NOTE: It only took 10K words to realize that the second half of Cockpit was being written in third-person. Oops. Back to the drawing board. Just in case you’re interested where the second half of the novel is/was going, I’ve posted it here. Be a mensch and tell a friend.
Cockpit Part 2
It sounded like a cocktail party above her house.
Squawking and trouble-making was afoot as the merriment continued as she quietly cursed at the ceiling. It wasn’t even 10 a.m.
Jill rolled over and tried to find a cool place in bed to hide before having to get up to go to work. She was disappointed how easy it was with her husband gone on his fishing trip.
And the cocktail party continued. Ugh.
The screeching geese were heading south but no trip out of Salt lake City was complete without a fly by over her home. They were loud, messy but Jill loved them even though they were notorious for interrupting her sleep in September.
She was always relieved William was a fisherman and not a hunter. She didn’t know what she would do if he showed up from his yearly excursion to the Uintas with a bag filled with bloodied feathers. It was bad enough he tried to kill as many trout as he did.
Bracing herself, Jill got out of bed, quickly showered, and changed into her hospital scrubs. There was barely time to make coffee and a bowl of oatmeal before she rushed out of the house and up to the hospital.
Jill went through the same emotions every year during William’s annual fishing trip.
The first night was bittersweet watching Mike drive away with her husband, but by the time she got back into the empty house and pulled the cork on a special trout-widow bottle of wine, she hoped he’d never return. This feeling lasted only as long as the wine before she crawled into bed and wondered what sort of trouble Mike and William might have gotten themselves into.
Jill hoped they had enough sense to put down the whiskey bottle long enough to actually try and catch some fish.
Pulling onto 900 East and heading north to St. Paul’s Hospital, Jill turned on public radio and it seemed like hell had broken loose. There was another mass shooting in Salt Lake and she winced as she listened to the broadcast. It happened at a courthouse of all places. Jesus, she muttered, as she thought what has happen to the city. Gun violence has become the norm in recent years and too often she found herself assisting in the emergency room with some bystander getting shot for no apparent reason. Her father and brothers owned guns and she has even gone out to the west desert with them when she was a kid to shoot cans or other discarded household items, but the idea of just randomly shooting somebody was inconceivable.
Traffic seemed worse than ever as she drove up to the Avenues. People were driving as if they had no where to be. Since it made no sense to get off of 900 East, Jill slowly crept along, begging the crummy drivers to pick up the pace. Her mind wandered as she looked at the houses along the road with people loading up trucks. There was way too much activity for a Wednesday—especially for the first Wednesday after Labor Day. She just gritted her teeth and inched along wishing at every moment she didn’t have to leave the house.
Parking at the hospital was no better.
The lot was filled and the entrance to the emergency room was filled with ambulances and police cars. Jill wondered what exactly had happened at the courthouse as she checked in and looked for her supervisor. Lois Dodd found her first.
“We need help up in pediatrics, Jill, there’s been a shooting,” Lois said. “Everybody has been sent to the ER. Everyone is going nuts.”
“I heard. What happened?” Jill asked. “How did some madman get a gun into the courthouse?”
“Uh, Jill, it wasn’t a madman,” Lois said confused. “It was the judge.”
“Are you kidding me?”
Lois just shook her head and ran down to ER.
Jill looked at her phone in vain hoping some more information would pop up. It didn’t. She shook out her head and went to the seventh floor pediatrics. Reporting to the shift supervisor, she got to work tending to the patients and trying to keep the level of gossip to a minimum.
It didn’t last long.
Reports kept coming in regarding the shooter. Judge Millsap Peterson was presiding over a security fraud case with a couple of bankers trying to out-cheat the other. It was a full house because one of the bankers worked for Wasatch Trust and Home, the bank controlled by Henderson Refinery and Die Cast. Most people, including Jill, banked with the regional powerhouse. While most people would never care about a security fraud case, those that banked with Wasatch Trust and Home followed this case closely. There was rumors that if the bank was found guilty of fraud, there could be a payout of close to $3,000 from the class action suit.
“Why would the Judge do that?” Jill asked herself.
