No longer in a hurry, Jordan and Travis were still parked outside the hospital, busily restocking their van and making sure they were ready to go when the next call came in. As usual, Travis was already starving and left Jordan to finish up while he went in search of some food from the cafeteria.
He came back ten minutes later with a plain turkey on wheat and a scowl Jordan was quite sure had nothing to do with the pathetic looking sandwich he had in his hands.
“Boss just pulled up. They brought the kids in. He’s inside right now…wants to talk to you.” Travis wouldn’t even look at her as he shuffled past her and went to sit up in the cab.
“You’re not going to tell me what he said to you?” Jordan called back, but there was no answer. Frustrated, she dropped the fresh packets of gauze she was holding back down onto the gurney and marched herself up to the hospital doors.
The ER was busy like it was most nights. The sounds of children crying and people yelling and coughing filled the air, but Jordan barely took note of any of it. She stood still amongst the chaos for a moment and glanced around the open room. Finally, she spotted Brenson standing near the nurse’s station. It’s not like he was hard to find at 6’4” with his flaming red hair. Brenson had trained Jordan himself in her early days. Back then she had spent many a ride wishing with all her might their lights would give out just so she could suggest he simply stick his head out the window to alert the surrounding traffic of their arrival, therefore guaranteeing them a safe passage. However, that day never came. Now that he was not only her superior, but the ultimate man in charge preparing to scold her for her unruly behavior, she didn’t find the sight of him, or his hair, nearly as amusing.
“Boss?” she said in an effort to get his attention.
Brenson looked up from the paperwork he was doing. He frowned the moment he saw her.
“In here,” he said as he led the way into a small room off to the side. Jordan followed and watched as he closed the door behind them. That was never a good sign.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded the second the door clicked into place.
“I was thinking that we might save that woman’s life, sir,” Jordan replied.
“That’s wonderful, but did you also think that maybe youcould get yourself killed in the process? Who would that have helped? And what about the children? What if your reckless antics had gotten them injured, or worse?” Brenson was really laying into her now, but she could tell that he was only getting started. Taking advantage of the fact that he had stopped to inhale, Jordan jumped to her own defense, “I was fully aware of the danger I was in, and if I had gotten killed it really wouldn’t have changed the outcome any since Travis would have been there. And the children, the children would have likely been dead before we even made it inside if I had followed protocol!”
Brenson placed both hands on his hips, demonstrating his disapproval.
“Is that so? And what, pray tell, brought you to this conclusion?”
Jordan sighed knowing full well she was fighting a battle she would never win. Ah well, one victory would have to do for the night.
“I was in the room when the perp first heard the approaching sirens. He was prepared to shoot the children then and there before the police ever got there. If I hadn’t been there to stop him, those kids would have been lying on the carpet, bleeding out right alongside their mother.”
Brenson dropped his hands to his sides and slowly began to pace the room. After a long moment of contemplation, he finally spoke again. This time the anger had subsided and a much calmer tone had set in.
“Look Jordan, I get what you’re saying. And I don’t doubt for a moment that you saved that woman’s life tonight, maybe even the lives of her children, but the fact of the matter is that you broke protocol to do it. Those rules are in place for a reason. They are meant to keep you safe, as well as the people we are there to help. When you break those rules, you leave things to chance. You take risks that you can’t be responsible for. More importantly that the department won’t be responsible for,” he paused, “I’m going to have to suspend you.”
Jordan’s head shot straight up at the sound of those words.
“What?! Come on, boss, you said it yourself – that woman would have died!”
Brenson just shook his head. “Three days, no pay. Go clean up your rig and drop it at the station.”
Furious, Jordan stormed from the room without saying another word. When she got back to their ambulance, Travis had finished eating his sandwich and was busy finishing the tasks she had been doing before getting called in by Brenson.
“I’m really sorry, Travis.”
He stopped what he was doing and turned to face her.
“Don’t be. I know we did the right thing…it’s just, I have a family Jordan and I can’t afford to miss three days of work. Cammy is going to blow a gasket when she finds out.”
Jordan hung her head in shame. She hadn’t even considered how the consequences of her actions would affect him.
