The Program Ch. 05byewebie©
It took a while to get this section written. It may sound weird, but it's easy to write quick action, it's more difficult to write through a slow point. I have chunks of the rest of the story written (from when they got stuck in my head), so it's all about connecting the pieces. It's not over yet!
As per usual, all feedback is welcome!
Thanks for reading,
Bill was becoming exceedingly good at counting his blessings. He had survived an armed assault on his place of work, he had walked away from a sniper, and he'd spent two hours in a car with Officer Wilson and lived to tell about it. All things considered, he was having a rather lucky few days. But today left him with the distinct impression that his luck was turning in a bad way.
He had hoped that after a night's sleep, Taylor would be a bit more gentle, less rough around the edges maybe. He was disappointed. Even after she had her morning coffee, she was sharp and easily irritated. It didn't help that Wilson seemed intent on pissing her off whenever he could. Though, Bill suspected that Wilson was annoyed more at his sister than at Taylor. But Taylor made an easier target.
Danny seemed to be the only one unaffected by the moods in the cabin. She was perky, chipper, god-awful sexy and unwaveringly intent on Bill. He'd be hard pressed to turn her down if he wasn't in constant fear of bodily harm should he even look at her funny. Bill was next to positive that Wilson wouldn't hesitate to knock a reminder into his head.
Yesterday, Larson and another Officer named Remy had arrived in the early evening to relieve Taylor and Wilson. The two were built the same, big and bigger, squeezed into suits that looked uncomfortable. Bill didn't really like them all that much. They weren't very friendly and generally treated both Bill and Danny as if they didn't exist. Whether or not that was normal, Bill hoped he'd never know. As it stood, Larson and Remy should be on their way to the cabin now to relieve Taylor and Wilson, but Lord only knew what kind of food they'd be bringing along, and he was hungry.
Bill wandered into the small kitchen and started to heat up some soup. He could hear Taylor and Wilson exchanging words in the main room, words he was quite sure he wasn't meant to be listening to. He suddenly wished Danny were awake just so he'd have the company, company that was easy on the eyes. Whew boy. If Wilson knew what Bill was thinking...
"Hey Martin, get in here a second."
Bill turned, the tone in Taylor's voice had his hackles up. It was as if all humour left her voice, leaving it robotic. He leaned into the room. "I have some soup on the stove. What's up?"
He could tell that the news was bad before Taylor opened her mouth. Her shoulders were rigid, her back as straight as a board, and as she sighed and twisted to face him, he was keenly aware that she was gripping her pistol in a decidedly aggressive way. "Grab your bag, we're leaving."
He hadn't been expecting that. He thought everything was going well. Each light on the ground floor switched off and Bill sighed to himself. It seemed that for the past few days, whatever he had been thinking had been wrong. "Leaving?" he managed to croak out.
Taylor was pushing him toward his room and he nearly bumped into Wilson. "Please, Bill, we're on a tight schedule." There was nothing to do but follow her direction, so Bill felt himself nod and hurried into his room. Thankfully he never unpacked, not that there was anything to unpack. He threw the small bag over his shoulder, the strap across his chest and hustled back into the room as Taylor was talking to Wilson. "Still clear out front, get going."
Bill shrank back as Wilson brushed past him. Was he carrying Danny? What the hell was happening? "Taylor, what's going on?"
She shushed him using the back of her pistol like her index finger. "Count down from sixty, quietly."
That was just about the creepiest thing he'd ever heard from Taylor. "Sixty... Fifty-nine... Fifty-eight..." The quiet in the house was unnerving. Taylor was unnerving. This whole situation was unnerving. What the hell were they waiting for? Weren't they supposed to be leaving? He heard Taylor heave a sigh. "Thirty-two... Thirty-one... Thirty."
A loud tone preceded the lights upstairs switching on and Bill started. Wasn't everyone supposed to be gone? He heard the sound of an engine approaching and something told him that this was the reason they were fleeing. "Nineteen... Eighteen..." He was getting worried.
Taylor grabbed his arm roughly and tugged him toward the basement. "We're going, come on." He didn't have to be told twice. Bill only managed a few steps before an explosion rocked the small cabin and Taylor dragged him to the floor. He hit the floor with a thud and rolled toward the basement door. Catching himself, he pushed up onto his hands and knees and shook his head to clear the ringing in his ears.
