Promises of Mercy

By: Vella Day


Less than a half an hour later, after downing two packages of crackers and a Coke, he returned her call. Because the waiting room was freezing, she stepped outside into the sunshine and told him the same thing she’d told their mom. At least her brother sounded upset even though by the time Chris was old enough to talk, Thomas had already left home for college.

Pinching the bridge of her nose for relief, she returned to the waiting room.

“So?” Jamie asked.

Her best friend knew of her rocky relationship with the rest of her family members, outside of Chris. “He sounded genuinely upset, and I don’t think it was his doctor’s persona either.”

Jamie rubbed Amber’s arm. “I’m glad.”

Over the next two hours, people came and went and yet there was no news about her brother’s condition. Amber stared at the endlessly ticking wall clock and prayed for someone to bring good news fast. Chris had to survive. She’d be lost without her brother.

Without him, she had no one.

At 5:25 p.m., a doctor entered the waiting room, his gaze cast downward. She recognized him, but she’d never spoken with him before.

“Amber?”

“Yes?” She stood and crossed her arms over her stomach. “How is Chris?”

“Stable. I’m afraid his C7 was severed.”

Her heart stopped. Her head spun. Everything between C3 and C6 was needed for the diaphragm to work. Everything below C7 was for moving the rest of his limbs. “He has no movement at all from the chest down?” She didn’t know why she asked. Was she hoping the doctor had made a mistake?

Jamie stood and wrapped an arm around her, and Amber dropped her head on her friend’s shoulder for a moment. Her temples pounding, she faced the doctor.

“I’m afraid not. He can breathe on his own, so that’s good.” His cheeks sagged. “He’ll be able to shrug his shoulders, move his wrists, and wiggle his fingers. With therapy, he might be able to peck out some words on a keyboard. His cord is still swollen, so we can’t say precisely the full extent of his injury until after we test him.”

Hope of a recovery evaporated. Chris would want to die. “When can I see him?”

“He’s sleeping and needs his rest. We had to intubate him and give him a lot of pain meds, but you can go in and hold his hand for a few minutes if you want.” He told her the room number.

“Thank you.”

The doctor nodded and left.

Amber might be an oncology nurse who dealt with pain and death on a daily basis, but to see Chris crumpled and broken would take every ounce of courage she possessed not to let him see the horror on her face.

* * *

Stone Benson, a paramedic for the Rock Hard Fire Department, jerked his attention back to what his roommate, Cade Carter, was saying. “Sorry. What?” Stone had been off work for four hours, yet he hadn’t been able to get the image of that poor kid sprawled at an odd angle next to his cycle out of his head.

Stone’s mind had wandered to when he was in Iraq holding his best friend, Heath, in his arms, helpless to save him. Heath’s legs had been badly mangled by a bomb, whereas this young man’s spine had been contorted by the wreck. Both had life altering injuries. He’d been unable to save Heath. At least this kid had lived.

“I asked if you’d heard anything about Emma Luther’s case?” Cade brought Stone’s attention back to their present conversation.

“No.” He looked up at Cade. “You do remember I don’t work at the hospital, right?”

“You socialize with the ER docs. One of them might have mentioned something about her death.”

Stone blew out a breath. “Emma Luther was a late stage cancer patient. She might have died suddenly, sending the oncology wing into a tizzy, but the ER docs wouldn’t have a reason to know about her except for hearsay.” Had her parents not demanded an autopsy, no one would have known she’d been murdered. Stone held up a hand. “I did ask around for you, but either the emergency room guys want to protect someone or they don’t know anything. Bottom line is no one’s saying a word.”

Cade stabbed a hand through his hair. “I’m at a dead end.”