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6. That Never Came

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 The nearest town was roughly two hours away, proving how desolate our town really was. Well, the nearest town that wouldn’t have already heard about the incident anyway. Besides, this town had a lot of shootings all the time, they wouldn’t ask many questions; we’d say it was a hit and run on the street. Simple, it was very simple. Then again, as they say, “the plain and simple truth is seldom plain and simple.” A two-hour drive we were determined to accomplish in one. The roads weren’t too busy at this hour, but we’d just have to drive fast. None of us knew anything about medicine or doctoring, but what we did know is that the more blood that was lost, the worse things got. Shawn drove and the rest of us looked around – lost. There was nothing we could do to make the ride go faster, so we tried to calm each other down.

Usually cops aren’t around when you need them, right? Of course, and the one thing we really didn’t need right now was the police. So, being as they have that damned impeccable timing, guess what started following us? Cop on a bike, great right? What to do now, there were a few options this time. We could pull over, waste precious time, get a ticket and continue on our way. Or, we could pull over, put masks back on, beat up the cop, and run off. Third option? Keep going, non-stop and pray he gave up. None of us had the funds for a ticket, or the time to start a car chase. Then again, we really didn’t want to go to prison immediately after the hospital for beating up a law enforcement officer. We discussed logic amongst ourselves while Shawn made the final decision.

He pulled over, shut the engine off and waited. We didn’t say anything, just looked at each other. We didn’t have time to waste, it wasn’t even our own time, it was Angela’s. The cop parked behind us and walked up as Shawn fumbled for the proper paperwork. At the proper signal he rolled down the window.

“License and registration please. By the way, do you have any idea how fast you were going, what’s the big rush?” The officer’s voice was calm and even, forceful and confident. Shawn handed over the proper papers and looked down at the wheel.

“Well? You didn’t answer my question kid, you going to tell me?” The officer’s tone changed quickly as anger rose. Shawn didn’t let people push him around and we waited for the backlash.

“Listen, we got to get somewhere fast, it’s an emergency, can’t you just let us get going and stop wasting time?” Shawn was bold, but still somewhat stupid. This cop could’ve been from anywhere, we had to be careful. Somehow he had to know what he was doing. His face was no longer sheepish and child-like. His jaw was set and his eyes narrowed to show the contempt in his heart.

“What’s the big hurry boy? Come on, let me in on the secret.” That cop was just asking to be punched. Shawn had strong tolerance but we’d never seen him in this kind of situation. He was asked to step out of the car. The cop seemed a bit surprised when Seth and I stepped out with him. Remember; Seth’s the calm one.

“Listen here you prick, we got to get someone to the hospital. The longer you make us stand around like imbeciles, the more time she loses. Do you want to be responsible for a kid’s death? I doubt it, so let us get to the damn hospital already!” He’d stepped up into the man’s face with his hands clenched. He would have taken on Heaven above or Hell below just to get going. The cop took a step back, but faltered. He straightened up and cleared his throat.

Shoving Shawn’s papers back at him, the officer murmured, “What are you all standing around for? Let’s get moving, now!”

The three of us got into the car and started up again. The arrogant cop even gave us an escort, imagine that. To think, an officer blindly protecting criminals, isn’t that something? But he did, and we made it to the hospital, right on time. He returned to wherever it was that he came from, and we got Angela checked in. The doctor told us they’d have to do surgery and it could be awhile. We understood and left to walk around. That morning we’d stashed a lot in the car in case we’d needed to get away and stay away. Melissa was uneasy about leaving her sister behind, but we told her we’d go back as soon as we got Angela fixed. We each had a bit of money with us, so we walked around. The first priority was to find a place to stay that wasn’t too expensive. Once there, we’d change clothes, burn the blood stained ones, and get on with life.