Taylor shoved him unceremoniously toward the stairs and Bill had to catch himself on the railing to keep from tumbling to the basement. Jesus, when Taylor was in action mode, she was really in action mode. But he supposed it was better than being blown up. He found his feet and his bearings only to have Taylor grab his hand and drag him deeper into the basement. He couldn't see a thing, so he prayed she knew where she was going. She opened the door to a closet. Apparently, she didn't know where she was going.
Bill felt himself gape as the back wall of the closet slid open. What the hell kind of cabin was this? You know what, come to think of it, he didn't even want to know. Taylor pulled him through the door and played with the keypad on the wall. When the door slid shut she spoke again. "We have about thirty seconds, so keep up, ok?"
Thirty seconds until what? You know what, he didn't want to know about that either. "Yeah, no problem," he took off after her. He didn't want her to be more than an arm's length away. When she stopped, he stopped. When she turned and motioned him down, he squatted down. Then she disappeared out of a small door.
Her hand jabbed back through the door. "Up, come on. Be quiet though." Bill wiped his sweating palms on his jeans and took her hand, half climbing, half being dragged out of the corridor. Taylor bobbed her head to the side. "The car is just over the rise. Go, get in the car, and don't look back."
Go and leave her here? "But, what are you...?"
He flinched as she glared at him. There you go again, Bill, questioning her orders. Just shut the hell up and listen to what she tells you. She pointed emphatically and hissed, "Go!"
He didn't have time to obey. Another explosion rocked the cabin, and he felt himself lifted clear off of his feet. He gasped as the heat and blast knocked the wind from him and he hit the wooded floor. For a moment, he saw stars and heard nothing but static. He shook his head, trying to gather his senses and groaned as he pushed himself back to his hands and knees. He barely found his feet before Taylor yelled at him, "GO!"
He didn't argue this time, he ran. Just over the rise, he told himself. Just over that hill. He pumped his legs, losing his footing on the loose ground. It wasn't that he didn't hear the shots, but he didn't want to look. He kept running. Another ten feet to the top. Keep running, he told himself.
His breath left with a whoosh as he thudded to the ground again, and it took a moment for him to realise that Taylor had tackled him flat out. He rolled to right himself only to have her yell at him. "Stay down!" He looked up to see her firing back at the cabin. The sound of the shots loud enough that he could feel them in his chest. God, he was going to need therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.
Taylor had a hold of his collar and was dragging him back up. "Keep low and go!" she barked.
Up, down, left, right. Tell me to jump and I jump, Bill thought wryly as he tore off for the car. Just over the rise he saw it, a small four-by-four. What the hell, anything was better than being shot at in the open. He practically dove into the jeep, pulling his door shut and dropping his bag at his feet as Taylor, half in, half out started the car and shot over her shoulder.
The last thing Bill thought to do was to buckle his seatbelt, then he was holding on for dear life as Taylor plowed through the forest. Where the hell was she going? He squeezed his eyes shut and started to pray. If he made it out of this alive, he'd go to mass everyday, not just on Sundays. His stomach dropped as the front of the car tipped down. It felt like the top of the first hill of a rollercoaster, when the cars would just hover for a minute then plummet toward the earth.
He grabbed the handle by the door and gasped. They were going to die. Holy shit, they were going to die. The jeep barrelled down the hill straight at the strip of road and Bill winced as the front bumper bounced off of the asphalt. They swerved violently between the two lanes and maybe up onto two wheels for a moment before Taylor managed to right the car and accelerate down the freeway.
Bill pushed down the urge to vomit and tried to calm his breathing. How many near death experiences was that now? He should have known that Taylor was trouble. But she was talking. "Are you ok?" He blinked at her as if she was speaking a foreign language. Ok? Am I ok? Should I be ok? He wasn't sure if it was worry or frustration that he saw in her eyes when she demanded, "Are you hurt?"
Am I hurt? He finally understood the adrenaline high that people spoke of. His hands were shaking, but he felt like he could run a hundred miles if need be. He patted his chest and torso, his legs, his arms, his face. No... Holy crap, I'm still whole. "No," he choked out a laugh. "I... I think I'm fine."
He turned sharply. "Good?" That's it? Good? He didn't know what to expect, but surviving that seemed to merit more than just 'Good.'
Taylor shrugged, "Good is better than dead."
