth as I flew down the highway. When I spotted the emergency entrance sign, I hit the brakes and pulled up to the doors. Leaving the keys in the ignition, I slowly lifted Carmen from the car. What did I care if someone stole the ride.  Struggling to keep her in my arms, I hurried into the hospital and yelled out,

“She’s been shot!”

At the sound of my voice, nurses converged on Carmen, and a gurney was quickly rolled forward to support her limp body. I watched as the hospital staff wheeled her away, hesitating for a moment before I collapsed in a nearby chair and passed out.

I awoke some moments later to a doctor tapping me on the shoulder. Startled, I suddenly sat upright and looked around in a defensive reaction.

“It’s okay, son,” the doctor assured me. He was an older man with a kind voice and gentle eyes.

I relaxed a bit and offered my apology.

“Sorry.”

“I understand. Good news. Your friend is going to be fine, ” the doctor said. “Seems the bullet went clean through. I gave her something to help her sleep. You can see her as soon as she wakes up.”

“Where is she, doctor?” I said.

“She’s resting in ICU. You know, I’m going to have to report the gunshot,” the doctor explained.

“Hospital policy.”

“Yes sir. That’s fine,” I said. “Do you think I could use your phone?”

“Of course,” the doctor smiled, pointing to a landline phone attached to a nearby wall.

“Thanks,” I said.

“That’s quite alright,” the doctor said, patting my shoulder.

When he walked away, I stood and stepped over to the nurses’ station.

“Do you have a sheet of paper and a pen I could use?”

“Certainly,” the nurse said and reached for a pad and pen.

“There you go,” she said with a smile.

“Thanks,” I smiled back.

On the way to the hospital, I had been thinking about this note and what to say, so it didn’t take long to put down the words. I signed my name at the bottom then read it back to myself.

Carmen,

I’m sorry you were injured. I know you only want to help, that  you would risk your life to help, but your life is not something I’m  willing to risk. If something happened to you, it would be on me. Since  I knew you wouldn’t let me do this while you were awake, I’m writing  this while you’re sleeping. I care for you more than I may want to admit, and seeing you  shot just reminds me of everything I’ve already lost. I would rather lose  you to distance and time than to a sniper’s bullet. Whatever happens to  you, let it be for yourself and not for me. I didn’t choose this life; it was forced on me. I know you’ll be angry, but I hope some day you will forgive me. Even if you don’t, at least you’ll be alive. I’m sorry.

Wesley

I folded the paper, and through teary eyes reached forward to return the pad and pen as I asked,

“Nurse, where is ICU?”

When I reached the unit nurses’ station, I got the attention of the nurse and told her,

“A girl was brought in not long ago with a gunshot wound.”

After I described Carmen, I asked, “Is she still here?”

“Yes,” the nurse answered,  “but we’re about to move her to a room.”

“Would you mind giving her this when she wakes up?” I asked, holding out the note.

“Of course,” she responded with a smile.

“Thanks,” I said and headed for the lobby.

When the elevator doors opened, I walked over to the nearest telephone and called my cell phone. I knew I had left it behind in the fire. After a few rings, it went to voice mail.

“I know you’re listening. I know you’re out there. If you want me, you’ll leave her alone. She’s no longer part of this. Stay away from her, or I’ll tell what’s happened so far. Then you get to waste precious time and money covering everything up. Chase me if you want. I’m not giving up. But leave her alone. . .or else.”

I hung up the phone and exited the hospital. I was surprised to find that the car I had parked outside emergency was still there with the keys in the ignition. I climbed inside, started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot. After a sharp right turn, I just drove. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know how far I’d make it. But one thing I knew. Carmen wouldn’t be there, and that meant she’d be safe.

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Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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