“I asked Brenson for a new partner.”
The words hit Jordan like a slap in the face.
“Are you serious?”
Travis looked down at the pack of syringes in his hands and nodded.
“Travis, we’ve been riding together for almost four years!” Exasperated, Jordan slumped down and sat on the bumper.
“I know. Believe me, I’m not taking this lightly! You think I want to ride with someone new? I don’t! But this isn’t the first time this has happened Jordan…and the only way I’m going to appease Cammy after this one is if I promise her that I’ve found a new partner who’s more fond of following protocol than you are.”
Defeated, Jordan leaned her head back against the cool metal of their ambulance and closed her eyes. Travis had seen her cry plenty of times in the past, but now that he was no longer her partner, she had no intentions of letting him witness her tears. It would only add insult to injury and she felt wounded enough as it was.
Having no desire to make the ride back to the station sitting in miserable silence together, Travis hadn’t hesitated when Jordan suggested that she could make the drop off alone. Now that she was making the drive by herself, she stared blankly ahead, making the trip completely on autopilot. It was the first time in a long time she had consciously checked herself out while driving. She loved driving. Loved the rush of the high speeds and the challenge of evading the obstacles that piled up in her path. It was like playing a 3D game of Tetris on fast forward, only with higher risks and usually far greater rewards.
When she eventually shifted into park and glanced around, she found that the lot was nearly completely abandoned. Everyone else was out on different calls or loitering around the hospital. Most of her co-workers were guys who never seemed to pass up an opportunity to hit on the local nurses. Jordan’s hand was still resting on her keys, preparing to take them from the ignition when the passenger side door flew open and a man climbed into the seat. He wasn’t much older than her, with blond slicked back hair and two days’ worth of scruff collecting on his chin and jawline. His piercing blue eyes glared at her as he lifted the barrel of his gun until it was even with her head and shouted, “Drive!” He briefly lowered the weapon to use its handle to smash the radio before pointing it directly at her temple again.
Jordan bit down on her lip as she considered the predicament she had suddenly found herself in. Given her reckless tendencies, being at the wrong end of a weapon was a place she was not surprisingly not unaccustomed to. To say she was entirely comfortable there would have been a stretch, but it didn’t send her into a panic which was more than most people could say. Of course, even by her standards, having a gun pointed at her twice in one day was borderline ridiculous.
Feeling particularly defiant after her meeting with Brenson, Jordan gripped the keys and turned them, bringing the engine back to life.
She looked over at the gun toting stranger and nodded, “You got it.” Then she pushed her foot down on the gas and peeled out of her parking spot, knocking the guy back into his seat with a thud. He cried out in pain and reached for his shoulder. When he did so, his leather jacket slipped up just far enough for Jordan to see his blood stained shirt underneath. From the looks of it, she guessed he had been shot himself. Dealing with this asshole was going to be easier than she had anticipated.
With her eyes locked onto the road, Jordan’s mind began to focus on the game again. She took in every detail of her surroundings as she led the ambulance down the busy nighttime streets of the city. She didn’t even bother to ask the guy where he wanted to go. She had her own destination in mind. Just in case he had started to think she was driving aimlessly, Jordan pressed down on the gas harder, gaining speed with every second.
“What the hell are you doing? Slow down!” the guy demanded, the tip of his gun brushing against her skin. It was cold and wet, probably from his own blood. Out of the corner of her eye, Jordan could see that the deep red stain on his shirt was expanding. This guy was losing more blood by the minute. Deciding that he really wasn’t in any position to shoot her just then, Jordan ignored his demands and floored it. The highway ahead was wide open and there wasn’t a soul in sight to stop them.
“I mean it! Stop this fucking ambulance now!”
Without looking up, Jordan said, “Fine.”
She slammed on the break and jerked the steering wheel as far left as it would go, sending the ambulance spinning. By the time it stopped moving, Jordan’s entire body was shaking from the adrenaline while her passenger had been thrown pretty unceremoniously. He landed head first in the windshield before getting pushed back into his seat from the momentum of their vehicle spiraling out of control.