Checking the rotation, she saw that a Ms. Henrietta Cruz was next. Going into the room, she saw a sleeping mother with a new baby resting in her arms. The scene was in stark contrast with the rest of the hospital. Peaceful and quiet. Jill walked quietly into the room and checked Henrietta’s vitals. The baby rustled.
“Hi, little guy,” Jill said. “Welcome to everything.”
Henrietta eyes opened and smiled at Jill.
“How are you feeling, Ms. Cruz?” Jill asked.
“Sore but happy.”
“You’ll probably feel that way for awhile. Can I get you anything to help with the pain?” Jill asked.
“No. I’ll be fine.”
Asking to hold the baby, Henrietta lifted him up. Jill held him and walked around the room.
“What’s his name?”
“My husband and I are still arguing about that,” Henrietta said taking a drink of water. “I’d like to call him Santino after my grandfather but he’s pushing for Ralph.’
“After his dad,” Henrietta said. “I hate to admit it, but I kind of like the name Ralph Cruz.”
“I haven’t heard a lot of Ralphs lately. I think it’ll be a great name,” Jill said. “Besides, people grow into the name Ralph.”
Jill handed back the baby and said she everything looked good. She went over some postnatal precautions and health issues. Asking Henrietta if she had any questions, she was only concerned what was going on downstairs.
“There was a mass shooting today. A lot of the victims are at St. Paul’s,” Jill said. “It’s pretty horrible.”
“That’s not how I wanted my baby to come into the world,” Henrietta said.
Inexplicably, Henrietta smiled even bigger when she responded.
Thanking her, Jill walked out. It was odd she would find anything funny about innocent people being killed.
She continued her rounds, checking in with the new mothers and their babies. Nothing was out of the ordinary with the exception of a young lady giving birth to triplets. Her first children were twins. Only in Utah could a 23 year old woman have five children before she was old enough to rent a car.
There was rumbling about what was happening in the ER, but Jill continued working and taking care of her patients. It was surprisingly quiet on the seventh floor. There was only one other nurse on the floor. She’d occasionally see an ambulance pull into the hospital and knew things were chaotic in the emergency room, but she just kept her head down and continued making her rounds.
Taking her lunch in the cafeteria, Jill was shocked to find the break room nearly empty. There were a couple of support staff in the corner and a man giggling while reading his newspaper. She was able to find Lois and joined her at the table.
Lois didn’t look up from her coffee. She just stared downward.
“Hey, Lois, what’s going on?” Jill asked. “I haven’t seen anybody today. I guess everyone is in the ER helping out.”
“That Sally Smith girl had triplets. Can you believe that?” Jill said biting into her sandwich.
Lois didn’t even respond. She just continued to look downward, almost completely despondent. Jill couldn’t ignore how bad Lois looked.
“Hey, Lois, are you going to be okay?” Jill asked. “You look pretty shaken up.”
There was a long pause.
“There’s so many downstairs, so many,” Lois said.
“How many people were shot a the courthouse, Lois?”
“This wasn’t just the courthouse. This was at the gas station, Jill. The one on 900 and 1300 South,” Lois said.
That was close to Jill’s house.
“Somebody blew up the gas station. They threw a grenade or something, and the place just blew up. There was a family and all of the kids were burnt alive,” Lois said.
Jill was breathless.
“Then they took out guns and started shooting everyone. They must have shot 12 people at the gas station and then started shooting passing cars,” Lois said. She started to cry. “They waited for the firemen to show up and shot them too before the police killed them.”
“My God,” Jill said.
“That’s before the bomb went off at the school,” Lois said.
Jill got up and went over to hug Lois. Lois fell into her arms. She cried and said Lahontan Elementary in Murray was destroyed. Between the sobs, Lois said propane tanks packed with dynamite were detonated with groups of men and women waiting outside to kill the escaping children and teachers. They used garden tools and shotguns on the survivors before turning the weapons upon themselves.
“It was the parents, Jill, it was their fucking parents,” Lois said. “Who or how could anyone do this?”
Jill was silent. Her heart was beating through her chest and she was soaking in a cold sweat. It was a combination of scared and confused as Lois rocked back and forth. Everything sounded like war crimes. Things like this never happened in Salt Lake City.
