Chapter 23 can be found HERE.
By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright 2004 – 2013
Jim and Elly met me in the garage, but I did not get the feeling they were an item. I stepped around them and faced Toni just entering the garage. She stepped aside as I walked by and made my way to the infirmary.
Extra beds had been set up to handle all the wounded. Guards were posted near some of the Cardinal’s men, including Clay and her brother. She was still breathing, unconscious, and in critical condition. Her brother was still holding her hand. I walked up to Dr. Carlin and asked for an update. He looked at me, and as he started to go through the status of all the wounded, he grabbed some gauze and disinfectant, and cleaned and dressed the cut on my cheek. As he worked I listened to his summary, and looked around the room at all the people. Most were looking back at me. As Dr. Carlin finished, Ed walked into the room. He stopped at the door, and waved at me to join him.
I thanked the Doctor, and headed toward Ed. BJ bolted from her sister’s side and rushed towards me. My gun was already out and pointed at him as he stopped a few feet away. His color drained, and his eyes were fixed on the muzzle of my revolver.
“I . . . just wanted to thank you.” he stammered. Looking up, he continued, “I know it was your blood they used for Clay.”
I relaxed and holstered the gun. “You’re welcome.” I turned and continued toward Ed. He too was putting away his gun.
Greg had come back with me, and now joined Ed, Jim, and me in the meeting room. I reviewed the meeting with the townspeople, and then started in on the necessary changes to our plan.
Ed’s wound called for a few changes, but overall we opted to stick to the original timetable. We touched briefly on the prisoner issue; it was a complication we had not planned for, and we decided to wait until the prisoners interviews before making a decision.
We were almost done when the door opened and Elly, escorted by Toni, came into the room. She came right up to us while Toni waited by the door.
She addressed me directly. “I don’t think I need to remain here as insurance since you have my dad.” Turning to her father she continued, “I want to get back to my squad when the Humvee heads back to town.”
I looked from Ed to Jim, who was now staring up at Elly. He looked like he wanted to say something, but then sat back and waited. Ed looked back at me.
“Elly, we are still meeting.” I motioned to Toni who headed over, “Toni, please take Elly back to her room.” Elly looked at Toni and then back at me.
“All our men are walking around armed and unescorted. Why do I have to be treated like a prisoner?” Ed spoke to his daughter before I could answer.
“Go back to your room. I’ll come and see you shortly.” Elly looked at him, then back at me, and then turned on her heels and walked out. Toni followed her and closed the door as she left.
“Ed, do you want her to rejoin her squad?”
Ed sighed and sat back on his chair.
“Elly is difficult to control. Don’t get me wrong,” he said holding up his hand, “she is an asset in combat, but she’s never been under anyone else’s command; I don’t know how she’ll react.”
Jim cleared his throat.
“I don’t know how else to say it,” he leaned forward as he spoke, “but I am very much interested in your daughter.”
Ed looked at Jim for a few seconds, as if trying to read his mind. Jim sat back with a blank expression on his face. Ed shrugged, looked at me, and answered,
“The men under my command are like brothers to her, although I’m sure some would welcome interest on her part.” He scratched his head. “Thing is, she’s never shown much interest in any kind of relationship with anyone.” He sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you Jim, other than she is an adult, and I don’t have a say into certain aspects of her life.”
I looked at Jim, and then back to Ed. “Tell her Jim here would make a fine catch.”
Ed looked over at Jim who turned a nice shade of pink under his gaze. Jim looked at me with considerable irritation.
Before he could speak, Ed chuckled and answered, “I’ll pass your message along DC, but Jim here will have to fight his own battles.” He stood and stretched as he continued. “I would prefer Elly remained in the compound, although she’s right about the insurance thing.”
Ed looked at me, and I nodded. “We’ll pull the escort.”
Turning his attention back to Jim, Ed continued. “Jim, life is too short. If you’re interested in Elly, let her know. I agree with DC here; you’re a good catch.”
With that he left the room, with Greg following close behind.
Jim looked over at me. “Sometimes you can really be a jerk.” At least he smiled as he spoke.
“Hey,” I answered, “someone has to shove you in the right direction. Like Ed said; don’t let chances pass you by. Go and talk to her.”
Jim got up, grabbed his cup, and headed out. He was almost out of the room when he stopped and leaned back in.
“Look who’s talking. Speaking of which, heads up.” I looked in his direction wondering what he meant.
Lindsey appeared at the door. She hesitated and walked in, closing the door behind her. She came and sat near me, fidgeted, and spoke hesitantly.
“Is it true you’re going away?” I looked at her. Details had not been released to anyone. I tried to think who may have spoken to her. Not that it was a secret, but I had not wanted it known yet. Jim. Jim must have informed Toni, and Lindsey must have heard.
I tried to smile as I answered. “Well, with Ed wounded, someone has to lead the troops. Besides, I want to be there to make sure our guys are going to be OK.”
Lindsey’s eyes reddened a bit, and for a moment I thought she would cry, but she composed herself.
“And who will take care of us?” she asked.
“Jim.” I answered, “Jim will be here. The compound is safe, or at least safer than most places.”
This time a few tears did find their way out.
“No! I mean Toni and me.” She wiped her cheek, and continued as my throat closed up, “She cares about you, and I care about you, and you’re just going to leave us!”
I watched in silence as she bowed her head and sobs shook her shoulders. I was searching for words to comfort her when the door opened and Toni walked in. Without saying anything she walked over to Lindsey, gently took her by the shoulders, and walked her out. She did not look my way.