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Authors: Alysia S. Knight

Whistleblower (9 page)

BOOK: Whistleblower
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Chapter Seven

 

 

Marley screamed Zan’s name, unable to take her eyes off the place he’d been a full second before she could accept the reality of what happened. She rushed to the edge, afraid she’d see his body broken on the rocks below, but he wasn’t there.

Her panic didn’t lessen when she caught sight of him a good thirty yards downstream. Zan bobbed in the current. He was face up but appeared to be unconscious. She prayed he was just unconscious.

Marley took off running just as another shot rang out, kicking up dust where she’d been. Not breaking her stride, she ducked low and glanced across the valley. She caught a glimpse of the familiar red and white security vehicle before the trees cut off the view.

Her attention darted to the small rough trail that ran along the edge of the embankment then back to Zan. She was gaining on him, but the current still carried him along. His body bounced off a rock, and Marley could’ve sworn he reacted.

She refused to accept that it was wishful thinking and ran harder, paying more attention to the trail. She had to get far enough in front of him to be able to climb down and catch him as he floated by. She just hoped she could get to him before he sank and drowned.

Marley leapt over rocks and exposed roots, moving at breakneck speed. She glanced at the water and realized she was at least twenty feet ahead of Zan. The bank had dropped to only about six feet above the waterline. Still she’d need more space to get over the rocks to have a chance of reaching him.

Bushes jutted out before her as she rounded a bend. Marley ducked under the branches, her arm up in front of her face, and forced herself to continue through, heedless of the limbs whipping at her. She broke out of the foliage and made a four foot leap to a sandbar, where the river started to spread out and become shallow.

She skidded to a stop and turned just in time to see Zan round the bend. Wading out in the water, she was about hip deep when she got into location and planted her feet. Still, the impact of his body took her down.

Marley locked one arm around him and rolled with him coming back to the surface. She forced her legs down beneath her. Rocks tumbled out from under her feet, and she was pulled downstream. Marley fought to angle their way to the side.

They were at the end of the sandbar by the time the water only reached her knees, and she got Zan beached. Marley sucked in air as she pulled several more times, dragging him by the straps of his backpack. Water lapped at his feet when she decided it was good enough and dropped down.

Blood trickled down the side of his head, but she ignored it, reaching for his neck to check for a pulse. She almost collapsed with relief when she realized he was breathing. It was the sight of a blood stain blossoming on the upper shoulder of his shirt, radiating out from under his backpack strap that spurred her forward next.

“Zan.” His name escaped her lips.

It took her a second to release the buckle on his pack and move the strap out of the way to reveal the tattered edges of the hole in his shirt marking the inside bloody ring. Marley fought to stay calm. Since his clothes were too soaked to just feel for dampness, she worked her hand over Zan’s shoulder, feeling for the damage on his back. When her tentative probe brought no signs, she laid her hand flat to cover more area. Her finger traced a roughened area, but she knew whatever it was it had healed.

“No exit wound,” she said to herself.

That meant the bullet was still in him.
You can do this. First we need to get the backpack off and control the bleeding.

She was just as wet as he was so didn’t have anything dry to use to pack the wound. Her attention went to the backpack. Zan had pulled an amazing amount of gear out of it. It had to have a first aid kit.

Untying his jacket from around her waist, she laid it out then released the buckle around his waist and the other shoulder. She eased him over onto the raincoat. Her fingers shook slightly as she went to work on his buttons. Easing the shirt apart, she faced his dull green T-shirt.

Marley reached for the large knife in the sheath on his backpack strap. It stuck at her first attempt but when she tugged, it pulled free. She froze at the sight of a hole bored out halfway up the blade. It lined up with the hole in his shoulder, and she knew the bullet had gone through it. She paused a second before removing the knife strapped to his leg. The wicked looking blade made her shiver, but it sliced effortlessly through the T-shirt material.

Marley was more jarred by the large scar that puckered Zan’s skin several inches below where blood seeped around the dime sized hole. She tore her attention away knowing she had to hurry. Her mind skidded over the anatomy of the shoulder and felt a touch of clinical relief.

As long as it wasn’t any deeper than it appeared, and she got the bleeding stopped, and Zan didn’t get an infection, the wound shouldn’t be too serious. Muscles and tissue but nothing life threatening, still, it would be painful, and Marley knew it would be easiest on him to tend it while he was unconscious.

The first aid kit was in the third pocket she checked and amazingly everything in the pack seemed dry. More amazing was what was in the kit. Pressure bandages, suture kit, antibiotics and pain medication. It was serious medical supplies, not the wimpy normal first aid kit stuff.

Marley was also surprised her hands no longer shook as she laid everything out. Step by step she ran through everything needed in her mind. She cleaned her hands and pulled on a pair of rubber gloves. Cleansed around the wound with sterile pads, then she swabbed the area with iodine soaked swabs from another packet. With one more steadying breath, she went to work with a scalpel and tweezers she’d removed from a sterile packet.

She was relieved when she found the bullet barely below the surface and it seemed intact though smashed out. The knife had saved him from most of the damage. She checked the wound thoroughly before cleaning it out. Marley held her breath hoping Zan wouldn’t wake with the pain. Mercifully, he remained unconscious.

A few minutes later, Marley finished bandaging the wound and sat back sighing in relief. Because of her field of study, her rotations at the hospital had only been cursory, but it was surprising how easy it was to slip back into the persona.

Checking his pulse one more time, she shifted her attention to his head, cleaning the inch long cut at the edge of his hairline. Instead of stitching the wound, Marley elected to seal it with the medical glue she found. That finished, she roamed her hands over his body until she was satisfied he had no other injuries.

