Home > Up Close and Dangerous(14)

Up Close and Dangerous(14)
Author: Linda Howard

Justice began breathing more heavily, his throat working. Bailey said, “Justice?”

He swallowed, and thickly mumbled, “What th’ fuck?”

She gave a quick, breathless, laugh. Their situation wasn’t any less dire, but at least he was regaining consciousness. “The plane crashed. We’re both alive, but you have a bad cut on your head and I need to stop the bleeding.” Slowly she got to her knees and reached into the cockpit, fumbling for her one shoe and her jacket. She was freezing, but even though the jacket was thin it was better than nothing. She started to put it on, then stopped, and drew her arm out. Instead she turned one sleeve so she could attack the seam, and began tugging at it. She needed something she could use as a pad to place over the cut and apply pressure, and this was all she had.

He coughed, and said something else. She paused. She hadn’t understood everything he’d said, but part of it had sounded like “first-aid kit.”

She leaned over him. “What? I didn’t understand. Is there a first-aid kit?”

He swallowed again. He hadn’t yet opened his eyes, but he was winning the war against unconsciousness. “Glove box,” he mumbled.

Thank God! A first-aid kit would be a lifesaver—if she could open the glove box—she thought. She crouched down and wriggled her way back inside the open door. The glove box was in front of the copilot’s seat. Slipping her fingers under the latch, she tugged on it, but the glove box wasn’t as cooperative as the door latch had been. She banged it with her cold fist, and tugged some more. Nothing.

She needed something sturdy, with a sharp edge, to pry the box open. She looked around for what felt like the thirtieth time. There should be something in the wreckage she could use, like…like that crowbar held to the lower front edge of the copilot’s seat by a pair of brackets. She stared at it in disbelief. Was she already hallucinating? She blinked, but the crowbar was still there. She touched it, and felt the cold, rough metal. The bar was a short one, just about a foot long, but it was real, and it was just what she needed.

Removing the crowbar from the brackets, she jammed the sharp end in at the middle, where the lock mechanism was, and pushed up. The lid buckled a little, then sprang open.

She grabbed the olive-drab box with the red cross on it, and once more worked her way out. Going down on her knees beside him in the snow, she fumbled with the latches on the box. Why did everything have to have a damn latch? Why couldn’t things just open?

His eyes opened, just a slit, and he managed to lift his hand toward his head. Bailey grabbed his wrist. “No, don’t touch it. You’re bleeding a lot, so I have to put pressure on it.”

“Suture,” he rasped, closing his eyes against the blood that seeped into them.


He took a few breaths; talking was still difficult. “In the box. Sutures.”

She stared at him, aghast. She could put pressure on the wound. She could clean the cut, she could fashion butterfly bandages from tape to hold the edges of the cut together. She could put salve on it. But he wanted her to sew him up?

“Oh, shit!” she blurted.


ARGUING WITH A SEMICONSCIOUS MAN MADE NO SENSE, but Bailey couldn’t seem to stop herself. “I don’t have any medical training, unless you count watching ER. No one in his right mind would want me sewing on him, but, hey, you aren’t in your right mind, are you? You have a head injury. On the theory that it isn’t smart to let someone with possible brain damage make the decisions, I’m going to ignore that suggestion. Besides, I don’t sew.”

“Learn,” he muttered. “Make yourself useful.”

She ground her teeth together. Useful? What did he think she’d been doing while he lolled about unconscious? Did he think he’d made it out of the plane under his own steam? She was wet and freezing because she’d been lying in the snow, pulling him out of the plane. Her hands were turning blue, and she was shaking so hard it would serve him right if she did try to sew him up.

The cold made her think: the jacket. She’d forgotten about the jacket, which was even more evidence that shock, or cold, or both, had slowed down her mental processes. She pulled it on, grateful for even that thin protection from the cold, but she was so wet she wasn’t certain anything could get her warm unless she first got dry.

Silently she tore open a pack of sterile pads and placed two of them over the cut on Justice’s head, using her hands to hold them in place and apply pressure. A rough sound of pain rattled in his throat, then he bit it off and lay perfectly still.

She should probably talk to him, she thought, help keep him conscious and focused. “I don’t know what to do first,” she confessed. A fit of convulsive shaking seized her and she stopped talking, her teeth chattering so hard she couldn’t have said a word anyway. When the shaking passed, she concentrated fiercely on holding the sterile pads in place. “I have to stop this bleeding. But we’re in the snow”—another episode of shaking interrupted her—“and I’m so cold and wet I can barely move. You’ll go into shock—”

He took a few breaths, as if gearing himself up for the ordeal of speaking. “Kit,” he finally managed. “Blanket…in bottom of kit.”

The only kit at hand was the first-aid kit. Leaving the pads in place on his head, she began taking things out of the kit and setting them in the open lid. Under everything, neatly folded in a sealed pouch, was one of those thin silver space blankets. Opening the pouch, she shook the blanket open. How much good it would do she didn’t know, having never used one before, but she wasn’t about to question anything she could use as a barrier between them and the cold. She was tempted to wrap it around herself and curl into the tightest ball possible until she felt a little less miserably cold, but he’d lost a lot of blood and needed it more than she did.

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