A mysterious killer has ripped apart the lonesomely peaceful and often quirky town of Aintright, Texas, taking the life of a young, beautiful woman. A man of God, a retired peace officer and trauma nurse battle to prevent more deaths? Will the awakening secrets of Aintright condemn them or save them in, AINTRIGHT: IDIOTS, GUNS & RELIGION. Episode Two of AINTRIGHT: THE SERIES.
AINTRIGHT: THE SERIES; Episode Two
Idiots, Guns & Religion
(AINTRIGHT: THE SERIES; Episode Two)
Copyright © 2014 DL Greenlee
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. All persons, places or things contained within and whether or not similar to an actual person, place or thing, is fictitious.
Part One-A Baptist Meet 'N Greet.
Part Two-Why Did God Kill?
Part Three-Body Count.
Previously in AINTRIGHT: THE SERIES; An Idiot With A Gun, Episode One
Clinching his jaw he stared out the windshield at the dust blowing across the road in the sunlight, and made his decision. A single speck of lead traveling faster than her words would shut her up forever.
He stomped down the brake pedal, the tires slightly skipping across the road's surface. The cloud of smoke rising from the bottom of the motorhome carried the smell of burnt rubber. Passing the wheel from right hand to left he turned the 42’ motor-home onto Texas 1437 from U.S. 180, promptly accelerating down the two-lane road.
“Actually the Aintrights were one of the founding families of this remote, but quaint, west Texas village that’s tucked away in a valley of hidden waters and nestling in the Guadalupe Mountains in north Hudspeth County. A fun fact about Hudspeth county, it's approximately the same size as Connecticut.”
“You need something to read besides travel brochures,” she said searching the floor, trying to find her water bottle that had been thrown from the cup holder.
“Maybe life in this small town's not normal,” she said.
“You may be right,” he said putting the motorhome in gear, “but all I care about is gettin' settled in for the night.”
...Disoriented, he jackknifed his body to a sitting position in the queen size bed. The rapid beating of his heart could be felt pulsating through the veins of his neck.
Throwing off the flat sheet and comforter he snatched the Smith & Wesson, .357 magnum revolver, off the nightstand next to their bed, swung his legs over the side and instinctively pointed the handgun at the shaded window nearest him.
He was bare-chested, his straw cowboy hat jammed down on his head. Below that a pair of pajama shorts covered with pictures of the Looney Tunes character, The Roadrunner; on his feet cowboy boots with his .357 tucked in the right one. It was then a blonde, high-school girl staring out from behind his reflection pointed and squealed, “He's got a gun!”
Spinning out of her embrace he placed himself between his wife and this new threat. He saw the familiar silhouette of a Colt, AR-15 rifle in the hands of a man running at them. The .357 rose in his right hand, his left racing toward it. His finger pressed against the trigger as instinct took over. “Three rounds,” he thought…
A Baptist Meet ‘N Greet
...Spinning out of her embrace he placed himself between his wife and this new threat. He saw the familiar silhouette of a Colt, AR-15 rifle in the hands of a man running at them. The .357 rose in his right hand, his left racing toward it. His finger pressed against the trigger as instinct took over. “Three rounds,” he thought. “Sight, breathe. Wait...don't fire, don't fire. Not a bad guy,” his experience told him; caution telling him to keep the .357 trained on center mass. He stayed in front of his wife as he watched the man with the AR-15, semi-automatic rifle, continue his approach…
Slowing from a run to a fast walk, the man with the AR15 rifle kept the weapon raised in front of him. Downrange, a male target dressed in Roadrunner boxer shorts, boots and a straw cowboy hat. In the target's hand, a revolver aimed back at him.
Warily he advanced; his finger straight and off the rifle’s trigger. “Drop the weapon,” he shouted at the man with the revolver.
“You drop yours,” the target shouted back.
“Man must be crazy,” he thought, “if he thinks I’m going to disarm because some idiot running around in his underwear, wavin' a gun tells me too.” He stopped, slowed his breathing and steadied the rifle in front of him; “center the tip, front sight in focus, target blurred-”
A familiar voice stopped his finger from curling to the rifle's trigger; it was Felipe Gonzalez, school superintendent and principal. Felipe's words slipped from the cries of the fearful, the groans of the wounded, and the blustering of those simply trying to recapture their sanity.
