After Blair had been airlifted out, Jim rode back down toward civilization alongside Simon in the back of one of the search and rescue vehicles that had managed to make it up the old road to the mine.
The adrenaline was beginning to wane both for Simon and himself and, now his attention was no longer divided between his injured partner and Quinn, Jim took a good look at his boss as the vehicle swayed and bumped along on the old mine-road. Simon was grey with fatigue, his hands clutching tight at the bottle of water he’d held all the way from the mine. Pinched lines of pain creased his face every time they hit a particularly large pothole, hands clutching at his middle with a grimace.
“Hey,” Jim said to him. “You doing okay?”
Simon laughed dryly. “Yeah, you know. Son of a bitch didn’t exactly take it easy on me, but I’ll live.” Bloodshot eyes looked Jim’s way, and he changed the subject. “How do you think Sandburg’s doing? Kid seemed pretty spooked by the helicopter ride.”
Jim shrugged. “He was well on his way to being high as a kite on the meds they gave him. I doubt he’ll remember much about it.”
“Yeah, good.” Simon took another swig of the water, then grinned, and repeated what he’d said earlier. “Kid did okay.”
“Yeah,” Jim acknowledged, his relief profound. They’d all gotten out alive against the odds. “So did you,” he offered. Simon had been through hell, and Jim admired his resilience.
“Hm.” That was as much as Jim got out of Simon, for ten minutes at least, until Simon grimaced again, this time with an audible groan.
“You need to get checked out by a medic,” Jim pointed out. Even in the foot of distance between them in the backseat, Jim could sense the heat of deep bruising.
“Yeah, probably,” was as much as Simon would concede. But the pain-lines in his face spoke volumes.
Leaning forward, Jim caught the attention of one of the search and rescue guys up front. “Any chance you could call ahead and get an ambulance to meet us? My Captain got beat up pretty bad. I’d like someone to check him out as soon as possible.”
“Already done,” the guy acknowledged. “They’ll meet us when we get down the mountain, Detective.”
“Thanks.” Jim was glad that, despite Simon’s adrenaline-fired assurances of good health back up at the mine, these guys had implicitly understood the possibility that medical care might be needed. “Hey,” Jim said to Simon. “Maybe you should have gone in the ‘copter.”
Simon laughed – carefully, because laughing clearly hurt. “Hell no, Ellison. I’ve had far more than my share of dangling at the end of a rope today. No way was I going to be winched up into the air as well. Besides,” he grinned, “there was only room for one invalid in that bird. I figured Sandburg needed it more.”
Jim couldn’t really argue with that. Despite Jim’s best efforts at first aid, prior to help arriving, Blair’s thigh had continued to seep blood ever since the knock sideways he’d gotten in the mine explosion, and there was only so long it was safe to leave on the tourniquet that Jim had been forced to rig up without causing additional damage. Blair had clearly needed urgent care, and so on balance he’d been the one taken to the hospital by chopper rather than Simon, who’d appeared (at worst) to be walking wounded. But now Simon’s aches and pains were obviously making themselves known Jim continued to watch him anxiously all the way down the rest of the trail, unable to prevent himself from putting out a protective arm whenever the road-surface got particularly rough, Simon panting through the pain increasingly as they traveled, clutching his gut.
By the time they reached the main highway Simon was sweating profusely. As he was transferred into the ambulance Jim got a good look at the bruising which was beginning to come out around his neck; the clear marks of fingers, and what looked like rope burn round the back, as though he’d been forced to wear a noose. Rage filled him; he’d come so close to dropping that bastard Quinn down the mine-shaft and, at this further evidence of Quinn’s brutality, a big part of him regretted not having done so.
The ambulance screamed off down the road, and Jim climbed back into the jeep. “Where to, Detective?” The driver asked. “We can take you back to Cascade if you like.”
Jim shook his head. “Can you follow the ambulance? I need to check on my Captain and my partner.”