“I’m going to see what I can go do to help, Lois,” Jill said. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Come downstairs when you’re ready,” Jill said.
“Please be careful.”
Jill got up and left Lois alone in the cafeteria.
She was supposed to return to pediatrics, but she went to the emergency room. She had to see what was happening and if there was anything she could do to help. Even thought the hospital had horrific cell phone reception, she tried to call Bill. She knew there was no way he would be able to pick up, but she needed to hear his voice, even if it was just his voice mail.
He didn’t answer.
Jill left a quick message saying she missed him, be safe and call home as soon as he can.
There was a line of gurneys waiting outside the elevator as Jill took the stairs downstairs. She emerged to a scene from a horror movie. Doctors were working frantically over the patients as they hollered and begged for help. There were bodies outside waiting for triage and others already dead. From the parking lot, she could see the valley below and it was on fire. Downtown Salt Lake had flames shooting out of the skyscrapers as helicopters buzzed through the air. The setting sun glared through the pillows of smoke adding to the madness.
Jill grabbed the first nurse and asked what she could do to help. The man turned around with an ear-to-ear grin and erupted in laughter.
“There’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “Oh, you could help, but why?”
The nurse ran off down the hallway punching walls and giggling.
Jill spun around and saw that half of the doctors and nurses were doing all they could to control the chaos while the others were wandering around laughing and pointing at the patients.
Panic began to seize her. She tried to count to 15 to calm down but before she could get to six, she heard the gun shot. The security guard manning the large rotating door had pulled out his gun and shot himself in the head.
Others joined her scream while others started laughing hysterically.
Jill started to fall to the floor when Lois caught her.
“We’re getting out of here, Jill,” Lois said. “Now!”
They stepped over the dead security guard and in the parking lot filled with patients. Emergency response vehicles blocked every entrance but Jill had parked in the lower lot. They ran past the flashing lights, yells and streaming blood on the ground. An explosion rocked the fourth floor as the hunks of glass sprayed out into the yard.
Both Jill and Lois fell to the ground.
Jill’s ears were ringing as her hands bled from the fall. Resuming her count to 15, she got to nine before Lois was picking her up and dragging her across the parking lot.
“My car is in the B lot,” Lois said. “We can get out of here. We can hide out at my place until this calms down.”
Jill could barely hear her. She just clung to Lois’ arm as they ran to B lot. Off in the distance, she could see two men fighting each other. They were bashing each other with baseball bats until they saw Jill and Lois. Letting out loud laughs, they started walking towards them. Trying to cover the distance to Lois’ car, the men broke into a sprint while laughing hysterically.
“Oh shit,” Jill said.
She let go of Lois and sprinted towards the car. Struggling with her keys, they barely made it inside the two door coupe before the men slammed into the car. Raising their bats, they struck the side and roof while giggling and smearing the windows with blood and saliva.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Lois said.
“Calm down, Lois, and get us out of here,” Jill said.
A swing of the bat crushed the back window as Lois started the car and pulled away. She crashed into the truck parked behind her and struggled to get the car into drive. The men jumped on the hood and angrily bit at the windshield causing both Jill and Lois to scream.
The men just laughed and punched at the car.
Finding drive, Lois peeled out causing the men to fall off the car. In the rearview mirror, Jill could see them run after them until another hospital employee caught their eye. The last thing she could see was the bats being raised and lowered on someone she thought worked in radiology.
Jill wanted to thank Lois but instead, she had to warn her to slow down. There were too many stalled or crashed cars on the narrow roads in the Avenues and she was worried the would join the hundreds of vehicles they passed.
“It’s like the world has gone to Hell,” Lois said.
Jill could hear her fighting back tears.
“I wish William was here,” Jill said. “He’d know what to do.”
“Really, Jill?” Lois snapped. “You really think your husband can solve this? Look around. Everything has gone to shit and you think Billy can solve this? Grow up.”
Jill was taken back. She tried to smooth it out with Lois by rubbing her shoulder, but she pulled back angrily.
