Madison raced towards Elijah’s scream. She couldn’t believe that he could scream that loud. She prayed that she would be in time. She didn’t know what that man might do to Elijah. It didn’t matter that he was his father. From the state of Elijah’s hands, he had hurt Elijah before. Ducking branches and jumping over fallen logs, Madison had to stop from time to time to orient herself to Elijah’s screams. She finally called to him. “I’m coming, Elijah! I’m coming!”
Up above her, she heard a car door slam and an engine start. She hoped that the suspect had taken off. She could still hear Elijah screaming up ahead.At last, Elijah’s screams seemed to come from straight ahead, and she could tell she was going in the right direction. She pushed her aching legs and continued to run towards the screams. She burst out of the trees and found Elijah standing on the slope. He was alone. As soon as Elijah saw her, he quit screaming and rushed toward her. Grabbing her hand, he began to pull her back down the slope. Above them, Madison heard someone else scrambling through the trees. She heard Hal shout, “Stop, Sheriff’s Department.” And then a shot rang out.
Ignoring the shot, Elijah continued to pull her back down the slope toward the clearing. When they reached the edge of the trees, Elijah pulled away from her and streaked across the clearing to where Drake was laying in the beams of the headlights. A few moments later, she caught up to Elijah, and they both knelt by Drake. He was still alive, but he looked bad. Blood was seeping around the edges of her jacket that she had pressed against Drake’s wound.
“Elijah, help Drake hold that jacket down.”
Elijah nodded and pressed both his fists against the wound. Drake hissed in pain as Elijah put pressure on his wound, but that did not deter Elijah. Madison pulled Drake’s head onto her lap as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. Luckily, it still had a charge. She dialed 911 and relayed the coordinates to the dispatcher. She hoped they would come on time.
A shadow loomed up behind her and she turned instinctively to protect Drake and Elijah. Hal stood behind her. Carrying his rifle over his shoulder, he was breathing heavily. Cuts and scrapes covered his face. She probably looked the same after running through the dark trees.
“I’m sorry, Madison.” Hal said. “He got away. He had a Jeep sitting on top of the slope. There’s an old access road up there. I couldn’t get to him in time.”
“That’s all right, Hal. Just keep a look out in case he decides to come back.”
Hal nodded and brought his rifle down from his shoulder. Elijah continued to press on Drake’s wound while Madison held onto his head.
“Madison,” Drake whispered. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
“Don’t talk, Drake. You need to save your strength. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
Smoothing his hair from his forehead, she stared down into his blue eyes. His eyes were dark with fear and anxiety.
“No, you and Hal need to hear…”
A siren and flashing red and blue lights cut him off. Madison swore. She had cut off the only way into the clearing.
“Elijah, I need the keys.”
Elijah removed one hand from Drake’s makeshift dressing and dug the keys out of his pocket. He tossed the keys to Madison as she took off running towards her SUV. An EMT was getting out of the ambulance. She yelled at him and jumped into the SUV. Quickly, she pulled her SUV out of the way so the ambulance could pull nearer to Drake.
She met the EMT’s as they rushed to Drake’s side.
“He has a knife wound on his side. He may have a head injury.”
The EMT’s nodded and set their gear down by Drake. Elijah was reluctant to leave Drake, but Madison grabbed his wrist.
“C’mon, Elijah. You’ve done a good job. The EMT’s are going to take over.”
The EMT next to Elijah gave him a smile.
“Your dad is going to be okay, but let us take care of him now, okay?”
Elijah nodded and let Madison lead him to stand by Hal. She didn’t correct the EMT. She thought that Drake was probably more of a father to Elijah than his own father had been. She heard more sirens as several more SUV’s from her department pulled into the clearing.
“I’m going to go give them the description of the Jeep,” Hal said as he headed to the deputies. She watched him give the deputies directions. He was calm and exuded confidence. With a flash, she realized that he was more suited to be the Sheriff than she was. He handled everyone with a quiet respect and he earned respect in return. In a few minutes, two of the SUV’s raced away.
The EMT’s had stabilized Drake and were loading him into the ambulance when Hal came back to her side.
“I’m going to head out. I want to help catch the motherfucker.”
Before she could thank him or even offer him a ride to his vehicle, he melted into the trees. His dark clothes made the perfect camouflage, so she couldn’t even tell in which direction he had gone.
“We’re taking him to Colorado Canyon. Did you want to say anything to him?”
Before she could say anything, Elijah scrambled into the back of the ambulance with Drake. Drake smiled at him.
“I’m okay, Elijah.” Elijah clasped one of Drake’s hands between his two fists.
Madison looked at Drake.
“I’ll be right behind you. I guess Elijah is going to ride with you. Is that all right?” she asked the EMT’s.
“Well, normally we wouldn’t let a minor ride back here, but I don’t think we can get that little guy out of there without a fight. He’ll be fine.”
Madison followed the ambulance to the main road. With sirens and lights blazing, she tailed the ambulance to the hospital. Her deputies followed closely behind her. Pulling her SUV into the space allotted for the Sheriff’s department, she rushed through the doors of the Emergency Room. Elijah was waiting for her.
Grabbing his hand, she asked, “Where is he?”
Elijah pointed toward two double doors. Flashing her badge, she entered the double doors leading to the examination room. Nurses and doctors were swarming around Drake as they hooked him up to IV’s and checked the wound in his side.
“Sheriff Rhodes,” a doctor looked up at her. “We’ll be with you in a moment. She continued to hold Elijah’s fist in her hand. He didn’t seem to mind as he pushed closer to her side. The doctor finished examining Drake and came to speak to her.
“He’s going to need stitches, but it’s only a flesh wound. He has a head injury. We are going to do some X-rays. I think we should keep him overnight for observation. We’ll come get you when we’ve got him in his room.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“We’ll come get him in a few minutes.”
The doctor and nurses left. Madison and Elijah went to stand by Drake. His eyes opened when he heard them. She wanted to cry and throw herself on him, but she knew she had to stay strong. Drake was obviously traumatized. Stroking his forehead, she bent over and gave him a soft kiss on his cheek.
“They’re going to put some stitches in and give you an X-ray.”
“Madison, I need to tell you something.”
“Rest, Drake. Whatever it is you can tell me in the morning.”
“No, I need to tell you…”
The doctor came in with a kit.
“We’re going to put those stitches in, and then we’ll take him to X-ray.”
Madison took Drake’s hand while they cleaned his wound and began to numb it. The doctor worked quickly and efficiently. Then an X-ray technician came to take Drake to X-ray.
“I’ll have the nurse show you to Drake’s room. You can wait in there until he’s finished.”
A nurse led Madison and Elijah to the second floor. Once she was in the room, she called the deputies who had followed her to the hospital. She wanted Drake’s room watched until they caught that madman. With her deputies stationed outside the door, she finally dropped into one of the chairs in Drake’s room. Elijah was slumped in the other chair. A nurse noticed him and brought him and Madison each blankets. Cuddled in the warm blanket, Elijah drifted off to sleep. Madison was too keyed up to sleep. Drake had kept trying to tell her something. She thought he wanted to tell her about the last couple they had found, but he didn’t need to do that. They had collected the evidence and secured the scene. They could wait for his account until tomorrow. He needed to rest.
After an eternity, Drake was finally wheeled into the room. The orderly helped him get into bed. Drake was sleepy from the pain killer they had given him. Carefully, she climbed into bed beside him. He laid his head against her chest, and she wrapped her arms around him until he finally fell asleep.