lay gasping in a half daze when the edge of a thick wool blanket
landed on his face as Joey hurriedly
threw it over his shivering body. "Ooff."
"Sorry. But you're going into shock. How's
that bleeding doing?" the worried boy
"D--Don't know." Ken said. "I can't feel
my leg anymore..." he whispered weakily.
"Did you find them?"
and closed his eyes in mild frustration. "The radios."
"No. They must be still up there with the
rest of the chopper." Collins shared
Ken actually felt tears of stress start to well
up as he began to realize the
seriousness of his injury. "Oh, that's not good. I was kinda hoping
he broke off as a sudden spasm gripped his thigh in a white hot vice grip.
"AHHHH!" he screamed.
Joey held his shoulders and tucked the blanket he had found even tighter
around Ken's body
and head. "Easy. Think that's broken?" he asked in
a frightened voice.
"I'm really sure of
it now..." the pale pilot grimaced, in intense pain. "Fun and
games initial shock vacation's over.."
he strained, trying to suck in a full breath.
The hot stone face he lay on suddenly made Baxter feel
and very detached after the sickening dance of his bone torn muscles had
"Man, I really want to pass out." the pilot choked. "Now would be nice."
Ken! Please stay awake!" Joey minced with fear, uncertain. "Don't leave
me out here all alone." he
sobbed, suddenly losing his first aider's confidence.
Something about the boy's aching intimate
plea communicated itself to Ken.
:: Wow.:: Ken thought. ::Is Collins, Jr. finally unwalling his pent
about his father's death?::
Baxter opened his eyes with a sudden clarity. "Hey.."
he whispered. "Joey, I'm not
following your father's past here. I don't plan on dying any time soon
what current cards I've been dealt, so don't fret any. It's bad for business." he said,
trying to smile. "If you'll let me, I've got a little confession to share with you about
Joey's eyes got very large and a shocked expression filled his face as he was
totally off guard. "How did you know my dad's name?"
Sighing shakily, Ken spoke again, wiping
cold sweat from his forehead. "Help me sit
up, son. We'll dig through all the survival stuff you
got back for us to see what we've
got to work with first, and then I'll let you in on that something
I haven't told you yet
that your grandmother thought you weren't ready to learn."
sat there, frozen, as emotionless tears began to fall actively down his
face. One of his hands subconsciously
reached for the place his navy cap would
have been had it not been lost in the crash, to adjust its
missing, but still strangely
felt, bill. "What secret?" he simpered, tears flooding his eyes, suddenly
"I want to know what it is... Now.. I... I can't stand it.." he cried angrily.
Gasping, struggling, Baxter managed to get against hot rock, supported upright.
"Come here, son. I
won't bite." Ken said, beckoning with a gesture to deliver a hug.
"I'll try my best to be stronger
for the both of us." he promised. "Believe me, your
father would have expected and wanted it that
way. All right. I'll tell you. Ben and I
were best friends, Joey. I was there that day, when it
happened. And I have a
message for you. From your dad. It was the last thing he ever said."
Ken trembled and closed his eyes. He didn't have to imagine the memory of Ben's|
fire ravaged face
where he lay on the bridge of explosion seared navy ship. The horror
of knowing that death was approaching
had numbed him then. But the sunny, warm
scent of Joey's hair comforted him now and gave the badly
wounded pilot his courage
to face that moment again. "He said, 'If you remember what we were, how
you will find life again. Now, I'll live in you. And in all whom you will encounter when
you'll tell them of us, my darling.' "
Baxter let go as the phantom memory of Joey's father's
voice left him and he felt
himself starting to black out. But he didn't fall. He was caught by two
that supported his head as he was lowered swiftly, but carefully, back to the ground.
Joey looked up into the sky, and smiled. "Thank you, Dad. I love you."
Subject: Mule Tidings -- Part One Finale...
From: patti k (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Thu 5/28/09
Hank Stanley kept his grip on the cherry flare he held away from
his body as he walked
slowly through the woods, calling for the pilot
and the boy. He could see the bright red blooms of
other flares from
ones that Chet, Marco, Mike and Roy were holding as they moved
in a line down
valley, spread out over a quarter of a mile. Their voices
rang out, but no replies returned. ::Eight
miles round is a big area to
cover. :: he thought. Cap readjusted the rescue pack on his back
Falling shadows of late afternoon made it difficult to see anything out
ordinary. Twenty minutes earlier, a false alarm had been raised
over a half foot piece of metal and
rivets found but the park rangers confirmed
that the find had actually been from a plane crash that
had occurred ten years
ago on the ridge above them. Heavy rust on the bottom side of the shard
proved a very aged condition. Deheartened, the Station 51 crew just
nodded and got back to searching
and scanning the tree tops for damage
Cap walked alongside Terri Blake's horse briefly
to ask her a few questions.