“I was just saying I wish he was here,” Jill said.
Lois breathed heavily and ignored Jill. Traffic was nearly at a standstill as they got out of the Avenues and started southbound on 700 East. They easily drove by four house fires as they saw people pointing at the speeding car. Lois quit responding to Jill as she weaved in and out of traffic. The scene surrounding the car was horrific with folks beating each other and discharging guns. Looking around, all Jill could see was violence. She tried to call Bill again on her phone, but there was no service.
She knew Lois lived relatively close to her in a neighborhood around Liberty Park, but she didn’t want to go there. She wanted to go home, but she doubted Lois would drop her off first. Lois was too focused on getting away from the hospital and back to her place to even consult Jill.
As they were approaching the turn at 800 South, Lois’ car was an explosion of glass and airbags. Just before Jill passed out, she saw the garbage truck run through the light and T-bone them into a street light.
Jill couldn’t make out the stars in her head from the lights on the street. She must have been out for hours. Lois, still buckled in the driver’s seat, was dead. Her face was burnt from the air bag being deployed and bloodied from the collision. Jill’s right shoulder felt busted. She could feel dried wounds across her forehead and saw her hospital scrubs stained crimson along her arm.
Jill’s knees were pinned inside the passenger seat. Even though it hurt to move, she knew she had to get out of the car. There was the smell of gasoline everywhere and she could make out movement through the cracked windshield of people moving around.
It took a herculean amount of effort to unlatched the seat belt. The click sounded like a thunder strike as the belt retracted into the side panel. Even without an MRI, she knew her shoulder was dislocated. The pain was extraordinary. Her eyes swelled with tears as she tried to open the car door.
It wouldn’t budge.
Jill held her breath and tried the latch again.
Because the garbage truck had hit her side of the car, Jill wasn’t surprised the concaved door wouldn’t open. Struggling to get some wiggle room in the passenger seat, she noticed her heart rate was falling. She was going into shock. Jill knew there was no way she didn’t have internal bleeding and her blood pressure was going to plummet if she didn’t get any help.
She looked over Lois. Jill didn’t have a moment to grieve and her emotions started to flood over. Checking her neck for a pulse, there wasn’t any. Pushing the airbag aside, she reached over and was able to open the door. Stroking Lois’ hair one last time, she crawled over her friend and fell into the middle of the street.
Standing up, Jill felt woozy but fought through haze.
She wiped the blood off her wristwatch and saw it was nearly 1:30 a.m. Beyond the smell of spilt diesel fuel, smoke, and burning rubber, the air was thick with the dirty smell of house fires and gun smoke. The hair on the back of her neck stood up.
She pulled out her cell phone but the glass face was completely destroyed. Not thinking, she let it drop out of her hand as she crossed 700 East along 800 South. There was no reason to walk to Lois’ home when there was a 24-hour supermarket down the street that also had a police substation. She’d find help there, Jill kept repeating to herself as she limped along. She held her right elbow to keep her shoulder from moving too much. There wasn’t any street lights on and none of the houses along 800 South had any power or activity inside. In fact, with the exception of her sneakers dragging across the sidewalks, there wasn’t noise in Central City. Trying to control her breathing and keep her arm from swinging, Jill walked the two blocks before coming around the corner to the supermarket.
She immediately dropped to her knees and hid behind a tree.
There was a circle of cars surrounding a parking lot light with a rope thrown over the arm. The supermarket was dark but the lights from the cars illuminated a police officer with a noose wrapped around his neck. He was begging the group of men and women to let him go, but they did nothing but giggle. The sound was terrifying. Jill wanted to yell, “Cut him loose,” but was afraid she might join the cop.
The giggles got louder and louder until they broke into hysterical laughter when the other end of the rope, attached to a pickup truck, started to rev it’s engine.
Jill covered her mouth with her left hand. It was to stop her from screaming. Years in the emergency room has steadied her from terror. She’s seen men with rebar piercing their torso, dismembered fingers and limbs, and horrible, horrible things happen to children, but by and large, they were all done as accidents.
This was no accident.
This was premeditated and nobody was stopping them.
