Lady in Red Ch. 12byHarddaysknight©
Steve had promised Tyler Smith that he'd ride with him when he went to Stephanie's home to pick her up. He was going to give her a ride to school for the first time. Tyler was surprisingly shy around Gwen's cousin and he wanted Steve to carry the conversation during the ride. Steve found himself going up the walk with Tyler to ring her parents' doorbell.
"This is getting a little ridiculous," complained Steve as he stood behind Tyler waiting for the door to be answered. "You've met Diane a few times. You know she won't yell at you or anything. You don't need me to hold your hand."
"Hello, boys." greeted Diane. "Stephanie will be right down. She was putting the finishing touches on her hair when you rang the bell. Paula told me that your dances were big successes at the Inauguration, Steve. She said the girls really tried to outdo each other and were all great. We watched you guys on our 55 inch screen and it sure looked good from here."
Steve pulled Diane into his arms and danced around the kitchen to a song playing on the radio. "Diane, you've been super. You're making us all look good and we don't thank you nearly enough. Maybe Gwen and I could take you and your husband out to dinner some night, as a small token of our appreciation?"
"That would be wonderful. I'm trying to be the one woman in the whole family that doesn't get all goofy when you're around, but I'll risk it for a nice dinner. Mom asks about you every time I speak to her. Paula and her girls all think you're tops and Stephanie can't stop talking about you. That only leaves me, and if you don't stop dancing me around the kitchen, I'll be as far gone as they are," laughed Diane. "Here's Stephanie now."
"Hi, Tyler," greeted Stephanie as she hugged Steve as soon as her mother released him. "When are you going to dance in public with me, Steve? I watched you on TV with my cousins and you were all amazing. Do you think I'll ever be as pretty as Lisa and Gwen?"
"Tyler seems to think so," laughed Steve. "He keeps coming back, even when you ignore him. That tells me that the poor guy has it pretty bad. He's giving you a ride to school today, so you'll just have to sit in the front seat and be nice to him. Some kids might even think that you like him."
"He should be glad to give me rides after I let him step on my toes all the time," insisted Stephanie. "Maybe I'll let him take me to a dance once he gets a little better. I should get rewarded for my suffering. A few rides to school isn't too high a price to pay for the senior football star that caught 'The Pass' a few weeks ago."
"Let's get going," urged Steve. "I just remembered that we're having a meeting this morning and we should be there by now. Don't worry, Diane. Tyler won't speed and I'll make sure that Steph gets there safely."
As they pulled into the school parking lot, Tyler made a suggestion. "We might be able to get Ralph to let us in the west door of the gym and that would save us walking all the way around the library, and about three minutes. Stephanie can go right up the stairs on that side of the building and make her meeting almost on time."
As the trio approached the gym door on the west side, they saw a large man wearing coveralls standing near a white van. "It looks like they're going to finish the gym floor again," observed Tyler. "They usually wait until after the basketball season is over. I wonder if Ralph's around."
As they approached the man, Stephanie noticed that the he was talking on his cell phone. She was near enough to realize he wasn't speaking in English, but she wasn't able to recognize the language. The man glared at them as they headed for the gym door, which was slightly ajar with a piece of wood blocking it from closing completely. The man said something into his cell phone and then slid it into his coverall pocket. Then he moved to intercept the three students as they walked toward the door.
Stephanie was stunned when Steve suddenly drove his fist into the man's face! As the man began to sag, Steve moved behind him and caught him under the arms. He ran a hand over the man's chest and stomach, seemingly searching for something. Nodding to himself, Steve placed one hand on the man's chin and the other on his head. Then he gave a very violent twist. Stephanie heard bones break!
"Shit!" yelled Tyler as Steve lowered the man to the pavement. "You just killed that guy! Have you gone crazy?"
Steve tugged the zipper on the man's coveralls down to his stomach to expose wires and numerous bundles taped together. Stuffed in the man's waistband were two handguns.
"Steph, run like you've never run before and pull the fire alarm by the library. Then get as far away from the school as you can. This guy's a suicide bomber and there're four more inside the gym! Get going!" demanded Steve as he pulled the handguns from the man's waist and checked the magazines to be sure they were loaded.