"How good of a pilot is your friend? Maybe that'll have a bearing on where
might have chosen to go down. If he knew the area well, he may have aimed
for an open spot."
he suggested to the Ranger R.N.
Terri looked down from the saddle, her face set in lines of
worry. "Paul Carnes
says he's one of the best. An ace pilot from Nam. These woods are his playground.
He could tell you his coordinates just by the pattern of trees and hills he saw below
him from the
cockpit. Sir, if Ken Baxter had any place to land, he would have found
it. Dwayne Thibideaux and
Trap Applegate have already checked all the clearings
they know about. Bluebird Five's not in any
"She's down in heavy cover then." Hank sighed.
Blake just studied her hands
as she rein guided her horse over logs and fallen
leaf drifts and didn't answer.
voice piped down through Terri's handy talkie. ##You know, guys. I've
been thinking.## she radioed
from 240 Robert Air. ##Ditching over land's far
different than ditching over water. If Ken had wind
problems, there would be
only one thing he could have done to save that chopper.##
thumbed her toggle switch. "And what would that be?"
##What else do you do when you're being
flung around in a fast current? You
find an anchor.## Wainwright suggested.
Cap's eyes lit
up eagerly. "A high tree, sticking up out of the forest. A kind with
broad branches.." he said, thinking.
Terri got excited. "White pines, Morgan! Eagles nest in them all the time for |
They stick up out of the trees sometimes up to twenty feet
higher than the rest of the forest."
##Islands in the sky. ## Morgan agreed.
"He must have done that. I know he did! He's teased
me enough about landing
on top of one enough times when I'm flying with him." Terri said. She turned
the gain on her radio. "Blake to all search parties. Concentrate on searching out
lone sentinel white pines in your grid. Bluebird Five may have used one of
them to get out of the
air if she was in rotor distress."
##I'm heading west to
the ridge tops.## came the many replies on her
##I know where the nearest
one is to me.## said Paramedic Deputy Thib, adding
more. ##It's huge, like a tower, stuck in a creek
valley. I'm heading there on foot,
leaving the jeep on the road to mark my position. My GPS is on.
I'm about a mile
away from it. ##
Terri's eyes reflected hope, glistening with tears. "10-4."
Chet angled up to Terri, on foot, flanking her horse on the opposite side of
Cap. "Uh, not to
sound dumb. But what does a white pine look like?"
"Like that." Terri said, pointing a casual
finger over her shoulder behind her at
a tall majestically sweeping pine tree on the highest ridge
top that was crowned
with the silhouette of a pair of thermal hovering bald eagles as they hunted
prey above the aerie they had built in it. "Eagles are always over every one of
replied. "Those pine trees are their take off platforms. And dang it all,
Ken probably borrowed his
joke stunt idea from them just to scare the life out of
me back then. He's sure doing a pretty good
job of it scaring me now."
"We'll find them." Cap told her. "Now that our searching is narrowed
specific points. We'll find them for sure."
"I hope we do, before darkness sets in."
said Sarah, on the mule. "Tonight's
forecasted to be below freezing again before dawn."
Joey heard a groan behind where he was fanning out smoke with a broken
pine bough from their
signal fire, up into the growing darkness.
"Mr. Baxter?!" shouted Joey. He
hastily dropped the stick he was using to stir
up more hot embers and scrambled quickly into the
ring of the fire's light where
the injured pilot lay rolled onto his side under a thick layer of
blankets and a wool
sleeping bag. "How are you feeling?"
Ken didn't say anything for several
breaths. When he opened his eyes, they were
swollen and blood red. Joey saw that he couldn't focus
on his face at all, so he
took Ken's damp hand into his own and squeezed it.
raised his eyebrows. "I'm not gonna lie to you, kid. But I think I'm
on the "d" side of "bad.""
Collins was distraught. "What did I miss?" he asked urgently. "I stopped your leg's|
you up. I- I got treated water boiling for chicken broth for us. I
even added sugar!" he minced nervously.
"I treated your shock as best I could, Mr. Baxter."
why aren't you getting better!" the boy panicked. "You're still so cold."
Ken sighed for the
boy's benefit and squeezed the child's tiny hand right
back. "I'd be an easy fix if I were just a
singed steak. But this leg of mine's trying
its best to be ground beef. Hamburger's hard to heal right
he joked, trying to ease Joey's worry. "So if I don't cook right, it's not your fault.
always be grateful.. that you d-did the best you could." the pilot whispered.
"Don't say that."