“Don't shoot, Pastor! Don't shoot! It's over,” Felipe said, stepping between the two armed men.
“Pastor?” the man with the .357 thought, “talk about clinging to guns and religion.”
Felipe pointed to the downed shooter, “That man over there just started shooting. This fellow here shot him,” he said pointing at the man in the Roadrunner shorts. “Next thing I know you're charging around the corner.”
The Pastor lowered his rifle and stepped closer. He wore tennis shoes and a gray short-sleeved T-shirt, tucked into a pair of blue jeans and secured with a web belt fastened by a brass buckle. On his head a gold baseball cap with, By The Grace of God, embroidered in red letters on its front. From under its brim his eyes focused on Felipe.
“You hit?” he asked.
Felipe jerked his head down and hastily patted his chest. “No.”
Cocking his head to the right, he spoke to the man and woman standing behind Felipe, “You folks okay?”
“Good to go,” the man answered, slipping the .357 back in his boot.
“I'm fine,” the woman said.
The pastor looked back at Felipe, “I was in front of the church when I heard automatic weapons fire coming from behind the school. I grabbed my rifle and double-timed it here. Last thing I hear is a single shot just before I cleared the building.”
“My husband's revolver,” said the woman.
“Yes, ma'am,” the pastor replied, slinging the AR-15 across his back. “Is the shooter a single?”
The man answered. “Unknown. Scene's not secure, no visible secondary threat since I returned fire.”
The pastor glanced at the handgun in the man's boot. “You act like a cop.”
“My Chief used to say the same thing, but with him it was a command. ‘You. Act like a cop.’” The man held out his hand, “Lieutenant E.Z. Wildmon; Bryan, Texas, P.D., retired.”
The pastor kept his hands on his rifle, nodded his head then fixed his eyes on E.Z.'s face. “Pastor Wesley Calvin, Pastor Wes to most; no disrespect but I have a rule to never shake hands with a man wearing Roadrunner underwear.”
E.Z. looked down at his pajama shorts then tipped his hat back, “Good rule to have.”
“I can use your help,” he said to E.Z. as Felipe and the woman spoke to each other in hurried, hushed tones in the background.
“Don't know that I'd be much help with the pastorin' end of a deal like this.”
“I don’t need help with the 'pastoring end' of this. I need help with the cop end of this.”
E.Z.'s eyebrows furrowed, his shoulders lifting, “How so?”
“Well sir, I’m not only pastor of Aintright Baptist Church, I'm also a reserve deputy with the Hudspeth County S.O., and the only law-enforcement for sixty-five miles. I could use some help until back-up gets here,” he said, stepping the few paces to the shooter's body.
Unslinging his AR-15, Pastor Calvin leaned on its barrel for support as he knelt on one knee to view the shooter’s body. A ribbon of blood trickled away from the back of the ski-mask pulled over his head. The man’s upper body was twisted with his left shoulder on the ground, his right arm dangling behind his back. The AK-47 lay on the sidewalk near his legs.
“Looks dead to me,” he said aloud over his shoulder, and then thought, “In my past life, I would’ve made sure with the blade of a K-bar.”
Using the rifle barrel he pulled himself to a standing position, murmuring as he did, “Worthless oxygen thief got what he deserved.” In regret he whispered, “Lord, forgive me. I know You died for him too.”
With a knowing eye he surveyed each anxious shout, painful groan and frenetic movement. By the time he grabbed the hand-held radio from the back of his belt, his thoughts had circled back to “worthless oxygen thief!” “Lord, forgive me,” he whispered again.
Pressing the transmit button he sent the first official call for help bouncing off a satellite 1000 miles up orbiting the earth at 17,000 mph, before dropping it through the roof of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office in Sierra Blanca, 65 miles south of Aintright, Texas. Dorothea Walling, a veteran emergency services dispatcher had just poured her third cup of coffee when his transmission roused the speakers in the 9-1-1 call center.