He quickly patted the body down and found a deadly looking knife in a sheath on the man's hip. He pulled the knife, looked at the wires and immediately severed a green one. Steve slid the knife between his belt and his pants. He gripped a gun in each hand and turned to Tyler.
"When I give you the signal, pull that door open without exposing yourself to anyone inside. Once I go in, call 911 and get back a long ways."
Suddenly there was a long burst of gunfire from inside the gym. Screams echoed across the parking lot. Steve nodded to Tyler to pull open the door.
Gwen had arrived in the gym with Charlotte and Billy. They took seats on the front bleachers and chatted as others began to file in. Jared White came in and sat next to Gwen. The senior class had five home rooms, so the five homeroom teachers attended the meeting. Ms. Walker checked her watch and asked everyone to quiet down so that she could begin.
Just as Ms. Walker started to address the group, four men in coveralls entered the gym from the west door, which was technically an emergency exit. They quickly spread out as they approached the students. They had been walking with a hand held behind their bodies. The first man nodded and all four swung guns from behind them and pointed them at the group.
"What's the meaning of this?" demanded Ms. Walker nervously.
"I want everyone to go over by that wall," demanded the apparent leader with a very heavy accent. "Stand by that wall, now!"
"When a guy tells you to get into the trunk of the car; never get into the trunk," stated Jared firmly. "We'll just stay where we are and you can go to hell!"
When Jared spoke, the gang's leader turned his gaze toward him. Gwen saw the dark man's eyes light up when he noticed her sitting next to Jared.
"It's the 'whore in red', isn't it?" laughed the man. "Where's hero now? With a different whore?"
Just as the leader spoke, the student sitting at the end of the group jumped up and ran for the door. The gunman closest to him turned and shot him twice in the back. Pandemonium followed as students began to flee across the bleachers and toward the exits.
The leader pointed his weapon at Gwen. As he squeezed the trigger, Jared yanked her arm and she was pulled toward him. The bullet slammed into the bleacher behind where she had been sitting. Before the gunman could fire again, Jared pulled Gwen to his chest and he turned his back on the shooter.
Gwen could actually feel the impact of bullets as they tore into Jared's body. His grip on her arms tightened momentarily and then slowly began to relax. Gwen's head was crushed against Jared's chest with her face turned to the right. She saw Billy step in front of Charlotte. Then red spots suddenly appeared on his shirt and he began to crumble.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. The fire alarm sounded and mixed with the screams of the victims. Just as fast as it began, the shooting stopped. Kids were lying in the bleachers, trying to conceal themselves from the shooters. Others were sprawled across the benches and some were on the floor. Jared slowly released his grip on Gwen and dropped to the floor. From the corner of her eye, Gwen saw Billy slump across the bleachers.
Gwen looked up at her attacker. He smiled wickedly as he raised his gun. At that moment, the west door to the gym swung open violently and Steve Hammer strode in with a gun in each hand. In unison, the gunmen swung their weapons at him and opened fire.
Steve had indicated to Tyler that he wanted him to open the door. Tyler ripped it open and held it. As Steve entered the gym, he quickly located the terrorists. Steve's hours of training and practice made the next half minute almost second nature to him. He brought both guns into play. He double tapped the first shooter in the forehead immediately and focused on the second. As he pulled the trigger, Steve felt something slam into his leg. As he began to fall, he jerked again as his right shoulder felt like it had been hit with a hammer.
Unable to lift his right arm, Steve raised the gun in his left hand, and from a kneeling position, returned fire at the remaining two terrorists. Something slammed into his chest as he snapped off four rapid rounds. Suddenly, the gym fell quiet, except for the cries and moans from the wounded and frightened.
Steve, intent on reaching the gunmen, began to practically crawl toward them. "Steve!" cried Gwen as she rushed to his side. "Lie down! You're bleeding a lot."
"Gwen, take the knife behind my belt. These bastards have bombs on them and they'll be remotely activated any second! Cut the green wires, but don't touch any others. Do it now or we'll all blow up!"
Gwen immediately realized that Steve wouldn't be wrong on something this serious. She reached down and pulled the knife from Steve's belt and raced to the first body. She overcame her feelings of disgust for the dead man. His eyes were open, but two holes in his forehead leaked blood. She pulled the zipper down on his coveralls and quickly found the green wire and severed it. Then she sped to the next body and repeated her actions. It took her less than a minute to cut all four green wires and return to Steve.