He blinked at her. She had a point, didn't she? Then she gasped and doubled over with a wince. "Taylor?" he asked nervously.
"I'm fine," she said through clenched teeth.
Bill almost thought his heart stopped when he saw the bright red blood on her hands, it was enough to create a smear on the steering wheel. Oh God. "Taylor?" He watched as her head bobbed forward again with a grimace and her eyes rolled back in her head. No, he thought. No, no, not good. The wheel slipped from her grip and the car veered sharply toward the embankment. "Taylor!"
He was thrown against the divider for a minute, and Bill reached blindly across her, grabbing for the wheel. "Brake, Taylor!" he shouted. "For the love of God, stop!" That seemed to snap her out of it, and her hands tightened on the wheel. She slammed on the brakes, the jeep skidding along the sandy embankment before coming to a shuddering halt.
Taylor let out a pained squeak and gripped her side, doubling over against the wheel. Bill reached across her and put the car in park, "Hang on, Taylor." He was at the driver side door in a flash and pulled it open, horrified to see the blood soaking her left side. "Taylor?"
"Help me into the back," she grunted. He didn't know how she managed to speak so clearly through the obvious pain she was in, but he didn't argue. She left a bloody handprint on his shoulder where she gripped it. She was losing too much blood. She dropped flat onto the seat and groaned, stretching to reach something in her pocket.
Bill tore off his button-down shirt and pressed it against what he assumed was the source of the bleed, and judging by her wince, he was damn close. "Taylor, what can I do?"
"Drive," she croaked.
"What?!" he tried to get a better position to apply pressure.
She grimaced and took the shirt from him, holding it down against her side. "Drive. I'll call for help." He looked about to argue again. "Please, Bill," she gasped. "Please!"
He felt the blood drain from his face. He had never heard Taylor plead like that, and it scared him. "Where am I going?"
"Just go. I'll get you directions."
He didn't like it, but his most recent experience had been that Taylor knew what she was doing. He jumped into the driver's seat and tore off down the freeway. He heard Taylor groan and glanced over his shoulder as she pressed a cell phone to her ear.
"Doc," her voice was strained as she struggled to keep her breath. "Cascade." She moaned as Bill was unable to avoid a large pothole in the road. He winced and tightened his grip on the wheel. "Shot," she grunted. "Eighty-eight, heading east from West Virginia." Her voice wavered, "I... I can't. I'm giving the phone to my friend. He's driving. He's one of the good guys." By the end of her statement, she was barely speaking above a whisper.
Bill twisted to retrieve the phone, taking his eyes off the road as long as he dared. Once he had the phone, her arm dropped weakly to the seat, and his brow furrowed in concern. He pressed the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"What's your name?" the voice on the other end demanded without preamble.
"Biil, you can call me Doc. In a minute I'll give you directions to a motel, but in the mean time keep heading east, I need to know a few things about how she's doing. Is she sitting up?"
"No," Bill struggled to keep the panic from his voice as he glanced in the rear-view mirror. "She doesn't look good."
"Is she breathing regularly?"
Bill held his breath trying to hear her in the back seat. "Yeah."
"How does it sound?"
"Short, shallow and fast."
"Any wheezing? Does it sound like there's anything in the way?"
"No, it's clear."
"A lot." Bill risked turning around to gauge how Taylor was doing. "She's pale as hell."
"Did you get a look at it? Do you know where she was hit?"
Bill frowned. "No." He may have taken the time to do so if Taylor hadn't been so insistent that he just start driving. "I don't know. Left side?"
"Is she still conscious?"
"Yeah." He saw her shiver in the mirror and reached back to give her shoulder a squeeze. "Hang on Taylor."
"Ok, I'm going to give you directions and I want you to follow them exactly. I'm already on my way to meet you."
Bill listened carefully as the man gave him driving directions to a motel no more than twenty miles down the highway and instructions for when he arrived. He swallowed hard. Thank God he wasn't squeamish around blood.
Taylor felt her stomach roll and she gritted her teeth, releasing her seatbelt before doubling over in pain. She clutched her side, pressing her eyes shut. Bill's voice broke through the haze as he pulled her door open. She groped with her free hand and gripped his shoulder, "Help me into the back."
Every breath was agonising. She dropped flat onto her back on the rear bench and tried to reach the cell phone from her pocket, biting back a scream when Bill's hand came down against her side. "Taylor, what can I do?"