“Sure thing. They’ve both been taken to Memorial Hospital in Fallsburg, it’s the nearest trauma center. It’s about a half-hour drive, Detective, so make yourself comfortable.”
It was a little over a half hour later when they reached the hospital. This part of the State was a haven for hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter, and it was just their good fortune that the nearest medical facility was one that specialised in traumatic injury. After checking briefly the whereabouts of his friends – Blair was in post-op and Simon was in a treatment room – Jim found a coffee machine and settled in for the long-haul.
He was dozing awhile later when a nurse popped in to tell him that Blair was now settled in a room and that Simon had been admitted, and that Jim could briefly visit with them both.
He checked in first on Blair, but the kid was fast asleep, so Jim didn’t linger once was assured by the the doctor who’d treated him that Blair was going to be okay. The bullet had not caused any serious damage, the wound cleaned and sutured under sedation without the need for invasive surgery. Blair was likely to make a quick recovery, with not much more to show for his brush with a projectile than a couple of small scars. The fact that he’d sustained a couple of head injuries in a short space of time was more a cause for concern, but so far Blair was showing no serious ill-effects. After giving his softly snoring, hard-headed partner a fond look, Jim left and went down the corridor to Simon’s room.
Simon was awake, looking toward the TV that was placed high on a bracket in the room. He turned his head, frowning, as Jim came in the room. “Hey,” Jim greeted. “How you doing?”
Simon shrugged, looking frustrated. “I’m trying to watch the news, but I can’t focus on the goddamn screen.”
Jim instantly understood. “You lost your glasses, huh?” He glanced toward the TV, where the segment on Quinn’s recapture was just finishing. As Quinn’s mugshot flashed across the screen, just before coverage rolled onto the next item, Jim felt his rage re-ignite. “What did that psycho do to you?” He noticed, belatedly, that Simon was attached to a drip.
“Apart from nearly drop me down a mine-shaft?” Simon laughed shortly. “Guy was a total sweetheart.”
Jim cast an eye over the vista of bruises and abrasions which were plainly obvious now that Simon was wearing a hospital gown. His wrists were bandaged, covering what Jim guessed to be rope burns, and he sported a couple of stitches in his brow. The livid bruises and additional rope burns around his neck were clearly obvious against the white hospital sheets. “Son of a bitch,” Jim said, with venom.
“You got that right,” Simon agreed easily.
“So, how long they keeping you in?” Jim asked.
“Overnight, they said,” Simon answered. He indicated the drip. “They want to keep me on fluids for a few hours. Got me on the good drugs, too.”
“You hurting?” Jim asked. “You seemed uncomfortable coming down the trail.”
“Not so much now,” Simon answered. “Got some bruised ribs, bastard gave me a good kicking. Luckily they’re not cracked.” He grinned. “I guess I brought it on myself, up to a point. I tried to talk Lisa into untying me when Quinn was asleep, but he heard and didn’t take it well. Pretty reckless, huh?”
Jim shook his head, rolling his eyes a little. “Yeah, why doesn’t that surprise me,” he said. “Guess I’d’ve done the same in your shoes.”
“Hm,” Simon grunted. “You been to see Blair?”
“Yeah,” Jim confirmed.
“How’s he doing?”
“He’s okay. No complications, bullet went right through and did minimal damage. He’s sleeping like a baby right now. He’ll probably get discharged tomorrow too.”
“Good.” Simon shifted in the bed, getting comfortable. He grabbed the TV remote and clicked it off. “If it’s all the same to you, Ellison, I’m gonna get some sleep. I think you should go home and do the same.”
Jim shrugged. “Think I’ll stick around, find a motel. I’ll hire a car to get us all home tomorrow.”
Simon’s affirmative answer tailed off into a soft snore.
Jim smiled tiredly, relieved beyond measure. They’d rescued Simon and the three of them had survived, only a little worse for wear, and Quinn was back in custody where he belonged.