Most of the students had fled the building, but about a dozen remained. They were trying to help the injured. Gwen saw Charlotte gently move Billy off the bleachers and place him on the floor. Blood covered his front. Jared was still lying where he had dropped as blood spread across the back of his shirt.
Kneeling by Steve, Gwen pulled out her phone and pressed a programmed number. It was answered on the second ring.
"Hey, Gwen! Shouldn't you be in class now?" asked Laura as she answered her cell.
"Laura! There's been a mass shooting at the school. We need ambulances and any help you can give us. I count at least 14 people shot and bleeding here in the gym. There's probably a few more wounded that managed to leave the building. Can you help us give first aid to the victims?"
"A shooting at the school?" echoed Laura loud enough so others at the hospital could hear her clearly. "Multiple injuries? Let me give you some phone numbers. Repeat them to the others so they can call and talk to someone that can help them care for the wounded."
"Just a minute! Guys!" yelled Gwen. "I have a doctor on the phone. She'll give me number you can call to have someone tell you how to care for the injured. Charlotte, you have the first number. I'll say it once and then point at the next person for the next number. Okay, Laura, be quick!"
In less than a minute, Laura had passed ten phone numbers on to Gwen and soon the kids were on line with someone, doctor or nurse, trained in emergency medicine.
"I've got Steve here. He's been shot several times, but it looks like blood is just pouring from a wound in his upper leg, near his crotch. I'm pulling his pants down and I see blood spurting. It must be an artery," reasoned Gwen.
"Here's what I want you to do," responded Laura calmly. "You need to take a cloth, like a piece of Steve's shirt and fold it up and press it tightly to the wound. You've got to slow the bleeding. If you can, find something to tie around his leg over the bandage to keep it tightly in place."
Gwen had placed the phone on speaker as she worked over Steve. She used the knife to cut the front of his shirt off and folded that piece into a bandage. Then she snaked his belt around his upper leg and drew it tight, securing the makeshift bandage in place. Gwen felt some relief as the bleeding seemed to slow appreciably. Then she cut another bandage from his shirt and placed it over his bleeding shoulder. Looking around, she failed to see anything to use to secure the bandage, so she pulled her blouse off and ran a sleeve around Steve's armpit and over the bandage. Then she ran the rest of the garment around Steve's chest under his other arm and tied the second sleeve to the first sleeve. It effectively held the makeshift bandage in place.
As she worked on his wounds, she questioned Steve about his sudden appearance with two handguns and a knife. At this point, nothing surprised her as Steve briefly explained his actions of the previous few minutes.
"Gwen, I'm hearing from the ambulance crews that the police won't allow them on the school property, let alone enter the building. They're worried about the shooters killing more people. Is it safe in there now?" asked Laura. "There's also a lot of concern about explosives."
"Yes, it's safe! Steve shot the cowardly bastards! I checked every one of them and they're deader than hell. I disarmed the bombs following Steve's instructions. We have people bleeding to death in here! We need help NOW! Send them to the gym!"
Gwen could hear Laura yelling orders to someone in the background. "The shooters are all dead! Steve Hammer took them all out. They've disarmed the explosives. There're kids dying in there and the emergency personnel need to be allowed on site right goddamn now!"
As she listened to Laura on her phone, Gwen looked over to see the status of Jared. Two kids were holding bandages to his back and talking to him. Gwen felt relief when she saw one of Jared's hands move. She knew he had to still be alive, at least for the moment.
Nancy Burns was seething as she carried her EMT kit into the gym. The police had locked the entire school down after learning that the terrorists had bombs on their bodies. It would take hours for any bomb squad to reach Sparta and there were victims inside that needed immediate assistance. She had been in a confrontation with the local police chief when Dr. Laura Masters paged him on the police band.
"Chief, I'm in direct contact with the kids in that school. Steve Hammer shot the terrorists. They're all dead. I've been informed that he instructed another student on how to disconnect the triggering devices on the explosives. Time is a luxury these kids don't have. Grow a set of balls and let the ambulance people do what they've been trained to do. Explain the risks to the crews if you like, but let them in now, or this'll all be on your head. I'll do everything in my power to see you destroyed if you withhold aid to those students for another second!"
