Chapter Fifty-Five+ Bonus E/Q II

 

 E/Q rescue con’t…

After a seemingly interminable wait, word came that they had tunneled under the heavy lifting enough to detect a rent, grotesquely splayed shadowy figure. I could make out their banging, barking orders, the sidewalk crowd gasping at the commotion from behind caution tape, at a ruckus heard but unseen. The tailman passed along the lieutenants’ description of roughly a 20-inch high socked-in tomb that encased the lifeless bodily form. But with a little probing and poking with their flathead axes, came a faint sign of jostling, if not actual movement.

“Got an open pocket, do you,” the captain asked through his walkie-talkie. SQUAWK. “All right, were passing in the Jaws…”

“What’s that mean?” I craned and scooted a step closer to the rubble, around a widowed Marina lady, schadenfreudly letting her Pekingese sniff around.

“They have to create more working room in there. Cleave the heavy duty stuff and free up whoever is…”

“Whoever? You mean her…”

“Slow down, chief—not saying anybody in particular just yet.”

Shortly, although hardly soon enough, the trailing fireman signaled via his two-way that the lieutenant had tunneled nearer the shadowy figure that they heard some startled whimpering through their sound sensor. From there it was a matter of prying and clawing further, then applying their Jaws of Life between the timber beam and jagged floorboards. He relayed that his crew had finally reached the trembling victim, a body prostrate and buried in filth, now beginning to moan and sob, feeble coughing like a black-lung miner, cigarillo smoker that she was. Flashlight reflection off a jade gold-link earring suggested this was a woman down in there.

So reaching their search target amid sinking debris, rising sledge and ooze, the excavating team shifted at long last into rescue mode, and a new warren of concerns. Attempting voice contact, the firemen spotted voluntary arm movement, however slight and slow. Such minimal bodily motion could begin to generate a measure of kinetic heat, but could increase flood loss, as well.

“Its called compartmentalizing syndrome,” the batcom remarked at the walkie-talkie news. “Ease on the pressure, could open the bloody floodgates.”

“B-b-but at least there’s movement,” I said, squeezing hard on the halligan. “That’s something, right?”

“What if they fell in a doorway, maybe the whole closet dropped on em? There could be all kinds of broken bones—hips, spine, compound fractures. And might be two pints of blood already gone, all in all, blunt force trauma that could be damn near fatal.”

“You’re saying it’s hopeless, a lost cause,” I grimaced.

“Not to panic, chief. All Im sayin is weve got to take precautions,” the batcom retreated to his radio. “Easy does it, a sudden blood burst could lead to full-on cardiac arrest.”

“Oh, great, I…”

SQUAWK. “Wait, theyre sayin its a woman alright,” he said sharply. “But age is indeterminate so far. Could be on the younger side, still strong and limber enough to fight. On the other hand, older and heavier the person, the stiffer—like arthritis or rigor mortis.”

SQUAWK. “You callin for de-fib, just in case—not yet? Copy that…”

“That’s good, right,” I muttered, back to prying debris like a gardener gone unpaid.

Left unsaid was the spectre that the entire sagging corpus of 3471 could come crashing down on the lot of them at any time. Tremors kept rumbling, ground and structures continued creaking and shapeshifting, the S&R crew’s continued jaws spreading and chainsawing not stabilizing the situation any further—those porta-generated quartz lights took ghoulish hold as the clock ticked on. Meanwhile, nagging question: was she reviving down there or just hemorrhaging to death?

SQUAWK, SQUAWK. “Hold it, copy that,” said the batcom. “Theyre saying shes alert now, theyve heard her speak. Shes sobbing and shrieking that she wants them to get her out of there alive.”

“She is? That sounds like Dame Thornia, all right!”

SQUAWK. “Copy—shes saying, dont leave me, Im counting on you, buster.”

With that, the crowd commenced cheering and applauding like a day at the bandshell. Some moved on to the next neighboring calamity; others hung on for near life on the off chance it emerged. As though they pictured the heroic fire lieutenants crawling out of that hell hole all beat up and bruised about the shoulders and extremities, drenched in soot and sweat, but triumphant nevertheless.

The firefighters would be oh, so expertly handing off a suffering survivor to the department paramedics, who would carefully stretcher board her frail body, perhaps administer vital fluids and defibrillation before our very eyes. For the moment, however, all I could actually make out were the hand-wringing Paolinas, and this frumpy figure sidling into my peripheral.

“Where were you when this happened,” asked an indignantly flushed Richard Muntz.

“Where were you,” I gave no ground, just as soon impaling the fat chipmunk with my pry bar. “Downtown dishing out flyers?”

“Why, actually I was trying to deliver some charts to her ex-husband, Seymours place in Marin,” he huffed, peering toward the illogical collapse of their little astrological world. “The Golden Gate Bridge has been all but shut down since the quake.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet…”

“Itd be a better bet than that foolish Website fiasco you steamrolled us into, then talking her into this place,” Muntz scoured the scene with a jaundiced eye. “What is the verdict on her condition?”

“We’re keeping a good thought,” I said, disinclined to afford him any aid or comfort, news crews hustling over.

“Well, all I know for certain is if she does come through, I will be seeing to her recovery and welfare personally. It is my astral duty, in both my aspect and house. But god, look at what’s happened to our priceless furnishings and library!”

“Really—sure you’re up to it? She must be going on ninety…” Thinking shed really eat his flabby ass alive after all this…

“Enough to make sure youll get nowhere near us any longer—and Dame Thornia is 87, for all you care.”

“Way it looks, a guardian angel and intensive care is exactly what she’ll need. So sorry you feel that way, Richard. But if Dame so wishes, I can only hope she’ll be in good hands from here on.”

“Hmph—as if you think you can wash yours of this that easily…”

“Well, no—I mean yeah, but…huh?”

Care for more?

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