The police officer’s pleas were cut silent as he was raised into the air. The laughter was deafening as the assailants grew bored of their obscene killing and started to wander off. Three of them languidly started towards Jill. She winced as her shoulder shot bolts of pain through her body. She turned around and collided with a stranger.
“Don’t say a word,” he said covering her mouth. “I ain’t one of those things but you can’t say shit.”
“I got a house down Windsor Street, right next to Princeton,” he said. “If you want to live to see tomorrow, you’d better come with me.”
The giggles started to get closer. Jill whispered yes.
They hugged the trees and houses as they jogged down the road. Every step was torture for Jill. There was no doubt her shoulder was dislocated, but even worse, she could feel herself starting to get extremely lightheaded. The only thing she could do was focus on the man ahead of her and try to stay within five feet of him.
See knew the neighborhood well. In fact, she used to live one block over on 800 East when she first moved to town. William and her used to ride bikes from her rented house around Liberty Park before either heading into Downtown to get beers or back to Bill’s house by the University. She couldn’t help but smile for a moment when thinking about those early days of dating Bill. What she wouldn’t give to see him running around the corner to hold her.
They made it down the street and the stranger struggled with a set of keys in front of a small bungalow house. Opening the door, they went in with the man quietly closing the door and locking the deadbolt. A piece of 2×4 was slide into a brace on the floor and propped against the door.
“You’ll be safe now,” the man said. “My name is McCourt, Danny McCourt. Who are you?”
“Jill Cooper. I’m a nurse.”
“Jill the Nurse? Good. I think we could use one. My wife is downstairs and she ain’t doing so well,” McCourt said. “You think you can take a look at her?”
Jill said yes as she fell into the sofa in the living room. Her pain was exquisite. She could feel the room starting to spin and she passed out.
I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long day.
I’ve been working on the railroad, just to pass the time away.
Can’t you hear the whistle blowing? Rise up early in the morn,
Can’t you hear the captain shouting? “Dinah blow your horn!”
Jill woke up on a cot. The room was dark with the exception of a propane lantern in the corner. If there was any windows, they were covered up. She was pretty certain she was in McCourt’s basement.
She was wearing an oversized t-shirt that didn’t belong to her. Next to her was another woman laying on a second cot, but unlike Jill, this woman was strapped to the bed with bungee cords. Panic started to build in her throat.
Raising her head, she could see McCourt humming a song with his back to her while he fiddled with something at a workbench. Her shoulder was swollen with a subdural hemorrhage and she knew she was getting nauseous.
Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone’s in the kitchen I know-oh-oh.
She gingerly picked herself up.
“You up, girl?” McCourt asked. “I thought you were going to sleep all day.”
“Where am I?”
“My house. My home. You’d been sawing logs for most of the night. Sorry about taking your shirt off but I had to see if you were infected,” McCourt said. “I didn’t look too much.
He laughed to himself. Jill felt self-conscious and afraid.
“Is this your wife?”
McCourt let out a grunt as he went back to his project.
“Yeah, that’s Cheryl,” McCourt said. “You think you can help her?”
Cheryl was around 40 years old. She had long, ratty hair and was whisper-thin. Cheryl was wearing a tattered nightgown and had dark circles under her eyes. She looked as if she was barely breathing. The fact that she had her hand and feet bound to the cot didn’t sit well with Jill.
“What’s the matter with her?”
“Look like she got bit or something. Can’t seem to get her to stop giggling and making a fuss. I figure she’s like the others but I ain’t ready to give up hope yet,” McCourt said turning around.
He was equally thin as Cheryl with a braided salt-and-pepper ponytail. He was wearing jeans with a denim work shirt. Jill could make out the turquoise bracelet set in silver on his right wrist. His worn work boots were splattered in dirt and blood.
“Uh, I don’t know Mr. McCourt if I can help your wife but I know I’m going to need your help before I can inspect her.”
“How you figure? She’s the one needing assistance. I already saved you from the shitstorm outside the door.”
“I need you to help set my shoulder. If you can help me, I’ll do everything I can to help Cheryl,” Jill said.
“Absolutely. I promise,” Jill said.
