“That’s good,” murmured Daniels.
I nodded again and waited. If they were able to stabilize the person enough to transport via an ambulance, it was a good sign. Then again, it could also mean calling in the heli wasn’t going to do shit in the long run.
Eventually we were called off standby and the accident scene ended up being cleared by the other company. We got a call for a fire alarm at an apartment building that turned out to be a false alarm, and then we headed out to grab a bite. Once we returned back to the fire hall, one of the EMTs from another company swung by to drop off something to one of the other guys.
I was barely paying attention when I heard Daniels ask, “You were on that MVA call earlier, weren’t you?”
The EMT inclined his head. “Which one? I swear to God that’s all I’ve responded to tonight.”
“The Priority 1 call,” Daniels explained. “How’d that turn out?”
“Oh. The one out on 495? Man, they had a hell of a time getting the side off to get her out of that damn car,” the medic said. “We took her to Holy Cross. She had head injuries. Most likely internal ones. When we dropped her off, her pupils were still non-responsive.”
I pulled out my phone, thumbing through my contacts.
“Strangest damn thing.” the medic continued. “There was paint and summer sausage in the car. Weird combination.”
Daniels snorted. “That is weird. Was the patient young or old?”
“Early twenties, I think. State Police were handling the notification. Pretty girl. Face a little busted up from the airbag. Damn shame.” He rolled his shoulders, working out a kink. “There was no missing the smell of alcohol on her.”
Icy fingers trailed down my spine. There was no other way to explain it. It’s the same feeling when people say it feels like someone’s walking over their grave. My thumb stilled over my phone. “What kind of car was it?”
The medic glanced in my direction. “A Lexus. A dark gray or black one.”
No. No way.
Those icy fingers fisted in my gut. For a moment, I couldn’t move, and then I was standing, my finger hitting Andrea’s contact. I walked away from the group, ignoring Daniels calling out my name. Andrea’s phone rang until voicemail picked up. Could be a coincidence. It was late. I called again. No answer. I called once more, this time leaving a message, telling her to call me.
My heart started racing as I turned around. The guys were staring at me. “What…what did she look like?”
“I don’t know,” the medic said, frowning. “She was cute and—”
“What was the color of her hair?” I shouted.
Daniels rose. “Hammond, you okay?”
I stalked to the medic, my hand tightening around my phone. “What was the color of her hair?”
The medic’s eyes widened. “It was dark and there was blood, but I think it was red.”
The floor shifted under my feet. My heart stopped in my chest. I said something to them. I don’t even remember what I said, but I turned and walked outside. I called an older lady I knew, who was working that night in dispatch.
“Jodi?” I said, my voice hoarse. “It’s Tanner.”
“Hey, sweetie, what’s going on?” she asked.
“I…I need you to do me a favor, okay? I know it’s asking a lot, but please. There was a call tonight. A single MVA out on 495. A Priority 1 patient,” I said. “Have they identified the passenger yet?”
“I believe so.”
“What was her name?”
Jodi didn’t answer immediately. “Sweetie, you know I can’t give out that kind of info.”
I screwed my eyes shut and forced myself to take a deep, slow breath as I paced in front of the open bay doors. Daniels was nearby, but I couldn’t pay attention to him. “I know. I hate having to ask you this, but I think it’s someone I know—someone I care about.”
“Shit,” muttered Daniels.
Jodi made a soft sound. “Oh gosh, let me…let me see what I can find out. Okay? Can you wait for a moment?”
That moment was the longest fucking stretch of time in my life, and I prayed—fuck, I prayed—during those moments. Please not be Andrea. Please. That’s all I could think.
“You still there, Tanner?” Jodi returned. “I just talked to the trooper. Next of kin has been notified, so I feel…I feel okay with telling you who it was. Her name is Andrea Walters. She’s—”
“God. It’s her.” I bent over at the waist. “It’s her.”
“Oh no, sweetie, I’m sorry…”
Jodi’s voice faded out. I didn’t remember hanging up the phone, but suddenly Daniels was there, placing his hand on my shoulder. I straightened.
“Go,” Daniels said before I could say a word. “Get out of here and let me know when you can, okay?”
I was already halfway across the parking lot.
It was way past visiting hours when I showed up at Holy Cross, and it took a couple of minutes to find a nurse who knew me, who told me where to go, but warned I wouldn’t be allowed to see her. Intensive care unit, recently moved out of surgery.
As I rode the elevator up, I kept telling myself that it could still be a mistake. It had to be one. It couldn’t be her. There was no way. Fuck. It couldn’t be her. She would never get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. It couldn’t be her.