“Reserve unit Five-Five, Hudspeth County S.O.” Pastor Calvin released the transmit button and waited for a response.
Dorothea took a sip of coffee before casually answering, “S.O. Five-Five, I’m listening.”
“Emergency traffic. Multiple shots fired Aintright School. One shooter with automatic weapon is down, repeat one shooter down, unknown if others. Perimeter not secure. Need back-up and multiple casualty evac. S.O. Clear?”
She sat upright in the padded cloth chair, pushed her coffee aside and began issuing orders. “S.O. all units, clear channel one and standby. S.O. Five-Five, confirming one shooter down armed with automatic weapons, multiple casualties.”
“Affirmative S.O. Unknown if additional shooters. No active shots fired but area is not secure.”
“S. O. clear, Five-Five standby. Mark time 0748.”
“Five-Five standing by S.O. Time marked 0748,” he confirmed, looking at his watch.
Clipping the radio on his belt he turned back to Felipe, E.Z. and the woman. “First priority, stabilize and secure. Roadrunner,” he said pointing at E.Z, “can you help secure the crime scene?”
“It’s E.Z., sir.”
“Outstanding. Let me know if you need anything.”
“I meant E.Z., not easy.”
“Did you take a hit to the head Roadrunner?”
“No, sir, my name is E.Z.”
“You seem confused. Let me check your eyes.”
“That’s his normal state, Pastor,” the barefooted woman in the robe said as she moved closer to him. E.Z. looked at her and sighed, “Naomi Wildmon, his wife and until recently an E.R. nurse at St. Joe’s in Bryan.”
“Thank you Lord, for cops and nurses,” Pastor Calvin said gazing up. Lowering his eyes he spoke to Naomi, “Mrs. Wildmon, if you’re up for it, you’re with me for field treatment.” He nodded his head toward the school, “Felipe, grab some of your people and get a head count. Let’s move.”
Felipe detoured a few steps to retrieve his hat, but was quickly on the heels of Pastor Calvin. They hurried toward the once unwary souls that had cursed their alarm clocks, filled their backpacks with crayons and snacks, joked about the weather, and then kissed their families good-bye before rambling out the door to catch the bus or back the car out of the garage.
Nothing more was on their minds than drawing stick figures, getting a good mark on their conduct sheet, new or old love interests, lesson plans, grades and Friday night's football game. In a blink, their unassuming lives were forever disfigured by an evil tacitly condoned by the world in which they lived.
Pastor Calvin and Felipe passed through the vertical plane where a glass wall had stood and stepped onto the bloodied floor of a small town tragedy. Three bullets had stopped it from becoming a massacre.
E.Z. threw his arm around Naomi, stopping her from chasing after them. Twisting to break free she growled at her husband. “Let me go!”
He held her in a tight hug lifting her up, she kicking her feet. “You're barefoot. You run across that broken glass you'll cut your feet to shreds.”
“Didn't think about that,” she said turning her face toward his and relaxing in his embrace. He let her drop to her feet. “And I’ll need my emergency gear,” she yelled over her shoulder as she ran toward their motorhome.
“Grab me some clothes and my .357 holster,” he yelled after her.
“Got it,” she shouted back without breaking stride.
”Nurses,” he thought as he turned his attention on the fallen shooter, “always rushing in. Maybe she needs to remember she's retired.”
Why Did God Kill?
The first person in Pastor Calvin's path was Gretchen Fischer. She began her teaching career at the Aintright ISD, the same year her daughter, Lynn, started kindergarten. That was twelve years ago.
Gretchen knelt in the glass fragments littering the floor, oblivious to them cutting through the thin material of her dress pants and grinding small bloody dots into her knees. Her bare hands pressed into a jagged wound in a girl’s chest, her fingers drowning in a red pool lapping up the yellow fabric of the girl's blouse. It was the blonde that shouted the warning.
Pastor Calvin cleared away a circle of glass with his shoe and dropped to one knee on the opposite side of the girl’s body. Felipe faltered behind her, his feet frozen to the floor as he stared at the stretched out body.