Jordan unbuckled her seatbelt and moved out of her seat to get a better look at the man’s injuries. He had a pretty decent gash on his forehead now to go with the already blood gushing gunshot wound right below his shoulder. Still pretty dazed from the impact, the guy was in no condition to move very much, let alone threaten her again anytime soon.
Jordan picked up his gun from where it had fallen to the floor and shoved it into the glove compartment. Then she shifted back into drive and made her way toward the next exit, leaving the guy still slumped half on the floor while she drove. She didn’t intend to go very far.
A few minutes later the ambulance was pulling into the back parking lot of a strip mall. At this time of night there would be no one around to ask questions.
Jordan climbed into the back of her rig and collected the items she would need to tend to her passenger. After a moment she was hovering over him and putting pressure on his chest. The pain of her pressing down on his wound brought him to instantly.
“What the hell happened?” he asked trying to get up. He didn’t get very far before he gave up again.
“You hit your head. You know, you should really wear a seatbelt. Even in a car heist it’s important to put safety first.” The sarcasm in her tone brought a faint smirk to the man’s lips, but he didn’t say anything. So, Jordan continued, “Maybe you should tell me what’s going on. You’ve obviously been shot, but based on the way you went about getting a ride, I’m guessing you weren’t wanting me to take you to the hospital.”
The guy shook his head, “No. No, hospital.”
Jordan looked up from what she was doing. She couldn’t get a read on this guy. In spite of everything, she wasn’t afraid of him although she knew she probably should have been.
“Relax, I’m not taking you in. I’m off duty anyway.”
“You’re being pretty cavalier about this whole thing. This sort of stuff happen to you often?”
“You mean do I frequently get abducted at gunpoint and forced to treat GSW’s to the chest in the front seat of my ambulance because my patient is a criminal who can’t go to the hospital? No, this is a first for me.” Jordan stood up to get more supplies. From what she could tell the bullet had gone straight through, but the wound would need to be cleaned and stitched up if she wanted to get it to stop bleeding anytime soon. And since she didn’t have any blood on hand to give him a transfusion, sooner would definitely be better than later.
“So, given your, uh, predicament, I don’t expect you to give me your real name or anything, but there’s gotta be something I can call you other than gun toting stranger. It just seems so impersonal, and quite frankly, it’s too damn long.”
His blue eyes watched intently as Jordan cleaned up his shoulder, using one had to cut away a section of his shirt for better access, while still keeping pressure on the wound with the other. When she lifted his arm to try and remove the sleeve of his jacket, it sent a piercing pain through his chest and he coughed out loud.
Finally he said, “Sawyer. My name’s Sawyer.” His voice was hoarse and strained and Jordan was certain he was in more pain than he was letting on. She had already given him something to try and make him more comfortable, but there was only so much she could do given the circumstances. So, she kept him talking while she worked, cutting away sections of his jacket to grant her better access and hoping the distraction would help until the meds kicked in completely.
“Sawyer it is then. My name’s Jordan by the way. Not that you asked, but I’d personally prefer you call me that over ‘crazy bitch’ which I imagine is what you’ve been silently referring to me as since we first met.”
Sawyer studied her curiously.
“Why are you doing this? You could have delivered me to the cops by now.”
Jordan finished what she was doing and looked up at him.
“I may still do that. Just seems inefficient to drop you off in such a mess when I have the means to clean you up a bit first.”
Sawyer reached for her wrist and held it.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I’m pissed at my boss and this just seems like a good way to stick it to him, I guess.” She tossed the bloody gauze pads into the trash and stripped off her gloves. She had done all she could for the time being. “Just tell me that you didn’t shoot any women or children – or innocent people, period – and I can pretend this whole thing never happened.”
Sawyer sighed loudly.
“I promise there were no women and children. Andnobody there was innocent.”
Jordan nodded, satisfied with his answer. She was about to suggest they get him up off of the floor and onto the gurney in the back when the glare of headlights caught her eye.
“What?” Sawyer was straining to try and see out the window.
“No, it’s just, I’ve never seen anyone here at night. We park here quite a bit when we have some down time, and it’s always completely empty.”