Joey cringed, not wanting to think of the pilot actually dying.
"Have to. Because it's true."
Ken said simply, pursing his cracked lips. "You're
saving my ever living sorry *ss butt."
looked down at where his hands clutched Ken's nearest bigger one.
"Not very well." he sniffed, new
tears beginning to fall.
Ken sensed the boy's mood changing over to despair. "It's okay to be
kid. Let's face it. I'm pretty scary looking cold cuts here. But you did your
fine, I'm wrapped up all nice and snug for delivery. Now all we gotta
do is wait for our flying people
chefs to arrive to turn me into their one of a kind
The Collins boy smiled
bravely, but he couldn't laugh. He tried to help Ken some
more, answering a deeper instinct. "Are
you getting hungry? I think our soup's
just about ready."
"I think I'll pass. My stomach probably
couldn't handle it." Ken said, thinking about
how much his current nausea might grow in the future.
"How long was I out?"
"Almost fifteen minutes. Did you get those black eyes from hitting your
"No. I-I might have gotten them because something squeezed me around my
tight for a few seconds. Might have been my seatbelt riding up after we
crashed. I got ... something...
burning deep inside my abdomen where it slipped."
"How far did the belt go?"
"Up to my
armpits." Ken felt his neck and found that it had been bound loosely in
gauze wrap. "I remember hanging
by them until I released the belt harness's chest
catch. But I think this neck scraping was from
a branch. Is it bad?"
"No, looks like road rash." Joey replied. "It's already dried up. How's
"Numb. What color is it?"
"I can't tell. It's too dark down here in this gorge."
Joey said, peeling away the
blankets from around it.
"It's okay, I can feel the chill on
my toes. See? They're probably steaming." he said,
"Hardly." Joey re-buried
the foot and leg.
"I was joking."
"Well, I'm not in the joking mood." Joey told him,
no nonsense. "I'm feeling helpless
being trapped like this."
"Why? They know just about where
we went down. So we're not lost. You got a fire going
for heat and light. With food." he emphasized.
"It's not raining so we really don't need
any shelter yet. We're doing really great according to my
"Well great's not good enough. We can't signal to them anymore. The sun's gone down
these trees are too thick to let any firelight or smoke through to the sky."
"So light a bigger
fire." Ken suggested, closing his black and blue eyes tiredly.
"What? That's crazy! There are
too many dead leaves lying around. I don't want to
start a wildfire in all this wind." Joey told him.
"No way, am I going to burn any Bambis."
said the boy in no uncertain terms.
"All right. That's
okay. I can see that. " Ken blinked, blurrily. "Well, no I can't, but
you're the man in charge of
camp and who am I to argue with the voice of reason?
I'm just the patient here. Well, guess we have
just one option left available to us then."
"And what's that?" Joey snapped, feeling irritable.
"We wait." Ken said simply. "Seems your first plan's really the best one after all."
winking a bruised, fat eye. He pulled up the blankets around his shoulders
more snugly to sleep.
Joey's mouth flopped open in sheer amazement at how he had been maneuvered
okay again about their current situation. He was struck mute.
But not the pilot.
keep any bugs from landing on my face, would ya? I hate em."
was getting frustrated. He radioed back yet again over
the search party channel. "Nothing here at
this one either. I'm adding these GPS
coordinates in red as already searched. My next target tree
is up the ridge over
Diamond Valley Gorge." he radioed, exasperated. "I wonder why we don't have
a map and a count of how many nest pines are actually in the park? Kind of important,
think, with the bald eagle being our national bird?" he said to the others
on their channel.
##Lack of funding.## said Paul Carnes from Park Headquarters through the base
easier counting campers. They generate the direct revenue for us.
Our eagles are just window dressing
in our legislators' eyes.##
"Yeah, well having that information now might help save two lives."
Thib fidgetted as
Ranger Carnes mused a bit, then he transmitted an idea. ##I'll
call the local birding
club. They might know every stick in those hypothetical nests better than they
backs of their own hands.##
##It's worth a shot.## Roy DeSoto replied into the band
from where he, Stoker
and Trap Applegate were hiking along a nearby ridge adjacent to Thib's.
##Cutting a few corners may speed up the ground we can cover before full darkness
definitely help me.## replied Morgan from 240 Robert Air. ##I can search all
marked coordinates that
they could possibly have squirrelled away, in minutes.
Eight miles round is not a very big area from
a helicopter pilot's perspective. ##
Paul Carnes got right on it, reaching for the phone.
Johnny Gage was
watching the news from his hospital bed. He had long since put
two and two together that the missing
helicopter in the park being reported
was actually Bluebird Five. He was getting antsy for the search
teams as he heard
more and more details about the weather forecast for the evening. ::No snow, but
more winds? And cold? Not good.:: he thought.