Reluctantly, the chief gestured for Nancy to go on the school property with a police escort. Nancy walked past the dead terrorist by the gym door, noting the unnatural angle of his neck. She saw the small bundles connected to wires on his chest and she felt a chill run down her spine. Yet, she did not falter as she hurried inside the gym to find blood and death at every turn. The police officers that were with her spread out and moved toward the terrorists' bodies.
"What do we have, Gwen?" asked Nancy as she placed her kit on the floor. "Who do you think needs help the worst? We have to triage the scene."
"Those two kids over there are hurt really badly. Ms. Walker is conscious but in a lot of pain and needs to be taken soon. The ones over on the bleachers are injured, but look like they're not hurt too badly. I'm afraid that the three over there are dead," sobbed Gwen. "Jared, Billy, and Steve are hurt pretty badly too. Are more ambulances coming?"
"We've called in every possible unit within fifty miles. Meantime, the crews we have will shuttle the injured to the hospital as fast as possible," replied Nancy as she began taking vital signs on a badly injured victim.
It was only a minute before a crew pushed a gurney into the gym. Nancy Burns directed them to the first badly injured student. The girl was quickly boarded, loaded on the gurney, and taken to the waiting ambulance.
As Gwen watched Steve's shallow breathing, she promised herself that if he lived, she'd never let him out of her sight. Once again, she was forced to consider Steve being claimed by death while selflessly helping others. She stroked his temple as she mentally cursed the ambulances for taking so long.
Steve was the eighth victim to be transported. It was a full half hour after the shootings had occurred. He had lapsed in and out of consciousness during that time. Gwen made certain that his wounds were bleeding as little as possible and comforted him as much as she could while they waited.
When Steve was rolled out to a waiting ambulance, Gwen walked beside him. She rode in the ambulance to the hospital and held his hand as he was delivered to the emergency room. Even in the chaos of the ER, everyone watched as the beautiful young woman clad only in a red skirt and bra, and covered in blood, strode regally through the ward.
Paula had been enjoying a morning coffee with her sister, Diane, when the phone rang and Diane answered it. Paula felt the hairs stand up on her neck as she listened to her sister's conversation.
"Slow down! Who did Steve kill? Are you sure you saw that happen? Did you pull the fire alarm? Are you far away from the building now? Stay there and I'll be down to pick you up!" promised Diane as she dropped the phone back in its cradle.
"There's pure Hell to pay at the school! Stephanie said she was with Steve and Tyler when Steve suddenly punched a guy and then deliberately broke his neck! He told her to run and pull the fire alarm; that there were men with bombs and guns in the gym. She heard shooting as she ran to pull the alarm," recounted Diane. "She's frightened to death and she's worried about the other kids. I'm picking her up at the pharmacy down the street from the school. Come with me and we'll try to find Kate and Gwen. It sounds like Steve is in the thick of this mess!"
Well before they reached the school, Kate rang her mother's cell. "Mom! There's been shootings at the school. It was down in the gym where the seniors were meeting. There were a lot of shots fired! I talked to some of the seniors and they said they think Gwen is okay, but Steve was shot. Some kids think he's dead! He killed a bunch of terrorists, but they shot some teachers and kids! We're being kept way down by the bus garages. There's police and fire engines all over the place."
"Stay there. Diane and I are on our way. Gwen and Steve will be okay. You know how tough he is. A few bullets won't stop him, and he'd never let anyone hurt Gwen," stated Paula with more conviction than she felt.
"Kate said that kids are telling her that Steve killed some terrorists, but they shot him and he might be dead! She thinks Gwen is okay, but if Steve's dead, she'll never be okay!" cried Paula.
Since she was uninjured, Gwen was asked to leave the ER. She knew that it was not the time for an observer and there was little she could do in the ER to help the injured. She also knew that it would be a very long morning if she sat around and waited for the results of surgeries on her friends. She marched to the admissions desk and asked who she could speak with about donating blood. She was informed that the Wellness Center at the mall was collecting blood, as they always did on the second Wednesday of the month.