His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 29
“Shit,” I whispered.
And in that moment, the world exploded.
The blast came from out on the street — or at least it seemed to, was meant to seem like it did. Somehow I knew that, understood what the sorcerer intended. Light flashed, blinding, the color of the midday sun. I didn’t have time to shield my eyes before the concussion hit, so loud it swallowed every other sound, so powerful it flung both of us against the restaurant’s back wall, along with our table and chairs. Debris rained down on us: glass from the streetside window, other tables and chairs, other people, plaster from the walls, menus, salt and pepper shakers, bottles of hot sauce.
People screamed in the distance. No. They were screaming in the restaurant, and out on the street in front. But my ears were shot.
“Billie?” I called, unable to see for the dust and smoke.
Magic still danced along my skin. My untouched skin. I realized that I wasn’t in pain. Nothing hurt. No broken bones, no cuts or scrapes or burns. I was fine.
“Billie?” I said again, heart hammering.
And a voice in my head whispered, “A warning. Do not push too hard.”
“Who the hell?”
I didn’t pursue the thought further. Because that was when I saw Billie. A table lay on top of her chest. Blood poured from a cut across her brow. The brow that wrinkled when she was confused, or worried about me, or angry.
“Billie.” I crawled to her, checked her pulse, her breathing. She was alive. A dry sob escaped me. I pushed the table off of her and almost gagged at the sight of her arm. I’d seen compound fractures before, but not on someone I loved.
Screw you, whoever the hell you are.
My ears still rang with the force of whatever had hit the restaurant, but I could make out the voices of others crying for help, of moans and sobs. There were people injured throughout what was left of the building. I should have been trying to reach them, giving what aid I could. I was an ex-cop. I knew how to help people, how to keep them calm in the midst of a crisis. I stayed where I was, refusing to leave Billie’s side.
I checked her for other wounds, but saw none. That meant nothing. She could have been bleeding internally. Her breathing sounded okay, maybe somewhat labored. She might have had a collapsed lung.
This is your fault.
The voice was my own this time, inside my head, berating me — I didn’t even know what for. I had no idea what I had done. But it was me and my magic. That was why Billie lay there, covered with blood and plaster dust and shards of glass.
She stirred, winced. “Fearsson?”
As far as I could tell, my name came out as little more than a breath of air. But seeing it on her lips, knowing that she was conscious, seemed nothing short of miraculous. For the second time in as many days, relief brought tears to my eyes. First my Dad, now Billie. That was important in some way. I’d need to figure out how. Later.
“Hold still. There’ll be ambulances here soon.”
I knew some healing spells, but not for injuries as severe as hers, and not for wounds I couldn’t see.
“My arm hurts. And my head.” Her voice was weak, but at least she was making sense.
“I know. Don’t try to move.”
“Felt like a bomb.”
“Are you all right?” She opened her eyes, but then squeezed them shut again. A moment later, she rolled over onto her side and vomited. Concussion.
“I know. You need to stay awake, all right? Keep talking to me.” I listened for sirens, but heard none, not that my hearing was worth a damn yet. I was thinking in slow motion. I pulled out my phone and dialed nine-one-one.
When the dispatcher came on, her voice paper thin to my ringing ears, I told her where we were, and that there had been an explosion.
“We have responders on our way to you already, sir. Are you hurt?”
“I’m not, but my friend is. A head wound and a compound fracture. And there are others injured as well. Lots.”
“Ambulances are on their way.”
“Good, thank you.”
“I’m going to keep you on the line until they arrive.”
“Yes, I understand.”
“I’m right here, Billie.”
“What happened?” she asked again.
“I’m not sure.” A version of the truth. I said nothing about magic, telling myself that I didn’t want to worry her. But I was scared — scared that I had gotten her hurt, scared that I couldn’t protect her if whoever had attacked us decided he or she wanted to do more than make threats.
I heard the words again — A warning. Do not push too hard — and realized for the first time that they had been spoken in a woman’s voice. Low, gravelly; it might have been sexy, if not for the words and circumstances. She’d had an accent as well: not quite British. Irish maybe, or Scottish? Who the hell?
“Was it a bomb?” She was repeating herself, sounding disoriented. That was the head wound, and also the fact that she was probably going into shock. Her skin was clammy, her breathing shallow.
“I don’t know. It might have been. Have you been near a bombing before?” I was babbling, keeping her talking.
I heard sirens at last. “The ambulances are here,” I told her.
I repeated this into the phone to the dispatcher. She wished me good luck and ended the call.
Several ambulances pulled up to Solana’s with a squeal of brakes and the dying wail of sirens. Moments later, EMTs entered the wrecked building and fanned out with a crackle of walkie-talkies. It took several minutes more before one of the responders finally reached Billie and me. He was no more than a kid — probably a student at ASU. I couldn’t have cared less.
“Who do we have here?” he asked me, kneeling beside her.
“Her name’s Billie. She has a compound fracture of the right ulna and I’m pretty sure she has a concussion as well.”
“All right. What about you?”
He paused, eyed me from head to toe. “Damn. You were lucky.”
“Okay, then,” he said, attention on Billie once more. “We’ll take care of her.” He called over one of his fellow EMTs, and didn’t say another word to me.
I backed away, giving the two of them room to work, listening as they talked to Billie, asking her questions about her medical history and who they should put down as her next of kin.
At that, she opened her eyes and pointed at me.
I couldn’t help but smile, even as my throat constricted to the point where I could barely breathe. I gave them my name, cell number, and home number.
Over the next several minutes, working with quiet efficiency, they immobilized her arm, and strapped her onto a stretcher with her head and neck braced, in case she had a spinal injury.
“Fearsson?” she called, as they raised the stretcher and began to wheel her out.
“I’m here,” I said. I asked the EMT, “Where are you taking her?”
I nodded. “I’ll see you soon, Billie. All right? Do whatever the doctors tell you to.”
“Fearsson? You’ll come see me?” She looked pale, small, afraid.
“Of course I will.”
She held tight to my hand even as they started again to lead her away.
“I promise,” I said. “You’ll see me before you know it.”
She let go of me, our fingers brushing as they wheeled her beyond my grasp. She’d be in surgery for a while and would probably sleep for some time after that. I had a few hours before I needed to be at Banner Desert Medical Center. And until then, I had work to do.
The previous night, I’d told Jacinto Amaya that I wanted no part of his magical war. Well, I was in it now, up to my eyeballs. And whoever had done this to Billie was going to be sorry they had come at me with nothing more than a warning and a magical bomb.