He jumped when there came a knock on his door.
"Ah, geez. Come in.. I'm decent.." said Gage, throwing a sheet over his legs
that were still
sticking out of the hospital gown. He put a scowl onto his face in
case it was Marilyn the nurse coming
to take his vital signs again.
A head peeked through the cracked door. It was Joanne Almstedt.
Instantly Johnny brightened. "Oh, hiya Miss Doc, Uh, I mean Joanne. How's our
Joanne rolled her eyes around the room and shrugged. "Fine? I.V.'s DC'd. Your core
to normal. So's your B.P." she ticked off on her fingers, surprised that a
seasoned paramedic would
be asking her that kind of question about himself.
"I meant the second kayaker.." Gage said,
fluttering a few fingers to clarify.
"Oh, he's still in surgery. Prognosis is, uh..." she hesitated,
Gage rescued her. "...still out to lunch.. I can just imagine."
growing serious. "He was pretty out of it out there."
"Yeah.." Joanne said,
equally crestfallen. "Let's hope my meatball surgery
made a difference for him."
Gage told her seriously. "He'd be dead by now if you hadn't've released
all that intracranial pressure.
He was posturing."
Joanne came the rest of the way into the room and leaned up against a chair
set along a wall, smiling ruefully as she crossed her arms. "It's so weird talking
a patient and getting a dose of it right back at me."
"You're welcome." Gage grinned. "And I
really mean that. I know how hard it is
making crack decisions in the field about treatment. Back
at home, we don't
always have a perfect communications link with our hospital at times."
nodded. "All those arroyos and canyons."
"Yep. It sucks whenever you're in a low spot on a call."
"What about your physician's standing orders?"
"We don't have any. Well, not yet anyway.
Maybe soon though. Brackett's
talked about cutting us loose one of these days." he chuckled. "Speaking
which, am I free to go?"
"You mean, free as in released from the hospital?"
I mean free to go out on a date with you sometime before the end
of the weekend. Because then, we
have to truck out to the airport to learn a new
kind of firefighting."
"Platonically? Then it's a yes, Mr. Gage. I think we both have some bad air to|
Johnny sighed. Gage mimed being shot to the heart. "There's that word again."
Or is it actually hearing a 'yes' answer that's making you feel faint?"
Joanne winked from around
"You figure it out." Johnny said, challengingly.
"Get dressed. You've
been sprung. I have...." she said, looking at her wrist watch,
"..exactly forty five minutes before
my night shift begins. And the park cafeteria is
open now twenty four hours for all the search parties
and state agencies moving in."
"I'm gone.." Gage said, leaping out of bed and making a dash for
where Marilyn the
nurse had hung his camping clothes in the bathroom.
Joanne politely shielded
her eyes from the open flaps of Gage's gown fluttering as
he ran by her. "Don't you ever tie anything?"
"Ropes. Really well. But not gowns. They leave irritating crease marks." Johnny said,
the door behind himself. The door opened and he peeked out at his doctor.
"Be right back in thirty
seconds. Nobody dresses faster than a firefighter." he smiled
lopsidedly, excited. He slammed the
bathroom door shut again and soon, Joanne
heard muffled changing noises and bangs as he hurried.
Under her breath, Joanne muttered. "Bet it's not faster than what a certain lady helicopter
can't undo." she chuckled under her breath. "Morgan, he's a good one. I'm jealous.
Too bad I'm already
Joey was snoozing fitfully on a bed roll under a blanket when he heard a
Ken Baxter shot bolt upright when the muscles around his broken leg leaped
again in another
series of uncontrollable spasms. He screamed as sickening
sensation returned in blinding, white hot
pain that shot through his
entire body like a lightning bolt from his groin to his teeth.
Ken grabbed at his pants leg over the deep, cratered
wound under the bandages in panic, and bumped
an elbow against a
sharp bone end by accident. His screaming cut off instantly as a new wave
choking agony gripped him cruelly. Ken fell back down to the ground
onto his back in a contorted
knot of limbs, twitching in unbelievable torment.
"Mr. Baxter? What's wrong?" Joey yelled. "Lie
"Cramps! In my leg! AHHHHhhh!"|
The weakened pilot felt something critical tear deep inside. An answering
of blood, hot and coppery, began to spurt out of a newly opened gash in the thigh
a clearly snapped femur shaft. Trembling, the pilot tried to suppress
the overwhelming flood with
both hands, trying to sit up. "W-What did I do?"
"Ken! Don't move!" Joey shouted.