“No,” Felipe cried.
“Felipe move,” Pastor Calvin said, “We need to get all students and personnel located ASAP.”
“On my way,” he said, taking a heavy breath and wiping his eyes as he ran toward the office.
Gretchen’s eyes flew to his, “Pastor Wes, it's my Lynn. Please, please help her. Do something, anything!”
It was a sight far too familiar to him. Pastor Calvin held Lynn’s warm hand in his, gently caressing it and whispering a prayer, “Lord, guide her home.”
“Noooooo,” Gretchen wailed, her palms pushing harder against her daughter’s chest. “She’s going to be okay. I-I know she will. She-umm, she-umm'll be fine, just fine. You'll see,” she stammered, her eyes wide and unblinking.
“Gretchen, look at me, please,” Pastor Calvin implored.
Ignoring him, she clamped her eyes shut, laced her fingers and began rocking back and forth over the figure of her child, “God, In the name of Jesus bring Lynn back to me.” Her voice grew louder with each rocking motion, “Heal my precious little girl! Send her back to me God! Send her back now!” Gretchen's eyes sprung open, her hands remaining clasped. She ceased her rocking.
Her daughter's body lay motionless. God had made His decision; Lynn would rest in Christ's embrace. She would not return to the immoral world that smiled at her murder.
“Why?” Gretchen uttered, her shoulders and head drooping, as she stroked Lynn's hair. Raising her eyes, she leaned back until sitting on her heels, and stared at the ceiling.
Breaking the stare, she lowered her chin until her eyes met Pastor Calvin's. “Why, Pastor?! Why did God kill my daughter?!” she yelled, flaring her nostrils.
She glared but for an instant, then crossed her arms, her body shaking with icy chills of horror. She stared at the floor, saying nothing, only shaking. Then a tear fell. Uncrossing her arms she buried her face in bloody hands, and wept.
Pastor Calvin leaned over, touching her forearm with the palm of his hand. His chest and throat tightened as tears dripped from his eyes. “Heavenly Father grant her comfort-” a child's scream yanked him from his prayer. He glanced behind him before finishing “ -and cover her with Your grace. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.” Pastor Calvin allowed his hand to linger on her arm, “Gretchen, today your heart is broken, but Lynn's has been made perfect.”
A fellow teacher knelt beside Gretchen, gathering her in her arms. Pastor Calvin wiped his eyes, shoved down his emotions and pushed to his feet. “No time for tears,” he thought, “got work to do.”
Shifting the stack of papers in her arms, Tessy Boaz twisted the knob and pushed open the door to her combined fourth and fifth grade classroom at the Aintright Public School. Behind her, popping sounds echoed down the hallway in concentrated succession. Pausing, she rested a hand on the cold metal of the doorknob. Sheets of paper bearing the names of her students fluttered to the floor as she blinked back the horrific thought, “gunfire!”
Tessy's senses deserted her, leaving her alone in a world of darkness, and struggling to breathe. When the light returned to her eyes she was standing in a swirl of scattering bodies, their lips moving but no words escaping from their mouths as they ran past her. From the midst of this silence, the screams of a terrified child awakened her hearing.
Pushed by an innate, maternal reflex, Tessy rushed toward the screams...it was one of her students. Surveying his injuries she dropped herself on the floor behind the writhing boy. Forming a V around him with her legs, she managed to draw him to her. Holding him in a tight hug, she struggled to prevent him from breaking free and tearing his wounds beyond repair.
Sitting on the floor, she felt the breeze on her face; carried within it the smell of dirt and fresh cut grass. Glancing toward the outside wall she realized it was gone.
Lowering her mouth to his ear she appealed to the wounded, squirming boy, “You have to stay still.” Her words reduced to little more than a whisper in the surrounding tumult.
The pain tore through his body like a tangle of barbed wire being wrenched from inside him. Throwing his shoulders and head forward, he broke Tessy's grip. “O-h-h-h-h, it hurts! It hurts!” he bawled in a raspy voice.