"Drive," she pressed her eyes shut and fought off nausea.
His hand pressed down harder and she struggled to move his hand, gripping the fabric over the wound, wincing. "Drive." She sucked in a shallow breath. "I'll call for help." She opened her eyes, struggling to bring his face into focus and grimaced at the look of hesitation there. She knew they were short on time, it was getting harder to keep her eyes open, everything was spinning. "Please, Bill," she tried to grab another breath and shooting pain lanced down her side. Oh God. "Please!"
"Where am I going?" his voice was hesitant.
"Just go. I'll get you directions." She winced as the door closed. Her left side was wedged against the back of the seat and she struggled to free her left hand to hold down the cloth Bill had pressed against her wound. Her right hand fumbled in her pockets until she found her phone.
The jeep lurched forward and Taylor squinted at the numbers on her phone, slowly picking out a number she had committed to memory years ago. As it rang on the other end, she let her head drop heavily onto the seat and cleared her throat with a groan.
"Hello?" a man's voice answered.
"Doc," she squeezed out.
"James?" There was a pause. "Code in?"
"Cascade." The car rocked as Bill tried to avoid a pothole and a moan escaped Taylor's lips.
"James, what's wrong?"
"Shot." she grunted and tried to gather her senses. It was getting harder to concentrate. Safety first, she thought, tucking her pistol in the waistband of her pants. Slowly and carefully, she eased her right shoulder from the holster and pulled it off of her left, dropping it unceremoniously on the floor of the car. She took a breath and everything lurched; she had to swallow down the urge to vomit.
"Where are you?"
"Eighty-eight, heading east from West Virginia." Taylor couldn't keep her voice from wavering and blackness washed through her field of vision. "I... I can't. I'm giving the phone to my friend. He's driving. He's one of the good guys." She held her hand out, offering the phone to Bill.
He twisted, taking the phone and giving her arm a squeeze. "Hello? Bill. No, she doesn't look good. Yeah, short, shallow and fast. No, it's clear. A lot. Pale as hell. No, I don't know. Yeah..." Taylor tried to listen to the conversation. She tried to focus on Bill's voice, but it grew distant. A cold sweat broke out over her skin and her head started swimming. "Hang on, Taylor."
A series of obscure thoughts flit through her mind and she couldn't seem to focus on any one of them. No one else had ever met Doc or spoken to him, for all that they knew. She was breaking so many rules. They were going to have to fall back on Mick's plan. Mick had been shot to death too, the thought caused her chest to constrict and it was even more difficult to breathe. Darkness pressed in, gradually crowding out any thoughts. The last thought that she had before slipping into unconsciousness was if she didn't make it, Josh was going to kill her...
The jeep stopped sharply, and Taylor was jerked back to consciousness. She had no idea how long she had been out, but the ache in her side hadn't dimmed and her side was warm and sticky with blood. Bill opened the door and helped her slide to the edge of the seat. "I can walk," she muttered. She was being stubborn and she knew it. But as soon as her feet were on the ground, she swayed violently and her vision swam.
Bill caught her before she could fall, carefully lifting her. Taylor winced as her wounded side pressed against his chest. She clutched his shirt, pressing her eyes closed as he carried her up a flight of stairs and into a dimly lit room. He set her gently on the bed and swiftly unbuttoned her shirt. "You're wearing a vest?"
"You sound surprised," she coughed and winced.
"Fuck," he whispered, tugging at the Velcro, trying not to move her.
"Like a Band-Aid," she ground out. "All at once, it'll hurt less."
"I'm sorry," he said softly and yanked the Velcro open. Taylor cried out, curling into the fetal position. Bill slipped the bullet-proof vest off her good side, leaving her in a small camisole, and eased her onto her back again. With the vest off, it was easier to breathe, but she could still feel the blood seeping into the cloth. Bill slipped her shoes off, setting them on the floor and covering her feet with a blanket. He stood, eyeing her for a moment before disappearing back out the door.
Taylor tried to maintain her fragile consciousness by counting the various water stains on the ceiling. She shivered and swallowed hard, refusing to let her eyes close until Bill came back. She was horribly vulnerable and she didn't like it. The pain was worse this time, but now that she thought about it, last time the bullet had only grazed her. She gave up on the ceiling and began listening carefully for Bill's return. She heard him start up the stairs at the same moment she heard the click of the lock from the room-adjoining door.