Marley sat back and looked down at the man who had come to mean so much to her. The clinical demeanor that had kept her together faded, and tears streaked down her face.

“Zan,” she brushed his cheek with her finger, wishing he would wake up, relieved that he didn’t because of the pain he’d be in. “I’m so sorry.”

She wanted to run. Get as far away from him as possible, so he would be safe. She even thought of turning herself in and letting them kill her but knew that wouldn’t work. They knew he’d helped her. They would never let him live because of what she might have told him. And, with his connection to the military, he could get people to listen, at least enough to open an investigation.

Marley held back the scream that wanted to escape. She still had things to do. She needed to make Zan safe. They needed a place to hide. They were too exposed with him lying out on the sandbar if the helicopter flew over. She also needed to get him dry and keep him warm.

Leaving him was hard, but it only took her a couple minutes to find a place about a hundred feet away that was tucked between a couple boulders and sheltered by some massive trees. The only question was how she was going to get him there. Marley decided to move the pack first and take a minute to lay out the sleeping bag before returning for Zan.

Knowing there was no way she could carry him, she used his raincoat as a travois to drag him on. Getting him over the small shallow stream and up on the bank was tricky. Marley was exhausted by the time she had him clear of the water.

She sank down beside him to catch her breath and check his vitals before continuing. It took her two more stops before she got him to the camp and faced the next dilemma, getting him out of his wet clothes.

It was funny. She was a doctor and knew the human body inside and out, but the thought of stripping Zan down made her pause. It told her just how much he meant to her. She didn’t see him as just a man. He was Zan. Someone she cared for. Someone she was interested in.

“He’s just a man. A human body.” Saying the words aloud didn’t help much, but she went to work.

Since she’d already opened the shirt when tending the wound, she was able to ease it down and off, then worked it from under his body. The T-shirt was easier. Not worried about saving it, since she’d already pretty much ruined it, she just cut the rest of it away.

Marley shifted to his feet, removing his boots and socks. For a second, she was caught at the size and corded ridges of them. She shoved the thought away and reached for his belt.

“You are a doctor,” she repeated but looked away as she slid his pants down his muscled legs, letting her attention fix on several other scars. The moment she got his pants clear, she went to work shifting him into the sleeping bag and getting him covered up. That done, she dropped limply down beside him.

Marley rested several minutes before the need to finish preparing the camp pressed her back into action. First, she went back to the sandbar to make sure she hadn’t left anything and washed Zan’s shirt the best she could. On her way back to the hiding place, she brushed out their trail the way she’d seen Zan do.

Marley then used Zan’s damaged knife to cut some bushes, jabbing them into the mud to block the trail they’d used. Once she’d done everything she could think of to hide their trail, she worked her way back to camp, following the process with the bushes twice more.

Back at camp, Marley checked Zan one more time then decided to go through his pack to see what she might use. She had just started when the sound of voices reached her. Marley froze, wanting to believe she’d imagined the sound.

A minute went by. She was about to relax when the voices reached her again, this time closer.

“I can’t make it down there. You go down and check it out.”

“What? That little wash?”

Marley felt fear as she recognized the voice of Drew Jansen, the security guard from the lab.

“Yeah.”

“You can’t think she’s down there. You saw her jack rabbit just like she did before. She’s long gone, at least the dude’s out of the way.”

They were close enough, she could hear Jansen’s wheeze.

“You should’ve shot her instead,” Mills, the security chief, snapped.

“I told you, I couldn’t get the shot.”

“Well, you’d better get down there and make sure she’s not there. We have to be the ones to find her or there could be some uncomfortable questions raised. Hymas is already spitting mad about her getting away.”

Marley realized they were on the embankment almost directly above her. She looked up. The slight overhang and trees kept them from her view. She just hoped it would be the same if they looked down.

A dusting of dirt trickled down from the edge. Marley leaned over Zan to keep it from landing on him. She couldn’t risk him waking now. Thankfully, he remained unconscious.

“With him out of the way, she’ll be easy to find. It was just rotten luck she stumbled into him.” Jansen’s voice reached down to her.

“So you say. I still think she could’ve been seeing him. Now get down there.”

“I’m going. And I told you, I’ve been keeping an eye on her for a while. She’s not been seeing anyone.” Jansen’s voice faded, but Marley didn’t dare move though a wave of sickness ran through her at the thought that he had been watching her.

A minute later, she heard branches break as he moved through. Marley followed his progress along the river. When he came close to the trail where she’d dragged Zan along, she reached for the dart gun she’d laid out. She cradled it in her lap and hoped she could figure out how to fire it, but the crashing continued on.

She wondered if there wasn’t something else she should’ve done. Had she missed something? Would Jansen, with the ever-present crude sneer, just stumble onto them? She jumped when his shout broke the silence.

“You can’t get through this way. I told you, she rabbited. I’m betting she went over the hill toward the road. And the way she runs, she’s probably three miles from here by now.” His wheezing was more pronounced.

Marley heard the thrashing through the trees grow louder again, but instead of coming closer to the hiding place, Jansen stayed down by the river, moving at a quicker pace.

“Let’s head back to the truck,” Mills answered back, his voice coming from a ways off. “We need to get into position if anyone finds a body and starts to wonder so they don’t tie it to us.”

For a full five minutes, Marley didn’t dare do anything but breathe, and even that seemed labored as fear flowed over her. They’d been so close. Her fingers were still shaking when she put the gun down.

Dropping her head to her hands, she fought to calm her fear. They were gone. They hadn’t found them. She let the thoughts echo in her mind. She’d kept Zan safe, but there was still more to be done. She just wished she could stop shaking. Locking onto the thought, her mind finally processed that she was cold. The knowledge spurred her into action.

BOOK: Whistleblower
12.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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