She cinched her arms around his chest, “Please. You've got to stay still.” Her eyes moistening, she kissed the top of his head, “help is coming...”
Within seconds of leaving Gretchen, Pastor Calvin reached the young boy whose scream had drawn him from his prayer. A fire ignited in the pit of his stomach, its heat rising through his chest and reddening his cheeks. It was Diego.
Life had branded nine year old Diego Martinez with its cruelty, returning the iron to the fire over and again. Yet, perhaps it was his youthful tenacity? Perhaps a spiritual maturity beyond his years? Perhaps both? Pastor Calvin was unsure; he only knew that Diego refused to be a victim.
Not long past, it was Diego who lifted him from a mire of paralyzing doubt. To Pastor Calvin, he was far more than just another young boy; he had become a son.
“Yesterday, he was laughing at the puppet show in Children’s Church. Today, this,” he thought, dropping to a knee beside Diego. “Son you're gonna' be just fine,” he said squeezing the boy's arm.
Diego looked at Pastor Calvin and fell silent. His body trembling, his breathing little more than fast, choppy gulps of air. A pair of small, shaking hands choked his thigh where a shattered piece of bone jutted through a bloody hole in his jeans; the handiwork of a bullet fired from the AK-47.
Pastor Calvin glanced from Diego to Tessy, “Tessy are you alright?”
“I wasn't in here when the shooting started. Truthfully, Pastor Wes, I'm not sure how I got here,” she said, squinting her eyes and looking back at him.
“Understood. But that doesn't answer my question. You've got blood running down your arms, and I don't think it's Diego's.
Glimpsing the blood she felt an uncomfortable stinging in the palms of her hands. “I think it's my blood. Feels like I've cut my hands.”
Pastor Calvin eyed the floor around her. “Probably sliced them open on that glass that's all around you.”
“Could be,” she said, shifting her weight as she felt a stinging in the flesh of her bottom, “but it really doesn't matter right now. If I let Diego go and tend to me, he'll hurt himself even more.”
“Mmmm, mmmm,” Diego growled through gritted teeth, then pitched forward and back, smacking Tessy's chin with the top of his head.
“Ahhhoww, that hurt!” she yelped, shaking her head, her grip unbroken.
Pastor Calvin knelt on both knees and laid the palms of his hands on Diego's cheeks. “Diego, son,” he said, gently turning Diego's eyes to his, “believe me, I know how much it hurts.” Wiping away the boy's tears with his thumbs he continued, “but you have to help us. Stay as still as you possibly can. You understand, Diego?”
Swallowing hard, Diego's eyes remained locked on Pastor Calvin, “I'm scared.” His lower lip trembling, the battered young boy drew in a long breath, a fresh well of tears rising in his eyes as the air escaped his lungs. “Please, Pastor Wes, don't let me die...please.”
The words squeaking from Diego's throat hit Pastor Calvin in the chest with the force of a shell fired from a howitzer. Before he could answer, Diego's eyes closed, his spine curving in from a bolt of pain. Diego's eyes flashed open; he tried to talk but could only scream.
His hands still embracing Diego's cheeks, Pastor Calvin bowed his head. “God in heaven, help him. Please Lord.” Pastor Calvin felt the light touch of a hand on his shoulder.
“Move over, Pastor.” It was Naomi. She had exchanged her bathrobe and bare feet for a pair of surgical scrubs and tennis shoes.
“Here put these on.” She handed him a pair of blue disposable gloves she withdrew from a large red bag with a Star of Life emblem on it. “We need to get his bleeding stopped,” she said, kneeling on the floor next to Pastor Calvin and speaking to Diego, “Don't worry, young man. I've helped patch up plenty of gunshots worse than this.”
Pastor Calvin knowingly stared in her direction; a single eyebrow raised.
She mouthed the words, “He doesn't need to know.”
“Pastor, where can I help?” Washington Bailey, the town barber piped from behind Pastor Calvin, just as he heard his unit number on the radio. Standing, he handed Washington the gloves, “Help her, Washington,” then popped the radio from his belt.