Did what just happened affect us? Course it did, and it will continue to all our lives. How can a person forget seeing someone’s death? How can someone simply put behind them that scene, his eyes, God his eyes. They never closed, they remained wide open, shocked yet sinister. He was a walking contradiction, a paradox of human psychology. Could anyone have helped him? Probably not, perhaps just injustice was his fate. Even his name is a contradiction of his life. It was too late to help now, so now we had to help Angela. Justin died a fool’s death, but he was proud till the end. Was it possible for any of us to ever understand what was going through his mind those last seconds? No, we never could, no matter what happened. The only who could’ve helped us understand Justin was Justin, and he’s gone now.

We left the hospital by 10:30, maybe 11. Who can be sure? We all scattered around town agreeing that Melissa and I would find some sort of hotel. Small towns seldom have expensive places; they’d do anything just to have steady customers. It was even more rare that they’d turn you away. Prejudice didn’t exist in a place where your dollar was as good as anybody else’s. About five minutes from the hospital we found a little place that looked like our bridge, ready to be torn down. The group had agreed to scatter and reunite at the hospital in a few hours. This way as a group we’d know the lay of the land. The surgery could be…who knows how long?

The authorities didn’t know who it was; they had no leads in the case. We were careful, nobody had any idea and we hadn’t been identified. Now was the crucial point, to keep up being careful. We were the only ones that could screw ourselves over now. Around 1pm we all met at the hospital and drove to the hotel. We were all showered and re-dressed in roughly an hour and a half, bearing in mind the privacy codes of all others. By 3 we decided it was time to go back to the hospital, they had to be done by now. So yet again we piled into the car and took off. We were considering just going in one at a time but ruled out that decision quickly. The group never stepped back on a member, especially new ones. Yet, never before had our clan seen a situation such as this, it was new to us all.

We marched in with Melissa and I at the head, Seth and Eileen behind us, and the rest behind them. Reaching the admittance desk I cleared my throat to call attention to us. The nurse at the desk looked up sleepily with a sense of ignorant acknowledgement. The hospital was calm and quiet, like most others. I asked where we would find one Angela Radley. Using a nearby computer she put in a search for the patient and told us how to find her. We thanked her and continued to an elevator.

The town’s inhabitants must’ve sensed we didn’t fit in, that we were strangers. They treated us with a special kind of courtesy, had a bit of extra caution when addressing any of us or looking at us. Perhaps they had thoughts in their heads already about us, maybe not. We didn’t care at that moment; we just wanted to check on Angela. Following the instructions given by the nurse we proceeded to the indicated room. Edging in we saw they’d given her a private room. She seemed to be sleeping, so we all entered and wandered a bit. Within a few minutes a man came in.

“Hello, I’m the doctor. It seems that Miss Radley suffered a gunshot wound in her left arm. I doubt she’ll be able to use it properly for some time. Are any of you family?”

We looked around, resting our various gazes on Jo. She seemed lost amidst the insanity; I wish I’d had proper words to comfort her. Right there her sister lay on a bed unconscious with a hole in her arm. There was an infinite amount of apologies owed, but none that could be verbally stated. Why not you ask? We couldn’t find the right words.

“Yes, she’s my sister.” Her voice was shaky; she looked ready to drop. Her eyes were tired and teary. We understood how she felt, to a certain degree.

“Well, we’ve removed the bullet but I do need some information. First of all, do you have parents that I might contact about this, as well as the medical bills themselves?”

We stared at him in confusion. That was something we hadn’t thought about, medical bills. Sure we had money, but not that much money. And what about family, he was looking for parents. We couldn’t rely on any of our families to bail us out; they’d sooner send us to prison. I searched my mind to bail her out, a solution somewhere.

“You can contact Mr. & Mrs. James in New York City. I have an address and phone number. I’ll call them ahead of time and explain what happened, send any bills or paperwork to them. Thank you doctor, for all your patience. When will we be able to take my sister out of here?”

The man looked a bit surprised, as were we all. He cleared his throat and straightened up. “Well, we need someone to sign the release forms, I assume none of you are older than 18?” We all narrowed our eyes together. Shawn stepped forward.

“Excuse me sir, I’m the oldest here, Shawn Miller. I’m barely over 18, but I still make it. What do you need?”

For the second time in ten minutes the doctor was taken aback. We folded our arms and faced him with looks that showed how truly aggravated we were with his system. He needed a signature of guardianship, which we couldn’t provide.