McCourt thought about it for a moment and agreed. Asking her what she needed, Jill asked for some athletic tape, a flashlight, a sling or some material to make a sling, ice and some pain meds. McCourt said he had Cheryl’s sling when she broke her wrist last summer but no ice.
“The powers been off since last morning when shit went to hell in a handbag,” McCourt said. “I think I got Lortabs too when I hurt my back.”
McCourt went upstairs to collect the items. Jill surveyed the room. On the workbench was a couple of hunting knives and a shotgun. It looked like McCourt was reloading shotgun shells at the desk. She could hear him walking upstairs and quickly moved to Cheryl when he started down the stairs.
She looked like a mess. Her skin was burning up and Jill could barely find a pulse. McCourt joined her by Cheryl and told her she wasn’t like this two days ago.
“It all started when the plane crashed.”
“Something up at Hill Air Force Base. Like a tanker plane or something. It crashed into a bunch of planes on the ground and caused all kind of hell,” McCourt said. “I ain’t sure. After all, I’m a Navy man.”
He lifted up his left arm and showed off his anchor tattoo.
Jill didn’t know what to think, but she knew what she needed to do. Get fixed up first than worry about whatever craziness was wandering around upstairs.
“Mr. McCourt, uh, Danny. I need you to listen to me. I have a dislocated shoulder with some pretty substantial bleeding going on. I can not help you with Cheryl until I get my pain under control.”
She took two of the Lortabs and swallowed them without water.
“I’m going to talk you through how to set my arm and then I’m going to inspect and treat your wife,” Jill said. “Why don’t you tell me what has happened over the last 24 hours while I tell you how to get my humerus back into my glenoid.”
“What you say?”
“Get my arm back in it’s socket,” Jill said reminding herself that not everyone has worked in a hospital for four years. “Can you do that for me?”
“Yes ma’am,” McCourt said cracking his knuckles. “What’s first?”
Jill removed the oversized t-shirt. Taking the flashlight, she inspected her shoulder. It was like a box of crayons—black, blue, yellow and orange. The bruising ran from the top of her bra strap to under the band on her side.
“I’m going to rest my good arm, my left arm, against this wall, Danny. I’m going to need you to lift my right arm up and push the bone back into the socket.”
“It gonna hurt?”
“Yes. I’ll probably yell.”
“Well, try not too. They can hear you.”
“Who can hear me?”
He looked up the staircase and said, “Them.”
“I’ll try and be brave,” Jill said realizing this was going to hurt more than she anticipated. “I’m ready when you are. I’ll let my arm go limp and you do the rest. Tell me about the plane crash.”
McCourt gently lifted her arm outwards as Jill panted, leaning forward. He maneuvered the arm up and backwards as she tried not to scream. McCourt was fidgeting around trying to find the spot when he said he heard it on the radio.
“Yes’um, it was something. I was eating breakfast and getting ready to get to work when we heard the breaking news,” McCourt said with Jill’s arm pulled behind her. “I thought it was like a terrorist attack, real 9/11-like stuff.”
He pushed her arm forward and it popped back into place. Jill nearly fell over. McCourt caught her and helped her back to the cot. She put the shirt back on and slid her arm into the sling. McCourt gave her a bottle of water which she greedily drank.
“Now, I work out in Magna. I’m a teamster, so I’m always on the radio listening for this and that. Hell, sometimes it takes the better part of the morning just to get to work ‘cause how bad it gets on the 201,” McCourt said. “Cheryl here makes sure I have my lunch…”
“The crash, Danny. Tell me about the crash,” Jill said tightening the sling and immobilizing her arm with the athletic tape.
“Oh, yeah. Well, see here, cause I had to get out to Magna I knew something was running foul on account that the plane crash up in Ogden had been leaking something before it came a crashing down.”
“Like one of those forest fighting planes?”
McCourt snapped his finger and said yes.
“Did you see it?”
“Nah, just heard it on the radio, but the crazy thing was things started going haywire pretty quickly,” McCourt said. “You see, the plane basically went along the I-15 corridor, and anywhere that thing leaked that’s where those crazy people started coming out. It’s like they lost their mind or something.”