As she spoke, the car slowly cruised up beside them. Hearing the quiet hum of the motor hovering outside his door, Sawyer reached for Jordan’s arm and yanked her toward him.
Jordan didn’t even have a chance to process what was happening when an explosion of bullets came crashing through the passenger side window.
“Who is that?!” she shouted over the noise.
“I’ll explain later. Right now we need to get out of here!” Sawyer yelled back. Jordan couldn’t argue with him there. Keeping her head down, she crawled backwards until she reached her keys and the gear shift. She couldn’t hear the motor over the gunfire, but she could feel the vibration of the engine as she shifted out of park. Without hesitating, she used her right hand to press down on the gas with as much force as she could, sending the ambulance flying through the parking lot in reverse and stunning their unknown attackers just long enough for the bullets to cease. Jordan took advantage of the momentary silence and took her seat, putting her back in control of her own destiny as well as anyone else’s, should they decide to get in her way.
It took less than thirty seconds for Jordan to steer the ambulance back onto the main drag. As tempting as it was to flip the switch and activate the lights and sirens to guarantee her a clear path ahead, it just didn’t seem logical to stand out like a shining beacon in the dark of night while someone was following them, bullets flying and all.
“Where’s my gun?” Sawyer called over to her.
“Glove compartment,” she replied, nodding in its direction but never taking her eyes off of the road.
She was coming up on the busy parts of the city now. Even at night it meant there would be traffic, plenty of commotion to get lost in, but also plenty of obstacles to have to get around while in a hurry. The other option was to cut through the commercial district where it was mostly factories and old plants which about equaled a bunch of empty warehouses on a Friday night with the exception of a few isolated shops that ran twenty four hours a day. It would be easy to fly through there and reach the other side of town within a matter of minutes, only problem was, it would be just as easy for anybody else.
Jordan glanced into the side mirror. A black sedan was quickly catching up to them. Sawyer used his good elbow to knock out what was left of his window and facing backwards leaned himself out as far as he could in an attempt to return fire and ward off their attackers.
“Damn it! There’s too many other cars out!” Sawyer yelled.
Jordan made her decision in a split second and veered left, taking Orange Avenue straight into downtown. She was counting on her driving skills to be superior to whoever was behind the wheel of the sedan and desperately hoped that she was right.
“Start talking!” she demanded without ever taking her eyes off of the road.
Sawyer had barely managed to slide himself back into his seat and was still struggling to get the seat belt on the way she had instructed him to after their last little ride together. He already had an inkling that this trip could very easily end the way the last one had with him flying head first into the windshield and he wasn’t particularly keen on experiencing a repeat.
When he finally got the buckle to click into place he turned to face her.
“Okay. Look, you deserve to know the whole story. The truth is, I’m a cop.”
For a split second Jordan peeled her eyes from the pavement in front of her and allowed them to land on Sawyer like darts on a dart board.
“I should have told you right away, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t risk my cover getting blown. I’ve been working this case for the last two and a half years, moving my way up the ladder trying to get close to the head of one of the biggest organized crime families in the country. If anyone were to find out who I really am, I’d be as good as dead…and so would anyone within a ten foot radius of me.”
“Good to know,” Jordan said as she exhaled loudly. She had switched lanes at the last intersection and was now busy making her way upstream into oncoming traffic. Her eyes continued to tread back and forth between the windshield and the side mirror, carefully tracking the black sedan behind them. Whoever was driving it definitely seemed to be struggling to keep up. Feeling a burst of confidence, Jordan sped up and flew around the next corner. If she could find a way to steal even a second or two out of their line of vision, she would be able to find a place to hide and let them pass her by all together. Gaining headway after the next turn, she took an immediate left again right after. Just a few feet further and she could pull into the car wash at the old seven eleven on Princeton. Most people didn’t even register it anymore because it had been out of order for so long.
Jordan checked her mirror one last time as she pulled into the gas station. There was still no sign of the black car. A mili-second later, the ambulance was carefully tucked away behind the long blue bristles of the massive scrub brushes that had once been used to wash cars on a daily basis.
Jordan had barely shut off the lights and engine when she and Sawyer saw the black sedan speed by on the street in front of them, completely unaware that they were passing their mark.