“Washington Bailey, ma'am. What do you need me to do?” he asked Naomi, while watching Diego bend the knee of his good leg and stomp the floor in pain.
Looking through his tears, Diego's eyes searched Naomi's, “Please, make it stop hurting,” he gasped, the bottom of his tennis shoe thudding against the floor. “Help me.”
Naomi paused in a stare. Blinking away her rising emotions she answered him, “That's why I'm here.” Looking at Washington she said, “Immobilize him as best you can.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Washington answered as he stopped Diego's foot-stomping, and flattened the boy's good leg against the floor.
“Ma'am,” Naomi said to Tessy, then seeing the blood on Tessy's arms, halted in her instruction. “Are you hurt?”
“I'm fine. I cut my hands a little.”
“We need to lay him down. Are you able to do that?”
“Yes,” Tessy answered. Leaning close to Diego's ear she said, “You heard the doctor, Diego. I'll need your help. Are you ready?”
Diego took several sobbed filled breaths then nodded his head. “Ready,” he breathed out.
Tessy scooted backward on the floor until Diego's head rested in her lap. His damp eyes met hers, and the world around Tessy Boaz vanished.
She was flung through a dark space and buried in small chunks of glass, their edges dull and cold to the touch. Amid a dim flicker of light her shivering body floated free, then a veil of darkness as she plunged back into the freezing glass. A bolt of lightning flashed in front of her, a voice sounding behind it. “Take my hand. I'll help you...”
Pastor Calvin walked the few steps to the school parking lot before answering the radio call, the early morning sun casting his shadow on the ground in front of him. Looking out he saw cars and trucks coming to a haphazard stop on the school’s parking lot. Their occupants hastily jumping from them, many of the vehicles doors hanging open on rusty hinges.
A few of this invading horde carried firearms, others wielded towels, rags, tire tools and first aid kits. Many of them heatedly shouting a jumble of inane words into their smart phones.
More chaos arrived with them making Pastor Calvin's task all the more difficult; but he could fault none of them. The townsfolk of Aintright were fixed on a single purpose, helping their children.
“Five-Five S.O., go ahead,” Pastor Calvin said into the radio, then released the transmit button and turned his head, bringing an ear close to the speaker.
“Five-Five, units en route your location. Nearest unit is One-Three, ETA twenty minutes. D.P.S. Sixty four fifty, ETA twenty-five minutes. One-One and One-Five en route from Sierra Blanca, ETA forty to forty-five. One-Two, One-Four and unit One, en route from a border call in Fort Hancock, ETA seventy plus minutes.”
“S.O. unit One for Five-Five.”
“Five-Five, go ahead Sheriff.”
“I requested Border Patrol assistance. Their Medevac unit is en-route from Sierra Blanca. Five-Five confirming no active shooter?
“Affirmative S.O. One. No active shooter.”
“Clear Five-Five. Medical first but contain that crime scene.”
“In progress, sir.”
“Five-Five can you stand by one?”
“A short one Sheriff.”
“S.O. One to Air One, what's your ETA?”
“Over location in eight minutes.”
“You shootin' pictures yet. Air One?”
“Like a fat American tourist, S.O. One.”
“Send 'em to me.”
“On the way, Wyatt.”
Sheriff Daniel Marcus rolled his eyes and sighed before pressing the transmit button on his car’s radio mike, “I told you he was a Marshal…hey, got video, Air One.”
“Remember eyes to the road, not the moving pictures unit One.”
“You just worry 'bout gettin' your tail end over Aintright.”
“Thats a big 10-4, Poppa Bear. Clean and green to Aintright.”
“Unit One, Five-Five,” Pastor Calvin heard the wind from the open driver’s window of the Sheriffs Suburban as it rushed across the radio mike.
“Five-Five go ahead One.”
Pastor Calvin executed a 360° scan from his position, balking at the sight of Gretchen Fischer weeping over the body of her daughter. Blinking, he took a breath and continued scanning. Naomi, Washington and Tessy with Diego, two more wounded to his left, one on the sidewalk. Makeshift paramedics doggedly tended to the three other young victims, praying the first aid knowledge they'd forgotten would return.