McCourt went on to say he left Cheryl with a kiss and started out to work. He didn’t get far. By the time he was on I-80, he was stuck in a traffic jam. The radio reports started coming in about absurd acts of violence throughout Salt Lake City. The first thing he heard was the shooting at the courthouse. From there he listed attacks at schools, a shooting at the mall and somebody tried to light the downtown LDS Temple of fire.
“I was sitting in my truck when I saw the first guy get out of his car. Since the weather was so nice and the car weren’t moving an inch, I had my window rolled down. I saw the fell walking along the cars and I could see he had a shit-eating grin on his face. He wasn’t laughing, per se, but he was definitely in a happy place. I guess that’s why I freaked out when he pulled a woman out of her car and started to beat her.”
People got out to help her, but McCourt was too far back. He got out too, but by the time he got close to them, it was too late. The attacker had killed the woman. The Samaritans tried to detain him, but a quick bit or scratch later, and the others turned. McCourt stood openmouthed as they started towards him. Others got out of their vehicle and started to run. McCourt couldn’t because behind him, a big rig was plowing through the cars and he had to jump the embankment to the other side to avoid being crushed.
“I was for sure thinking it was the end. Glass and metal went a flying. My truck was flattened. I would have been killed for sure if I had been sitting in my truck. I tell you what, I would have been creamed if I didn’t try to help her. Hell, I nearly got hit by a car before I saw the ball of fire. It shot up in the air. I think it might have been the propane tank but whatever it was I was thrown to the ground as everything burned,” McCourt said wringing his hands. “I damn near crapped myself.”
Jill gave a half-smile and asked how did he get back home.
“Well, it wasn’t easy. There were bodies everywhere and I could hear both screams and laughter. I was pretty shaken up. My knees were acting up something bad but I knew I wasn’t going into work today. There was heavy truck that crashed into the back of another car and the driver crawled out. I tried to help him up, but he started a laughing and chomping at me. I ain’t proud of this, but I had to deck him,” McCourt said. “It wasn’t pretty.”
He went on to say that even though he’s been a barroom brawl once or twice, he had never struck a man and have his head explode.
“Like a god damn ripe melon,” McCourt said. “My fist went right though his head.”
Not waiting a minute, McCourt jumped in the guys truck and started back towards his house in Central City. He made it to the off-ramp on 700 East before heading north when he was blocked by the street car. Inside was something McCourt had only dreamed of from nightmares.
“You know how slick those trolley cars are? Clean and just nice looking,” McCourt said. “This was nothing like that. It looked like a bunch of those crazy people in it and they were clawing and killing each other to death. I had to do some slick driving to get around it but I knew everyone of them was a goner.”
He said there were fires all over the place and people wandering in and out of the street, attacking each other with no rhyme or reason. The stolen car stalled out about a block from his house but he was able to run through the back alley and sneak into the house.
“I guess this is when things really got bad,” McCourt said. “Cheryl, she wasn’t looking too good when I got home.”
Walking over to his wife, he bent down and kissed her forehead. He tried to move her hair away from her eyes, but it kept falling back onto her face.
“She was in the kitchen. Still as a board. I thought she was frozen. I called out to her but she didn’t answer. All I heard was a slight giggle out of her,” McCourt said. “I was irritated at first, considering everything that I went through to get back to her, but now I know. She got the crazy thing in her. My Cheryl came at me and I kept pushing her back and back and back until she fell down the stairs. I ran to her but she was out cold.”
McCourt looked over to Jill.
“I did my best to make her comfortable, but she kept getting too agitated. I eventually had to strap her down ‘cause I was worried about her hurting herself…or me,” McCourt said. “I feel real bad about it. And I need help. You can help? Can’t you, Nurse Jill? Come on. You know what to do to fix up my sweet Cheryl.”
“I have to ask,” Jill said carefully. “What were you doing at the supermarket?”
“I was going to break-in and steal some medicine for Cheryl.”
Jill thought about it for a moment. She got up and gave him a one-armed hug.
“I can’t thank you enough for saving me, Danny,” Jill said. “Let me see what I can do for Cheryl.”