"A big vessel's been cut!"
the boy shouted. Joey scrambled over to Baxter as fast as he could with
a bundle of rags he had found. He pressed them against the cratered gouge
in a ring around the stained
bone that was jutting up from newly pale,
colorless skin with all of his strength, but blood still
shot out and into the air
around his pressing pile of cloth.
The pilot noticed the jet of
red escaping from between Joey's hands.
""Oh, no.. G*d, no. Please. Not like this.. I don't want to
die like this.." Ken
wheezed as the cramps fled from a sudden lack of circulation. "Joey, you gotta
help me more. This is real bad." he gagged. "Killing bad.."
Yelling in fear, the
boy twisted around and spied a football sized boulder next
to him. He grunted, hefting it up into
two hands with effort, against his chest.
"I'll stop it, Ken. Hold still. I found something real
Ken's head nodded, but then Joey saw him sag onto the ground as shock began
the pilot's consciousness again as his blood pressure bottomed out from
the effects of the stabbed
artery. The boy saw a large pool of red rapidly
spreading out from the sleeping bag and running into
the dirt surrounding their fire.
With fast desperation, Joey moved the bulk of the stone over
the groove between
Ken's upper leg and lower abdomen. Then he let it drop. The rock immediately
nestled onto a pressure point neatly, shutting off the flow of blood to the rest of
the leg farther
down. The hideous spray of gore from the thigh, ceased instantly.
His hands wet, dripping, and
sticky, Joey gaped in surprise.
"I got it Mr. Baxter. You're not bleeding from your leg any
more!" Collins said,
carefully studying the large stifling stone sitting on Ken's body. Then he slid
hands down lower and lifted up the soaked rags over the spasm shifted fractured
bone to double
check. But the new large wound was quiet of any flow. "Now
I'm sure I've got it stopped again. How
does it feel to you?"
But the pilot didn't answer from where he lay sprawled on his back.
The boy looked up at Ken's face. It was lax and turning dark. Ken's sudden stillness
terrify Joey. "Mr. Baxter? Can you hear me?!" He crawled over to
the pilot's head and bent an ear
down over his nose and mouth, laying a hand on
It wasn't moving. Nor did he hear
the sound of air passing in and out of Ken's lips.
"Ken?!" the boy shouted. Remembering more scouts
training that he and his dad
had long practiced, Joey took a hold of Baxter's face and tipped his
chin up to clear
the tongue from the back of Ken's throat. Then once more, the boy listened.
The pilot wasn't breathing.
"..oh, no.." the boy sobbed softly. He blocked off Baxter's mouth
with the flat of
his palm and then he blew the largest breath of air he could in through Ken's nose.
The man's chest rose only a little, but it was enough. A few breaths later, Ken's
up as the pilot's thready heart began to faintly circulate the oxygen
that Joey offered. "Ken!" the
boy cried. "Wake up! You gotta breathe on your own.
I can't keep doing this. I'm gonna get tired.
You're almost too big for me to help."
he gasped in between his attempts to keep Baxter's lungs filling.
But the pilot remained still and limp as death itself.
Joey kept offering deep, panicky breaths as they both slipped into eerie limbo.|
The two desperately
bound figures were swallowed up by the darkness of
full night as the camp fire began to drop lower
and lower inside its ring of
stones. Slowly, its lifegiving wood was consumed into just glowing ash
as the lonely sigh of the autumn wind drowned out the sounds of a little boy's
crying and the frantic
efforts of his work, trying to breathe for two.
Terri Baxter kept her horse along side Jodi the mule, so she could talk with
Sarah Collins. "We're
gonna find your grandson, Sarah. It's only a matter of
"I know that well enough. It's
what condition we'll find him in that worries me."
she answered acidly. "Dang it all, why can't your
mule stay on the trail? She keeps
dipping her head down grabbing onto things. My arms are getting
her back to business each time." Sarah complained, feeling fatigue in every joint.
"She's what?" Terri gaped. "Wait a minute. Let her do that again. I want to
see what she's doing."
"Why? She's just fidgetting. Doesn't want to work." Sarah shrugged.
"Not my mule. Jodi's
different. She's a hunter. Hates cougars with a passion
but she also loves to find anything else out
of the ordinary, too."
Sarah eyed Terri on her horse with skepticism. "Are you telling me this
a natural born tracker?"
Terri squared her jaw, embarrassed. "Well..." She tried a
"I know we've never lost a cougar yet we've gone after." Baxter grinned,
her head to one side. "Handy, since there isn't a park ranger on the
staff who knows how to track
"Joey's not a cougar." Sarah scoffed, frustrated.