Pastor Calvin processed what his mind had recorded as he raised the hand-held to the side of his mouth. Lynn was dead. Diego had suffered the only life-threatening wound; of the remaining three, two were cut from glass, with one of those two cradling a possible broken arm, the third one appeared to have broken an ankle. “In in a bit of pain but alive,” he thought.
“Five-Five for One.”
“One go ahead.”
“First count, one D.O.S., four wounded, three minor, one major.”
Sheriff Marcus took a deep breath, then exhaled before answering, “Unit One is clear.”
“Five-Five go ahead.”
“Five-Five, M.I.C.U. Ambulance approximately five minutes out.”
“Five-Five clear on that.”
“Five-Five, life-flight from Sierra Medical El Paso is en-route. ETA 28 minutes.”
A peal of shrill screams caused Pastor Calvin to snap his head around. It was Diego. He clipped the radio to his belt and scrambled back to his side.
Still kneeling, Naomi set down the scissors she had used to cut away the leg of Diego's jeans. Breaking open a roll of gauze she began stuffing it directly into the wound. Washington and Tessy strained to control his thrashing, his screams hammering against their ears.
Pastor Calvin noticed a fresh trail of blood on Tessy's arm, dripping heavily from her elbow and onto Diego. Adjusting the shoulder strap of his AR-15 rifle, he reached down and tapped her outside shoulder with the back of his hand.
“Tessy, take my hand, I'll help you up.”
Light flooded the darkened world around her and Tessy found herself back in the cafeteria holding Diego. She took a deep breath and shook her head. What was that horrible sound? She looked down at a screaming Diego Martinez. Someone stood next to her.
“Tessy, take my hand, I'll help you up.” Pastor Calvin repeated.
She looked up at him with the AR-15 slung over his shoulder. Her memory returned with a fury.
“Not right now, Pastor Wes. I'm a little busy.”
“Tessy, your bleeding is worse. Let me take over for you.”
“I'm fine,” she insisted.
Pastor Calvin took a knee next to her, “No, ma'am, you're not. You're bleeding all over Diego.”
Tessy's focus shifted from Diego to the warm, wet blood painting her hands and arms a bright red. “Oh, my gosh! There's blood everywhere!”
“You're hurting me!” Diego shouted at Naomi. “Please stop. Pleas-”
Diego’s words morphed into tormented screams drawing Tessy’s stare to his wound, as Naomi pushed another length of gauze into his leg. She heard the sucking sound, and then saw the blood spurt across Naomi’s hand and onto Diego's leg. Gagging on the vomit rising in her throat, she cupped her hands over her mouth. Grabbing Pastor Calvin’s hand she pulled herself to her feet and ran toward the hallway restrooms.
Pastor Calvin wiped Tessy’s blood onto his shirt and knelt above Diego’s head. Placing his hands on the boy’s shoulders he looked into the eyes of the now ashen faced boy. His voice slightly cracking, he said, “Son, you're gonna' be okay.” Swallowing hard, he whispered under his breath, “You have to be.”
Diego grabbed Pastor Calvin's wrists, wringing his hands around them as he spoke, “Pastor Wes, mi madre-” his face twisted in pain, his thoughts of his mother chased away by an agonizing howl as more gauze was inserted in the wound.
Using his upper body weight to keep Diego from breaking free, Pastor Calvin raised his eyes and questioned Naomi. “You’re using Quikclot combat gauze?”
“You're familiar with it, Pastor?” she asked, pausing to study the wound before pushing in another fold with her finger.
“Yes, ma'am, unfortunately.”
“Standard four by four gauze wasn't working, so last resort Quikclot. Feels like that's it,” she said. Removing her finger from the wound she flattened the remainder of the clotting gauze and began applying pressure. “Washington, can you time two minutes?”
“I'll try,” he said, turning his wrist for a look at his watch without loosing his grip on Diego's thrashing leg.
“Glad to see ya with shoes on,” her husband said walking up behind Naomi, his boots crunching the glass underfoot.