“Usually we need someone to sign the release papers, but being her only family present is underage I’m not sure what to do. Well you call the…James’ you said? Talk to them and I’ll call them tomorrow to discuss details. Miss Radley won’t be awake until then anyway, the sedatives are very strong to reduce pain. You can stay until the visiting hours end, but there’s nothing you can do, she needs proper rest. You all look like you haven’t slept for days. My advice is to find a place to stay, sleep for a while and don’t worry. She’s in good hands and will be up and around in no time. Now if you don’t mind, I have to be going. Good afternoon kids.”

With that the man promptly walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. I leaned against the wall as everybody found varying positions and got comfortable. The doctor was right, there was nothing we could do, but still we stayed. Jo found a chair and stayed at the bedside. Mr. & Mrs. James, who the hell were they, and how did Jo know them? If I recall, the Radleys had come from Mississippi or something like that.

“Who were those people you told the doctor about?” Christine piped up as we waited for an answer. Jo jumped up as if an electric shock went through her body.

“Oh yea, I have to call them, thanks for reminding me! I’ll be right back, hold that thought.” With that she shot out of the room in search of some sort of phone as well as a good place to talk. Seems the group thinks alike? I couldn’t help from letting out a small grin. Funny to think that we were always together, we knew each other so well, but the group as a whole had no particular title. About time we found it one. I didn’t realize I said anything when I suggested an overall name; that’s how separate my mind was from my physical self. Everybody looked around for a bit before returning to peaceful personal solitude. We waited in silence for Jo to return.

Suddenly Seth started tossing out names, as did Eileen, Christine, Melissa and Shawn. We searched for a piece of paper and began writing them down. There were so many, we had twenty in no time. Many were great, they symbolized us well, but how to choose one? Melissa came over and whispered in my ear two words. Hopeless Martyrs. It was a contradiction in itself; just like us. What is a martyr? A person who dies for a cause, in most cases that cause is somehow religious. A person had died earlier today for our cause. How did hopeless apply to us? None of us possessed hope in the smallest degree, except perhaps Melissa. She was hopeful for everybody, no matter how evil. That was how she was, and we admired her for that.

I announced her suggestion in an instant and the group was stunned into silence. It was at that moment that Jo returned. We agreed on the name and were satisfied. She looked around thinking that she’d caused the sudden quiet. Seth went up to her and started a bit of a laugh to ease her up, calm her down. Finally we’d get an answer to the aforementioned questions. I waited until she was seated before saying, “Well?”

She zoned back in for a minute, realizing what we were waiting for. “Oh yes, the James’, you wanted to know about them, right? Well, it’s like this. We lived in the city for most or our lives but when problems started with our parents we moved to Mississippi with our mother. My father ended up in prison for who knows what? My mom was killed in a car crash. Angela had been with Justin awhile and he said he’d be moving and he asked us to go with him. Having nowhere else to go we agreed. The James’ contacted us before we left. They’d heard about our mother and already knew about father, so they told us that we could always depend on them should we need them. Angela and I had our minds set to go with Justin, so we told them we’d be okay and we’d get in touch soon as we got there. We didn’t get the chance to. I explained what happened and they said they’d take care of the medical bills. We’re welcome to go stay with them, they’d take care of transportation as well but I told them we’d see, one thing at a time.”

To think all that talk came out of that small girl, it was a mind blow. She seemed to realize how surprised we were and shrank back into the chair, returning to her own shyness. So that’s how things were, they were covered. I was glad they had someone else to turn to; it’s hard to find people that care nowadays. That’s the way society works, crooked and cruel. We have to accept it and learn to deal. Today had been one of insanity, pain, suffering and tragedy. Time had flown by faster than we’d expected so we decided to leave. We’d rented one room for all of us, we’d have to make due that way. It would work out, some how. Shawn had volunteered to sleep in his car if need be. We told him we wouldn’t put him or anyone else out. We left the hospital the same way we’d come in but with spirits lightened. Tomorrow would be better, hopefully.

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