Shades of Grey
The tailgate was cold, but he didn't care. He wanted to be able to get up as quickly as possible when they brought Sam.
Josh took a slow, deep breath, trying to take in as much oxygen as he could without coughing this time. Nice and easy. Okay.
Another coughing fit ravaged his raw throat.
"Take it easy, sir." The EMT placed a hand on his back and rubbed gently. Her other hand steadied the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth.
"Slow, steady breaths. You got quite a lungful of tear gas."
Josh nodded his thanks as the coughing subsided.
"You'd be warmer inside the ambulance, sir," she advised, picking up the edge of the blanket that had slipped from his grasp. She pulled it over his shoulder and tucked the edge into his hand.
"Josh," he croaked. He hated when people called him 'sir'.
"I'm Beth," she said, allowing him to take hold of the mask.
He held it, frustrated with the ministrations. At least he could see again-for the most part. He could see the main road several yards away. The ambulance was parked on a side street, out of the line of fire. A Secret Service agent stood a few feet away, making sure he was safe.
He was safe. Sam was still out there.
So he watched, and waited.
He was tired of waiting. What the hell was taking them so long? The gunfire sounded more intermittent. They should be bringing Sam to the ambulance any minute now.
He was tired of waiting.
He felt a hand under his chin and he turned his attention to the EMT as she titled his head back and examined his eyes.
"They still burn?" she asked.
"They'll rinse them out better once you get to the hospital. They're red and a little swollen, but there's no damage. You'll be fine."
He heard people running. He gently pulled his face from the Beth's hands and peered around her at the street. Half a dozen uniformed police ran by. Something was wrong. He glanced up at his chaperone. The agent saw it to, his eyes narrowing in curiosity. Then his head tilted and his eyes shifted from side to side. He was hearing something, something from that thing in his ear.
Josh pulled the mask from his face. "What is it? What's going on?"
The agent glanced at him, but quickly looked away.
Josh stood so fast it startled Beth. Letting the blanket fall to the ground, he ran to the corner of the building.
"Mr. Lyman, you can't"
The hell I can't.
He could hear the agent coming after him, but he didn't spare the man a glance. He ducked around the corner and scanned the crowd for Ron Butterfield. He spotted the agent standing beside a blue van parked across the street from the brownstone. Ron was talking with someone. As Josh drew closer, he recognized Rob Conrad of the FBI.
Ron lifted a walkie-talkie to his mouth. "Are the sharpshooters in place?"
Josh stopped. Between the police cars and emergency vehicles he could see the front of the building where he'd been held for nearly twenty-four hours. Several agents backed down the stairs, their guns leveled on the doorway. Josh took a step toward the curb.
Two more figures emerged onto the front stoop. His eyes drifted out of focus. Sam. He was sure it was Sam and...Gabir. Oh God.
"No," he said on a breath.
Gabir had Sam.
Someone took hold of his arms from behind. Secret Service.
To his left Ron lifted the walkie-talkie to his mouth. "Take him out."
What?! What about Sam?! "No!"
Ron's head whipped around and he sent a glare in Josh's direction. "Get
him the hell out of here!"
Josh fought as the agent tried to steer him back toward the side road. He heard the shot. The sound tore through him with as much force as a bullet. He whirled, wrenching himself free. He only made it a few paces toward the curb before the agent latched onto him again, but it was far enough to see best friend lurch sideways, still in the grip of his captor...far enough to see them fall forward and tumble down the steps. Sam landed first; Gabir tumbled over him. Neither of them moved.
Josh held his breath. Come on, Sam. Come on. Move. Get up. Please...
"Get in there, people! I need cover fire!"
"Mr. Lyman, please."
The agent was pulling him back. He couldn't see Sam anymore. His eyes were blurry again.
A rattle to his right caught his attention to the side street. The ambulance driver and a second EMT were standing by with a gurney. That was the last thing he heard. A sudden rush of heat enveloped him, as if his blood was boiling over.
The Secret Service agent's grip tightened on his arms. He must have swayed.
A large blur passed by, stopping at the corner. Josh rubbed his eyes until they focused. There was a crowd around the gurney.
"I've got him."
"What's his name?"
"Sam, can you hear me?"
Josh moved before he even thought about it. It took him a moment to realize his agent had let him go. The other agents cleared out, leaving the EMTs to do their work. Josh was within three paces of the gurney when someone stepped in front of him.
"Give us a minute, okay? Josh?" It was Beth. She raised her eyebrows, waiting for a response. He nodded. With a nod of her own, she turned and knelt by the gurney.
Josh returned his gaze to his best friend. There was a collar around Sam's neck.
"Was he hit?"
"I don't know."
Sam's eyes were open, but they looked glassy. He stared up at the sky, blinking lazily like someone ready to drift off to sleep. But there was something...
Josh blinked. He took a few steps toward the foot of the gurney to get a better view. That was when he saw the blood. The right side of Sam's face was covered with blood. "Oh, God."
"Secure! Let's go!"
The gurney moved.
Someone took his arm.
"Come on, Josh. You're coming too," Beth said.
Josh took a faltering step before the meaning of her words became clear. He took a deep breath, trying to shake off the haze. He got his feet moving, then running.
He thought he heard the thrum of a helicopter. Or was it his heart? It didn't matter.
He climbed into the back of the ambulance and settled himself in the passenger side corner, his focus on Sam. The interior darkened slightly as the rear doors were closed. Within moments, they were moving, the wail of the siren both reassuring and frightening.
There was an oxygen mask on Sam now, and a bandage on his head. When had they done that? He hadn't seen them do that. He listened to their words, but they didn't mean a thing. BP is low? Come on, Sam. Equal and reactive pupils. That was good...wasn't it?
"Sam, can you hear me?" the other EMT asked.
Josh thought he saw Sam nod once. "Is...is he going to be o-okay?"
No one answered him. Had he asked out loud? How long was it to GW?
It didn't matter. It was too long.