Chapter 3: Afraid To Die

Jordan let her hands drop from the steering wheel into her lap as she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths in and out to try and clear her head.

“I really am sorry I got you involved in this. I would never have done it if I hadn’t been desperate.” Sawyer’s tone was genuine. When Jordan opened her eyes again and turned her head toward him, he suddenly looked different to her. After doing this job for a few years, she had noticed that her perception of people had changed. She no longer saw them as human beings, she saw them as bodies. Within seconds of meeting someone new Jordan had learned to assess them, take notice if they favored one leg over the other, see if there hands moved with steady ease, hear how well they breathed, observe their complexions and watch their expressions for any indication of pain. She prided herself on these skills. They made her good at her job, some might even say she was working her way up to being one of the best. And there wasn’t much in this world Jordan cared about more than her work.

Only now she wasn’t working. She wasn’t sure what she was doing, but it definitely wasn’t going to get her back on the schedule anytime soon. And there was Sawyer. No longer the carjacker and not much of a patient either. Jordan could still see everything she saw before when she looked at him. He favored his right when he moved because of the pain in his left from where the bullet had gone through his shoulder. His breathing was steady, but louder than normal and his complexion was still unnaturally pale due to the blood loss and overall stress of the evening. While the gash on his head had stopped bleeding, the fact that he kept squinting made her fairly certain that he was still feeling the pain of the impact with her windshield, likely in the form of a headache that was border lining on a migraine at this point. But that wasn’t all she saw. For the first time she noticed that his blue eyes were laced with surprisingly long blond eyelashes. She also couldn’t help but take note of the fact that his lips twitched in the left corner of his mouth whenever he became anxious, something he tried to hide by frequently rubbing the stubble on his lower cheek and jaw with his hand. That was another thing. Normally, Jordan was less than impressed with the unshaven look. Mostly because she didn’t believe in making laziness a statement of style, but on Sawyer it didn’t look dirty, it looked downright hot.

Jordan blinked her eyes and shook her head the moment those thoughts crossed her mind. What was she doing? Was she really romanticizing this guy after he had nearly gotten her killed twice already? Why? Sure, he was attractive with his olive skin, dirty blond hair and striking blue eyes. And then there was all that lie below the neck. Jordan couldn’t deny that he was put together nicely. As she thought back, she suddenly had a flash of cutting him out of his shirt and remembered holding his muscle toned arm and shoulder as she tended to his wound. If it was any indication of what the rest of his body looked like, well, it was enough to distract a girl just thinking about it.

The sound of Sawyer groaning quietly brought Jordan back to reality in an instant. He was slowly trying to insert his bandaged arm back into what was left of the sleeve of his jacket, but the pain of the motion was working against him.

Jordan reached back into the cabin and pulled a heavy fleece blanket from under the gurney and began to drape it over him.

“Here, this is probably easier. Plus it’ll be warmer than that jacket which is likely to be a bit drafty at this point.” Jordan grinned at her own joke and was delighted to see a spark in Sawyer’s eyes as well. She was leaning into him as she adjusted his blanket, her face hovering within inches of his. There was a moment when their eyes met that she was certain he had felt something, too. However, the moment passed as quickly as it came as both remembered that they were still being hunted by the mob and very much in danger because of it.

“My truck’s parked over there,” Jordan said as she nodded to indicate the parking lot to the right of them. “We’ll be better off driving around in that for now.”

Sawyer briefly tilted his head up and down, gesturing his approval. Jordan quickly collected a few supplies from inside the ambulance and stowed them away in a black duffle bag before climbing out through the back doors. She hurried around to the passenger side to help Sawyer, knowing it would be a struggle for him to open the door on his own. It would be a couple of days before the swelling and bruising subsided and with it, the pain. In the meantime, he would need help with certain things; although she had a feeling he wasn’t the type to ask for it even if he did.

The two moved silently along the parked cars until they reached her ’98 dodge Dakota. It wasn’t until she was about to turn the key to unlock the driver’s side door that she saw it. The window had been smashed in, covering the front seat in shards of glass in its entirety. Stunned, she froze in mid-motion. Whoever it was they were dealing with, moved faster and more efficiently than she had expected.

Sawyer took one look at the damaged window and turned around. He sped up as he walked past the remaining cars in the lot and Jordan had to break into a jog every few feet just to keep up. When he reached the car at the very end, he stopped and looked around before approaching the driver’s side door. Out of nowhere, he pulled a small lever out of his pant pocket and skillfully slid it into the door alongside the window pane.