"No, but a chopper he was in
that crashed is certainly going to be an odd ball in
these woods. And Jodi would notice a change
like that long before any of us
would. Weird as it sounds." Blake reasoned.
loud in her throat and loosened the reins on Jodi's neck.
"I'm willing to try anything at this point
and I think the others would agree with you,
me... errr...us." she sighed, correcting herself, with
Jodi, the bay mule, suddenly freed, immediately canted to the right, nuzzling
about in a low bush. Her head disappeared up to the shoulders into its dried
branches and leaves.
Terri studied her curiously, focused.
The older woman noticed and brushed her windblown
blond gray hair out
of her eyes. Sarah rolled her eyes ruefully. "So she's hungry. Big hairy deal,
Miss Blake." she joked dryly.
"Just a second, ma'am." Blake held up a hand, watching Jodi's
"She's actually full. Ate her weight in oats after we bagged that cougar yesterday.
She just lipped her hay for me this afternoon as a courtesy and didn't eat a
The two women paused again, sitting quietly in their saddles.
Then Jodi took a step backward
and when she reappeared, something blue was
in between her teeth. Terri dismounted and snatched it
free after liberal caresses
and praise. "That's a good girl. Good hunting. Now gimme it. Let me see."
Jodi brayed, opened her mouth and let the object fell into Terri's gloves.
The mule's find
was made of cloth, full of mud and dust. And when Blake
turned it over to look at its cleaner side,
Sarah just about fell off the mule.
"That's Joey's! It's his baseball cap!" she gasped. "I'd know
Terri wiped away a smear of mud to expose an embroidery stitched ship |
bearing the name of the U.S.S.
Intrepid. Part of the lettering was splashed in
blood. Feeling stunned, and rescuer impatient, Blake
passed it over to her guest
to free her hands up while she scrambled to get at the radio on her belt.
"He'd never part with it if he was still alive." Sarah sobbed, hugging the battered
to herself in despair. All her earlier obstinance had evaporated into
anxiety. She suddenly looked
ten years older.
Terri gripped her arm to offer strength.
"Now we don't know anything concrete
yet, Mrs. Collins. Let's just treat this find
like the clue it is." Blake lifted her radio and reported
their confirmed helicopter
debris and then she gave her coordinates to the exact decimal quickly.
Minutes later, the rest of the search party converged to begin a new search using
the hat's bush
as the center mark. Wainwright landed 240 Robert
Air on the ridge above the group and jogged down
to join them.
Terri pointed to Sarah and what she held. "This hat is the boy's. His name's Joey.
And he was definitely wearing it today."
The searchers got excited. Especially the gang of 51's.
Then Terri showed them
the damage to the cap and to the bush that had hidden it from view.
does look like recent wind scour." said Trap, studying more shrubs
and trees in the area. "There's
no dew condensing on them yet."
"Yeah, and dust devil debris paths are always dry. See the marks
where flying sticks
and rocks have pierced the dead leaves on those trees? Bluebird Five must have
been caught in a windshear or something similiar and lost control." Morgan stated.
she'll be close by." said Cap.
"Within a half mile. Dust devils don't get that big. And they
don't last for very long
once they get going." The female pilot agreed.
"Let's spread out!"
Terri shouted to everybody. "Look for a white pine/eagle tree
in the immediate area." She updated
Paul Carnes at Appalachia Central on everything.
"...and our location's is on the west rim of Black
Rock Creek Gorge just above
Tag 119." she concluded.
##Good job. I'm glad you talked me into
keeping that mule on the payroll in our stable's
string. She's earned her weight in sweet feed today.
Keep me posted.##
"Will do, Paul." Terri told him.
Morgan Wainwright ran for her chopper.
"I'll get my spot light running hot." she
"How big is it down there?" Roy asked,
trying to peer into the pitch black
gorge through the setting sunlight.
"Maybe a mile long
by a quarter wide. It's tiny. With a creek at the bottom." Terri
"Okay, guys, have
your ropes ready. They might be needed." Hank suggested to
his men. "And bring all the flashlights
"Right, Cap." said Marco and Chet.
Running to a camping path leading down into the gorge, Stoker drew out|
a CO2 airhorn cartridge from
his rescuer's pack and activated it in a few
signalling blasts as he went.
Then the others
began shouting Joey and Ken's name loudly as they followed
him eagerly down into the darkness.
Joey lifted his
mouth off of Ken's nose at the end of giving him another breath.
He was dizzy and emotionally numb
to the point of exhaustion. Only fear kept
him going. ::Dad, I know you're with me somehow. Keep me
awake. I don't
want our friend to die. It can't be his time yet. Not like this.:: the boy thought.