Continuing to press down on the gauze, she nodded her head toward the large red bag. “Your clothes are in there. Just grabbed the first things I saw.”
“Thanks,” he said, setting down the shooters AK-47 and pulling out jeans, a faded blue denim shirt, leathers and a holster for his .357. Seeing Diego's wound he said, “Mercy what a mess.”
Naomi ignored the comment, speaking above the boy’s groans to Pastor Calvin. “How long to the nearest trauma center?”
“Life Flight from El Paso's en route. Should be here in approximately twenty, twenty-five minutes, return trip another thirty minutes.”
“That's too long.” Mumbling, she began arguing with herself.
E.Z. smiled then shook his head at his wife's solitary debate. “Pastor Wes,” he said, throwing on the shirt and jeans, “I've taken custody of the shooter's rifle. A quick search of the body came up with no other weapons, booby traps or ID. Left the ski mask on till we get these kids cleared out.”
Pastor Calvin threw a quick peek in the direction of the shooter's body. “I see Hakuho's watching the body.”
“He insisted. Somethin' or other about doing his American duty. Even loaned me his phone for taking-”
“Babe, get those winter gloves we bought in Montana,” Naomi interrupted, “and hurry!” E.Z. slipped on his remaining boot and jumped to his feet. Grabbing the AK-47 off the floor, he started for their motorhome, then hesitated. Tossing her head, Naomi said, “Third drawer my side.”
“Gotcha,” he said, disappearing from her sight.
“Pastor, we need something big enough to pack this boy's leg in ice.”
Not wanting to leave Diego again, Pastor Calvin visually sorted out the scuttering crowd. Sitting at a table with a line of bullet holes across its top was a solitary woman dressed in a blue and white polyester uniform, several strands of gray hair falling out from the hair net pushed to one side of her head. Her back was toward him as she stared at the floor, sobbing.
“Margie,” he called. She continued staring at the floor. Then in a yell, “Margie Lynch!”
Margie Lynch, cafeteria manager for the Aintright Public School, looked up wiping her nose with the back of her hand. She turned in his direction wiping the tears away with the heels of her hands.
“Margie, are you hurt?” he asked.
“N-no,” she stuttered, clearing her throat.
“Then get over here. I need your help,” he ordered, slightly raising his voice.
She stared at him, holding on to the table's bench as if moving from it would be certain death.
“Move it, Margie!” he shouted. “Diego needs your help now!”
The blank stare fell from her eyes. Taking a breath she pushed herself from the bench and hurriedly shuffled to Pastor Calvin. Between sniffles she asked, “What can I do?”
“We need a container big enough to pack his leg in ice,” he told her.
“All we need to pack is his thigh, from his knee to his hip,” Naomi said, looking at Margie, “we also need some clean towels.”
“Okay,” she answered, wringing her hands and glancing at Diego. “Is he going to be okay?”
Washington Bailey spoke up, “That's two minutes, miss.”
“Time is critical,” said Naomi, doing her best to check the blood flow without releasing pressure.
Margie whirled around and shuffled back to the kitchen. In her place stood a tall man wearing a custom fur-felt cowboy hat, with a Navajo beaded hat band and brim. Under the cream-colored hat, his long silvery hair was pulled back into a pony tail.
Around the collar of his white Egyptian cotton, genuine pearl, snap button shirt, hung a large bolo tie. Its round, thick, stainless steel slide, boasted a powder blue, polished platinum, bison skull motif. The starred, platinum ends of the titanium chain were framed in the v of a tanned, bison leather vest. The legs of his Gucci, stonewashed jeans ended at a pair of brown, crocodile hide, John Lobb sandals.
“Colonel Calvin, how far out is Sheriff Marcus?” the silver-haired man questioned, looking down through the dark lenses of Oakley ballistic sunglasses.
Wesley Calvin looked up at his interrogator. Standing before him on the blood splattered floor of the bullet riddled school cafeteria, was the last man he expected to see in Aintright, Texas on that fateful autumn morning...
Coming soon, Episode Three of AINTRIGHT: THE SERIES.