“What are you doing?” Jordan whispered in a panic. She knew exactly what Sawyer was doing. He was about to break into Brenson’s Toyota 4-Runner and steal it. There was no denying she had mixed feelings about the situation. On the one hand, stealing was absolutely not acceptable no matter what the circumstances (and work supplies never counted since they were meant to treat injuries which they always did, just not always as a direct result to a 911 call). On the other hand, sticking it to Brenson was incredibly tempting and he was particularly fond of his car. But none of her contemplations mattered. Sawyer had already used his good arm to lift the lock and was now gallantly holding the door open for her to get in. Accepting the fact that she was running out of options, she sighed loudly and quickly slid into the driver’s seat. Once inside, she reached over and pushed open the passenger side door for Sawyer.

It wasn’t long before they were back on the road, this time headed for the opposite side of town. After seeing the state her truck had been in, Jordan wasn’t entirely certain that her apartment was a wise choice after all. But given her limited selections, she had no other plans, but to stay on course.

Jordan drove in silence, staring out at the road and welcoming the chance to zone out from her reality to play her game of manipulating traffic. It wasn’t much of a challenge this time around, but it was still better than trying to analyze her current situation and the choices that had brought her here.

“So, tell me, does anything scare you? Or is it like a mental disability that you’re incapable of feeling fear?” Sawyer had been busy studying her while she drove; only she had been too focused on the road to notice.

“Excuse me? You don’t know me! What would you know about what does and doesn’t scare me?” she responded, clearly put off by his assumptions that she was mentally impaired in some way. He hadn’t been the first person to suggest it, but he certainly hadn’t earned the right to do so yet.

“I know I put a gun to your head and you didn’t even flinch. Then, I watched you as we were being shot at – it was like it was nothing to you, like those were marshmallows flying at you through the windshield and not bullets. That shit’s not normal,” Sawyer said, still staring at her intently.

“Oh yeah? What about you? I didn’t get the impression that you were about to pee yourself when we were getting shot at either. Not to mention the fact that you seem to be taking this whole ‘everyone is trying to kill me’ thing in stride,” Jordan retorted, turning her eyes back toward the road. She thought she had seen a glimmer in his eyes that suggested he was laughing at her internally and the last thing she wanted was to overreact and give him a reason to start showing his amusement more openly.

“It comes with the job description not to pee yourself while being shot at,” Sawyer replied dryly, confirming her suspicions.

“Yeah well, same here.”

Sawyer shook his head.

“I don’t buy that. There’s something more. What is it?”

Jordan was busy grinding her teeth while she contemplated how personal she was going to allow this conversation to get. As far as she knew, they would be spending the foreseeable future in each other’s company. Now was as good a time as any to start to get to know one another.

“Fine. You’re right. I’m not afraid to die. When you’ve experienced as much loss as I have, you reach a point where there isn’t much to differentiate the living from the dying.”

This time Sawyer didn’t respond. He just nodded slowly and then turned his head to silently stare out the window.

Soon Jordan was pulling her boss’s SUV into a parking spot behind her building. She glanced at the clock. It was nearly 4 am already. Somehow the night had flown by. The entire building was dark and Jordan knew it would be at least thirty more minutes before the lights flashed on in 3C where Mr. Harrington would be getting ready for work. After that it was another hour and a half before the rest of her neighbors slowly followed suit. Since she was normally gone during the night hours, it never occurred to Jordan to leave a light on for herself. Something she was suddenly regretting as she and Sawyer quietly climbed the outside stairwell to her floor. She had been surprised enough for one night and now walking into her blacked out apartment felt like another trap she’d have to find her way out of.

Jordan was only half wrong in her suspicions. When they reached the front door, it was merely leaning in its frame. The lock had been busted and the door forced open to the point it no longer closed at all. Immediately, Sawyer stepped in front of her with his gun at the ready. He slowly pushed the door open, only to reveal that Jordan’s entire apartment had been tossed. The intruders hadn’t broken much, probably to avoid drawing attention to themselves with the noise, but every single thing Jordan owned seemed to be sprawled out across the floor. Sawyer motioned for Jordan to stay close behind him as he walked inside, carefully stepping over her stuff as he searched the small space. Jordan was fairly certain that whoever had been there had already came and went, but in the off chance that she was wrong, she couldn’t deny that she felt mildly relieved to have Sawyer and his gun leading the way. Provided no one ambushed him from the left they’d be alright. If they did, all it would take was a simple poke to his injured shoulder and he’d be down on his knees, leaving them both totally screwed. Thankfully, Jordan’s mind was working overtime for no reason. The apartment was empty; for the time being anyway.