Pfwweeettttt! Pfwweeettttt! came a sound, echoing around the rocks of the
cliff faces around
"And now my ear's are ringing." Joey said aloud hoarsely, coughing weakily
as he bent,
trembling over Ken's face. He closed his eyes wearily in a half daze
and leaned down to offer the
still pilot another breath. "Ken, just stay with me."
he urged afterwards, feeling the pulse beating
feebly in Baxter's neck. "We're
not through with each other yet. You've got more stories about my
dad to tell."
".....joey?.....ken?... where are you?...." sighed the wind in a familiar but faraway
The boy's head shot up. "Grandma?! Is that you? We're over here!" he yelled
Then Joey practically hugged Ken at the end of his next big mouth to nose
lung filling ventilation.
He crouched low near one of Ken's bloody ears. "Did you hear
that, Ken? We've been found!" he shouted
gleefully, crying. Then he lifted his head.
"Hey! Hurry up! Ken's in big trouble! He's not breathing
anymore!" he screamed even
Joey twisted his head in dismay when his voice echoed
loudly around the black rocks
and cliffs surrounding him in splintered confusion.
came an answering echo. It was a deep voice Joey did not know. It was
Cap, still some distance away
up one slope. ".....keep shouting.....we still can't find you..."
"Down here! Can't you hear
me?!" Joey sobbed, completely panicked. He rose to his
feet, and started running towards the voice
he thought he was just imagining.
Just then, a bright blast of light and overwhelming noise
snapped into being around
Joey and Ken and their still weakily smoldering fire. It was 240 Robert
in closer, just at the top of the nearly leafless trees.
##Joey! We heard you.
Don't panic. Keep resuscitating the pilot and don't stop. I'll let
the others know where you are
for you.## came the authoritative voice of Morgan over
a loud speaker in a wash of rotor blades.
## We'll be there in just seconds. Less than
a minute. Just keep maintaining Ken as best you can.
"Okay!" Joey blinked, forcing calm into his mind. His eyes began watering in the blinding |
then he waved, and ran back to the bloody patch of ground he had just left. The boy
knelt once again
onto his blood damp knees, and returned back to the task of being
turned her spotlight onto the tree where Bluebird Five hung, assessing
explosion and rock avalanche
risk should it suddenly give way and tumble down into
the gorge. She located pockets of glinting fuel
pools in her beam and was soon
satisfied that there were no fires burning in the wreck. Then she
aimed it back
onto Joey to make sure the boy was following her instructions and had his sudden
back under control.
Then she toggled back to the search party's channel. ##240 Robert Air.
positive contact. They're two hundred meters directly below your current location. Bluebird
Five's stable in a pine tree and is in no immediate danger of burning. Sarah, Joey's
Ken's definitely respiratory arrested, just like you heard the boy say. It
looks like Joey's been
trying to resuscitate him for a while. I directed him to continue
rescue breathing. I think Baxter's
still viable, there's no cyanosis evident. But there
are other medical complications. I saw a lot
of blood on the ground around one of his
legs. Ken's left upper thigh appears badly fractured. ##
"10-4." replied Roy DeSoto. "Sounds like a femur break involving the femoral
"And hypovolemic shock." added Thib, nodding in agreement.
"I've got an ambu
bag and oxygen set up." Ted Cassidy said.
"Let's go!" said Hank, running even faster behind his
flashlight's guiding circle of light.
Roy DeSoto flung himself at Ken's head, feeling for a pulse.
It was there. "We got him, Joey.
You can let go of him now. We'll take over." Ted Cassidy used a jaw
thrust and began to bag
pure oxygen to Ken through a valve mask on high flow. "He's got a fair carotid."
to Trap who was working on cutting away the gore soaked pants and shirt from Ken's body.
"Ringers!" Trap ordered for somebody to begin. "Two of them. Large bore."
Ken's pupils with a penlight. "They're responsive. Normal." he grinned. "Good
job, Joey. Ken hasn't
suffered any brain damage. You saved his life, you know that?"
Joey's dirty hair.
"You sure did. Ken's just in a coma because he lost so much blood. We're going
some of that missing fluid volume back now. Later, he'll get a few blood transfusions once
we get to the hospital." DeSoto said, preparing an esophageal airway. "We're gonna keep
with medications until he can start to heal up on his own, and after surgery, to fix
Trap probed the leg wound with a forceps and located the holed artery. He clamped it off
a hemostat above the small vessel tear only partially so the rest of Ken's leg wouldn't
oxygen. "Found it. It is the femoral, but it's not severed." He checked his work,
then he pushed
off the rock that Joey had been using on Ken's pressure point. The clamp
began to throb rapidly with
Ken's fast, weak heartbeat, but it held without hemorrhaging
in the slightest. "The hole's clotted
shut on its own okay." Applegate then packed off
the large wound with sterile gauze to stabilize
"Hair traction splint?" asked Thib while he finished taking a blood pressure.