Sitting in the dark, Jordan looked over at Sawyer.
“Okay, so if you’re a cop and your cover hasn’t been blown, then who are they and why are they after you?” She was pointing out at phantoms in the night as she spoke.
“Someone set me up. I don’t know who or why, but I wound up in an ambush and someone got killed. A member of the Esposito Family. Now they think I did it, and that’s going to mean bad news for a lot of people.”
Sawyer shook his head.
“No. He was already dead when I got there. But it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that the Esposito’s are out for blood. Mine mostly, but they’ll happily spill the blood of anyone who blocks their path along the way.”
Jordan stared out the front window of her rig, her eyes gazing at the street lights until they began to blur.
“So, what now? What about the family you work for?”
Sawyer’s eyes followed hers until they locked on the same bright lights.
“Gino Mancini? Nah, he’s old school. You fuck up, you might as pull the trigger on yourself. The Mancini’s and Esposito’s fought for power for generations until they finally established a carefully constructed truce. With Rocco dead, there’s going to be an all-out war. And not just between the two families. This is going to shake up the organized crime in this city from the top dogs all the way down to the delivery boys.”
Jordan blinked her eyes several times to make them focus again. Then she turned the key and started up the engine.
“It’s been a while, I think it’s safe to get going again.”
Slowly the ambulance crept out from the safety of the busted car wash and rolled back into the road where it blended in with the steady stream of late night traffic.
Sawyer remained alert as he watched the traffic going by, checking his own mirror regularly.
“Where are we going?”
Jordan flipped on her signal light and made a left turn.
“The police station.”
If Sawyer could have jumped out of his seat and tackled her, he would have.
“What? No! I told you, I CANNOT blow my cover!”
Jordan scowled at his tone. She hated being talked down to.
“Why not? According to you, you’re as good as dead anyway! At least this way you can give a full report to your boys in blue before the mob sends you to sleep with the fish.”
Sawyer ran his hands over his knees repeatedly, trying to release the frustration he felt.
“You’re not listening. They’ll take down anyone associated with me. Do you know what that will mean for the people who try to help me?”
“Um, you mean like ME?!”
Jordan was shouting now. After the words passed her lips she had to take a mental account of what was motivating her escalated emotions. It wasn’t fear. It was never fear. No, this was definitely anger. Just because she had decided a long time ago that there was little to differentiate living from dying, didn’t mean that he got to be so careless with her life. Not when he barely knew her. It wasn’t much, but it was still her life and therefor hers to sacrifice. As of yet, she wasn’t convinced Sawyer was worth it. A mother and three children, sure, she’d choose them over herself every time, but him? That remained to be seen.
Apparently, Sawyer had been having a similar thought process. His entire demeanor had changed and his voice had softened dramatically when he spoke again.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. Look, if you could just get me back to the outskirts of town, you’ll never have to see me again.”
Jordan squeezed her steering wheel. She could already see where this was going.
“A lot of good that will do me. They already know you were in my ambulance. How long do you suppose it will be before they connect me to you from there? So, you can just forget about the outskirts of town and wandering off into the night on your own. You got me into this mess and you’re going to get me out of it…and I’m going to help you do it.”
Sawyer remained silent after that. He just sat there quietly watching the road, occasionally steeling glances at Jordan which she pretended not to notice. Instead she tried to stay focused on the task at hand. As much as her instincts were screaming at her to ditch Sawyer and make a run for it herself, she couldn’t risk it. If the men after Sawyer had gotten a look at the ambulance license plate it would take them all of two seconds to find out who was likely to have been in it. Problem was, they wouldn’t just come up with her name, they’d get Travis’ as well. No, it was better to stick with Sawyer, leave a trail for the mafia to follow until it led far enough away from everyone she cared about and then figure out a way to break free before winding up a casualty in some absurd mob war like something she’d seen on General Hospital way back when she would sit and watch soaps with her grandmother after school.
After driving for nearly twenty minutes, Jordan pulled into the very same parking spot she had been sitting in when Sawyer first climbed into her rig, turning her entire life on its head in the process.