“You think they’ll be back?” Jordan asked quietly.

“It’s likely. We better grab your stuff and keep going. For all we know, they’re still hanging around watching the building and expecting us to come back.” Sawyer’s words did little to ease her worries. Jordan was tempted to point out the fact that he could use some improvement in the area of comforting people, but decided against it. If he was right, and it was certainly possibly, she didn’t have much time.

While Jordan was busy combing through her clothes on the bedroom floor, Sawyer was standing watch in the living room. Every so often his gaze would stray from the front door to take in his surroundings. Once one got over the overwhelming mess that had been left, the place was actually quite nice.

What stood out the most to Sawyer as he looked around, were the countless framed photographs that seemed to cover her walls from room to room.

“You know, you don’t strike me as someone who doesn’t have anything to live for.”

Jordan came back into the living room holding the black duffle bag she had filled with all the essentials.

“How’s that?” she asked.

Sawyer tipped his head toward a picture of her holding a young boy.

“Looks to me like all you’d need to do is glance around the room to find several good reasons.”

Jordan lowered her head as she went past him toward the kitchen.

“Yeah, maybe I had a reason. Maybe it’s gone now,” she replied flatly as she left the room.

Sawyer tried to keep one eye on the door as he inched his way close enough to the kitchen for Jordan to hear him.

“I’m really sorry. Shit. Seems like I’ve been saying that a lot since I met you.”

Jordan came back into the room still shoving a few water bottles into the front pocket of her bag.

“I’m just fucking with you. The kid’s my nephew and he’s alive and well. As are most of the people in these photos.” She stopped to zip up the bag and then continued, “Besides, I never said I didn’t have a reason to live. I said I didn’t have anything to sway me one way or the other. Sure, I have plenty of people in my life that I love and who love me, but if I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t exactly be lonely on the other side either. My dad’s already there, so are most of my grandparents…throw in a few friends and acquaintances and I’ve got a whole welcoming committee coming to greet me as I cross over. Not really something to be afraid of is it?”

Sawyer smirked, “No, guess not.”

“Meanwhile, I’m not looking to go out of my way to meet up with any of them any sooner than necessary, so we should probably get out of here before another member of your ‘not-so-fan’ club shows up again.”

This time Sawyer just nodded in agreement. They both made their way back through the living room and toward the front door. Just before they reached it, Sawyer held out his good arm to block Jordan, keeping her a few steps behind him as they moved outside. He waited briefly, listening for any sounds that might indicate the presence of another person and then they made their way down the stairs. Since Brenson’s car would still be fairly easy to track, Sawyer decided to upgrade once more. This time he chose a blue Honda sedan. It was fairly new looking and Jordan hadn’t a clue as to who it belonged to. She just hoped that whoever owned the vehicle had a decent insurance policy in place and had kept up on their payments. With any luck at all it would be back in their possession within a day or two anyway, but given the condition of the ambulance as well as her own truck, there really was no telling what kind of damage the car might encounter while Sawyer was a passenger in it.

She felt the guilt rise up within her again and forcefully swallowed it down as she slid into the driver’s seat. It had been a while since she had sat that low to the ground and it felt nice. Part of her already anticipated how the car would hug the curves of the road while traveling at speeds she’d never dream of taking the ambulance to. With a little bad luck, she get her chance soon enough.

“I don’t suppose you have a destination in mind?” Jordan asked as she steered the Honda out of her neighborhood and onto a main highway.

“Just head south for now,” said Sawyer still cautiously watching out the window.

“Why south?” Jordan asked, stealing yet another glance in the rearview mirror. Paranoia was getting the better of her. She’d need to get ahold of herself and soon, if she wanted a clear head for the journey that lie ahead of her.

“Because it gives us more options. And because the roads will be better.”

It made sense. There wasn’t much left to explore above them unless they veered west as well…and somehow the south did seem more appealing. The only question was, how far south would they wind up going? Just in case, she mentally began to recite old vocabulary lessons she had learned back in Spanish class. Not that she really thought she would need it, but it gave her mind something to focus on and really at this point, who could say what kind of scenario was likely and which wasn’t? There wouldn’t be any harm in being prepared.

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