"No." Trap replied. "He's got an open fracture. Just MAST trousers inflated over his
abdomen and that
good leg. Somebody, do a head to toe. What are his vitals?"
Thib offered them after taping off
the I.V.s he had begun in both of Ken's arms. "BP
52/34. Pulse 160 but regular. No respirations."
"I've boosted those up to twelve a minute, light." Ted Cassidy shared. "Breath sounds|
he said, pulling a stethoscope out of his ears.
"Okay, let's intubate him. Then
let's get him secured on a backboard with a c-collar."
Once they were through
securing Ken's airway, Roy brought Joey to one side while
the others continued to treat and ventilate
Ken. "Sit next to me. Did Mr. Baxter tell you
about anything else that was hurting him before he
blacked out, Joey?"
"Yeah, he said his belly was bothering him." the boy said from deep within
his grandmother had nestled around him.
DeSoto made eye contact with Thib who
checked Ken's abdomen out again. "It's soft.
No masses. Pelvis's stable." he shared with Roy. Then
he bundled Ken up again in thick
blankets around the fitted longboard and inflated mast suit.
"What happened?" DeSoto asked, turning his attention back to the boy.
"We had to jump down
to get away from the chopper. Ken thought she was going to blow
up." Collins told him, watching Ted
bag support Ken slowly through the taped EOA tube.
"How far did you two fall?" Roy asked, checking
out Joey's pupils and feeling his head
and neck for problems.
"About eight feet."
you still feeling dizzy?"
"Not anymore." Joey said vehemently. "That went away once I was done
working for two."
Marco, Chet and Stoker laughed.
Roy winked up at them for Joey's benefit.
"Well, you've earned yourself a rest. We'll let you lie down in a bit. Now how about these
he said, noticing the darkening bruises when he had lifted Joey's shirt away
for an examination.
"They're fine. I just ache a little bit in my muscles." Joey told him, shivering.
"My back from bending over, my stomach, from blowing hard for so long. And that's all."
he insisted. "Ken needs your help more than I do so why don't you go back to him?"
"I will. I
just want to sure that you're doing okay, too. Are you feeling thirsty?" DeSoto
"A little." the boy answered suspiciously.
Roy just chuckled. "No, I'm not looking to start
an I.V. on you. You're doing fine."
"I'll get you some water." said Terri, grinning.
it warm to hot." Roy told her. "With sugar. He's a little chilled."
"And hungry. The soup I made
got cold waiting for me to get back to it." the boy
Very near them, Jodi the
mule brayed, understanding that sentiment perfectly. She
began to eat vigorously around her bit, crunching
the grass around Joey's shoes
with her large teeth in loud, burpy pulls.
and reached up to pet her neck.
Roy saw a private conversation in the making in Mrs. Collins eyes so he got up and |
returned to where
the others were getting Ken ready for the hike up the slope to 240
When he had
gone, Sarah spoke up softly. "You know that bay mule found your cap,
Joey. Like a needle in a haystack."
she told him. Then her eyes watered. "We almost
didn't find you two in time. Want it back?" she said,
reaching into her jacket for it.
Joey lifted up his sleepy gaze to his grandmother, and smiled.
He shook his head.
"Nah, I'm tired of wearing it. I don't need that stupid old hat to know how
dad really was any more. I've got Ken now to remind me of that, up close
and personal, as my new
"I'm glad." Sarah sighed, hugging Joey tightly. "I wasn't so sure the two of you
going to hit it off."
"I don't know why you doubted it. Ken's cool. He's a pilot. Just
like dad was."
Then Joey sighed. "You think I'll be able to dream about Ben again someday?"
You will. Your life has changed so much today, Joey. I think when we see your
father from now on
in our sleep, that'll only prove how much we still love him with
both of our hearts."
you say so." he said. "I don't want to be sad about him any more. I just
want to be safe." Yawning,
Joey fell asleep in Sarah's arms, lulled as he had
once been with her, as a baby.
Sarah wiped away a solitary tear that fell unbidden down Joey's cheek. She
about its wetness. ::For stress? Or for love?:: Smiling, Mrs. Collins kissed
her grandson's forehead.
Then she whispered something in Joey's insensate ear,
making a solemn promise. "I'll watch over
you for the rest of my life. And so will Ken.
He's family now."
Closing her eyes, Sarah Collins
let the strong fall wind take Joey's stained navy
cap away from her warm hands and into the crisp
END PART ONE -- THE FIRE WITHIN -- MOVIE ONE
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