paulak_rumin8: Hardcaste and McCormick (Pulse Rate)
It begins with a recollection of a scene, which leads to obtaining the footage so as to re-experience that scene, which leads to contemplating, internalizing, and self-narrating the scene, which ultimately leads to a strong inclination to write it. That's what I did today.


Rescue

Judge Hardcastle surged out of his truck, not bothering to close the door behind him in his haste, not thinking to take the key from the ignition in his distraction. He was peripherally aware that his passenger was following close behind, although she stopped and hesitated a few beats before he did. It figured. She was psychic, after all.

Not until Hardcastle had ventured about three long strides into the brush off the shoulder of the road, poised at the lip of a fairly steep drop-off, did his frantic gaze land on its long-sought object, some twenty feet down.

The judge recoiled viscerally and stopped breathing, convinced for a horrible instant that Millie was right. McCormick hadn't just gone missing. He wasn't just shot.

The kid lay sprawled in an unnatural pose at the base of the ravine, face-up, much too still.

Cold fear cleaved to a single shard of hope to propel the judge forward, and he was descending the hill, grasping at tree limbs and the rocky edifice for support. His breath returned, ragged and labored, only partly due to the physical demands of climbing at his age.

He was still a stone's throw away when he raised his eyes to catch the fear-assuaging sight of the rapid rise and fall of the kid's chest. Where there's breath, there's life, however tenuous it may be. He clambered down and closed the remaining distance with renewed urgency.

The kid still didn't move, didn't turn his head or even blink. His eyes were open at half-mast, dull and unperceiving, swollen under the left where he sported a deep gash matted over with congealed blood.

But it was the blood-soaked patch over his left midriff that drew the judge's grim attention and brought him down heavily on one knee at the kid's side.

Better the gut than the head; it could've been worse. But not much. Hardcastle returned his worried gaze to the kid's face, and there received his reward for his dogged perseverance.

McCormick moved. True, it was only his eyes. Somewhere inside his battered body he rallied enough strength to focus his mind and his sight on the judge. Slowly, ever so slowly, the helpless resignation that had seeped in and consumed him during the course of the bleak night gave way to a reasonable hope that his latest near-miss would be, in the end, a miss nonetheless. He was saved.

He couldn't smile his relief and gratitude; too weak. He could do nothing to remove that haunted look from the judge's weathered face. Just staring back at him wasn't cutting it.

With all that was left in him, McCormick gave his best friend the best reassurance he could hope to offer: a solid wisecrack.

Under his breath, hardly audible, he intoned thickly, "What took you so long?" Then, satisfied with the favorable result of his effort, he closed his eyes and fell fully into the encroaching exhaustion. Hardcastle would manage everything else.
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August 2017

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