Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Final Death Knell

“Rory? Rory Langely?” Scarlett’s voice rose in her panic.  She pushed through the growing crowd in the lobby, her shrill voice cutting through the other residents’ gossipy whispers. Her light blue bathrobe flapped around her pale ankles as Scarlett’s quick strides lengthened, her target in sight: the flashing ambulance parked outside of the Victorian’s glass front door.
            Shit. Within seconds, Scarlett was outside, face-to-face with a paramedic in a dark blue uniform.
“Who are you treating?” She demanded. “What happened?”
The paramedic flinched, but grasped his courage and stood firm. “Um, I can’t tell you that, ma’am. Patient confidentiality.”
Scarlett flapped her hands at him, disgusted with his lack of forthrightness. “Like hell you can’t. Is it Rory with you? Rory Langely? What happened to her?! She’s my friend!”
Mr. Silent Paramedic took a wary step back from Scarlett’s waving arms, but still kept mum.
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
“Sorry would be giving me some information on how MY FRIEND is doing!” Scarlett stomped her foot, helplessness and fear making themselves known as anger.
            There came a light tap on right shoulder, and Scarlett spun around, ready for a fight. Instead, she looked down in the dim street light at unassuming Baker Shefield, who had worry lines creasing his forehead.
“I found Rory passed out,” Baker told her. “Her dog, Peter, was barking like crazy, so I knew something was wrong. But they –” he nodded towards the paramedics, “checked her out and couldn’t find anything amiss. She was feeling fine after, so she just hoofed off with Peter for a walk.” He was determined. “I’m going after her.”
As he turned away, it was Scarlett’s turn to touch Baker on the shoulder. He locked eyes with her and raised an eyebrow, quizzical.
“Thanks, Baker. For telling me. And for checking on her.”
He shrugged, walking away, and called over his shoulder, “You’re welcome. Rory’s a good person; not many people know or care. I figured if you did, you couldn’t be too bad.”

            Scarlett knew exactly how kind Rory was. She hadn’t been able to get an interview with her for the book – Rory was too shy, too embarrassed, too reticent – up until a couple of months ago, when Rory’s transformation had flipped Scarlett on her red head.  In a good way. 
All the amazing, exotic places she and Peter were traveling to, her newfound outgoingness on her job, her continued struggle with panic attacks…Rory had quietly, hesistatingly told it all to Scarlett, and Scarlett liked to think they’d formed a sort of bond.
            Man, is Rory Langely one fierce, brave powerhouse in one tiny body.
Suddenly there was a loud commotion, knocking Scarlett right out of her reverie.
            Tires squealed and glass shattered. The sounds of an accident rent the night in two.
“What the hell?”
“Where did that come from?”
“What was that?”
“Do you think everybody’s okay?”
Curious hubbub spilled out the Victorian’s doors like oil as the crowd of gossipy spectators followed the sounds in search of a new sensation.
            Scarlett didn’t stop to think. She took off, bathrobe streaming behind her and slippers flip-flapping against the pavement as she raced towards the source of pandemonium. Behind her, she heard the screech of the ambulance’s siren as the paramedics hopped towards their next trauma scene.  But she was going to get there first. 
            Zeroed in on her goal, Scarlett didn’t pay much attention to a blur that sped by her, headed in the opposite direction.  But the blur’s – Baker’s – next words made her stop cold.
No. No no no no no no no!!
Scarlett’s legs and heartbeat accelerated simultaneously, fear for two of her friends rushing ice-cold adrenaline through her system. When she arrived on the scene, it was pure devastation.
            A car had spun out on the side of the road, dark tire marks and shattered glass marking its deadly trajectory.  A lone figure slumped over the driver’s wheel. No one else could be found.
            “JENN!” Scarlet screamed. She wrenched open the car door and gathered her best friend in her arms, sobbing as she felt for a pulse. Blood from Jenn’s head wound soaked her shirt as Scarlett grimly pressed her fingers to Jenn’s neck, nearly collapsing in relief as a faint thud-thud pulsed underneath her fingers.
“Oh, Jenn…” Scarlett cried. Jenn’s eyes weakly fluttered open.
“Scar...lett? ….Hit Rory…help Rory…'ain...bow River…”
            Scarlett didn’t want to leave Jenn, but she was alive, and the paramedics’ siren was getting closer. Rory needed to be found ASAP. If she’s unconscious in the river, it might already be too late.
            Gently letting go of Jenn, Scarlett left the car door open and sprinted down the noxious river’s bank. She frantically scanned its depths. Please, please……there. A flash of dark brown hair had surfaced, quickly moving downstream in the current. Scarlett sprinted down the river bank, gaining ground on what she was now sure was Rory. 
            Scarlett launched herself into the depths of the Rainbow River. And for the first time in years, she prayed.
            Please, don’t let it be too late.
It was. 
            Fifteen minutes later, after Scarlett had given rescued Rory to the paramedics for CPR and defibrillation, Rory Langely was pronounced dead at the scene.
            Scarlett wanted to cry, wanted to mourn her friend like she deserved, but her soul was strangely empty. She turned away from the site of heartbreak and destruction and trudged towards the police station. 
            It was time to focus on the living.
And maybe, when she didn’t feel so empty inside, she could finish the book and publish it in Rory’s honor.  So everyone could know how amazing she was.

            In the meantime, there was work to do. 

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