AUTHOR'S NOTES: I had so little to do with this, I feel like Debbie
should be writing the intro note. Anyway, thanks,
everyone, for your continued support of this story,
and for your continued curses on my head. :) And now
you can aim those potatoes at Debbie, because I didn't
do anything! Okay, maybe I suggested a thing or
by Debbie and Kacey
Benton waited, heart thudding dully in his chest, hands suddenly clammy.
The phone was still silent, despite the surgeon's unspoken pleas and commands. The labored breathing that had been tormenting him for the past twenty minutes had stopped, and now Benton was beginning to understand the meaning of a deafening silence.
Caught in a paroxysm of fear, Benton's world was reduced to the absence of sound on the other end of the cell phone. He didn't see the SWAT team storm the train-car, couldn't hear what Luka was trying to say to him. The first thing that registered was the gunshots over the phone. And then people screaming.
At the first shout of "clear!" Benton started running for the train, still clutching his phone to his ear, unable to let it go. The dash from the platform to the train car was a complete blur to him. It seemed that one moment he was staring at the train, the next he was standing in a doorway, looking down at one of the worst scenarios he could have imagined.
There were numerous victims laying haphazardly all over the El car. The gunman was screaming in pain, shot in the leg and the arm by the SWAT team. 'Good,' Benton thought, 'I hope it hurts like hell!' He was glad the scumbag was still alive to stand trial.
He didn't immediately see Carter. He saw Luka out of the corner of his eye: he was moving toward the front of the train where two bodies lay, one leaning up against the seat of the car.
"Sir! SIR!" A lady was yelling and grabbing his arm. "Sir, are you a doctor?"
"Yes," Peter answered distractedly, searching for Carter. She proceeded to drag Peter down to the opposite end of the car. "My son has been shot! Please, you have to help!" Benton found himself forcibly moved to the opposite end of the train. He had now lost sight of Luka and had yet to see Carter. The noise and commotion in the train car were almost deafening, screaming and crying everywhere - Benton felt as if he had just walked into a war zone.
He looked down on the seat of the El, and there was a child, very small and very lifeless. His eyes stared out vacantly at Benton; they would see no more. He had been shot through the head; there was nothing Peter could do for him. He put his hand to the child's neck, no pulse. He laid his hands on the child's chest, no movement. He leaned over, and looked at the child's head. He had already seen the gray matter on the seat of the train. The kid probably never knew what hit him. God, he hoped so.
Peter turned toward the mother, "I'm sorry," he said simply.
The woman dropped to her knees in front of him, "NO! NO! You have to do something! Please!"
The surgeon put his hand on the mother's shoulder. "There's nothing I can do, I'm sorry."
Benton slowly disengaged himself from the sobbing woman, and made his way toward the front of the train where he saw more victims, and Luka leaning over another, familiar body.
"Carter..." Benton's voice was soft, but so keenly horrified it cut through to Luka over all the commotion.
"I have him, you go and triage!" Dr Kovac yelled, not looking away from his patient. Peter stood stock-still, gazing at the lifeless body of his former student. "You GO!" Luka shouted again, this time glancing up at the surgeon. "Go! Triage! Now!" Luka could tell by the shocked expression on Benton's face that triage was the best thing he could do. It was rudimentary, and the surgeon could probably do it with his eyes shut. Whether he could do it with his mind completely focused elsewhere was something the Croatian doctor didn't have time to consider.
Numb, Benton made his way down the crowded train car. He started taking pulses and assessing the seriousness of the various injured passengers, looking back every few seconds to see what Luka was doing, and attempting to discern if Carter was still alive.
It didn't look good, Benton thought as he catalogued the victims mechanically; in fact, he could not envision anything looking less good. He had dissected corpses with more color than Carter had. Benton checked his watch, then cursed himself for not looking at it before. He had no conception of how long it had been since that last breath on the platform... Five minutes, ten minutes - the relativity of time. He had no reality-based idea. It could've been one minute or ten; it felt like forever. Oh God, how long had it been? Was he breathing now? Was he alive? Benton clenched his jaw and willed himself to believe that Luka Kovac could handle it, that Luka Kovac would not allow Carter to die on the floor of a train car.
Speaking in a voice which seemed oddly detached from his thoughts, Benton instructed a policeman on how to slow the bleeding on one woman's arm, automatically patting the nervous, white-faced cop on the back as he moved on to the next victim. He glanced across at Luka again, hating the attending for doing this to him. A section of his brain knew that this was the right course of action, that he would not be capable of treating Carter to the best of his abilities. And he knew that right now Carter needed the best ability. Looking down, the surgeon could see that his hands were trembling as they reached for the man's wrist. What if Carter was dead? Or worse, what if he was dying and Benton was standing just a few feet away, taking some damn stranger's pulse?
Benton paused for a second, squeezing the wrist in his hand so tightly that the man protested. Then the surgeon forced all thought away. Thinking wasn't helping Carter and it wasn't helping the other victims. Kovac was competent, even good - Benton knew that. The Croatian doctor would be able to save Carter, if anyone could. So Benton shut down, blocked Carter out of his mind, blocked everything out of his mind, and, emotionless, went back to work.
"Sir!" Luka yelled at the man sitting behind him, "I need for you to come here!" The man was moving in a sort of slow daze. "Come on!" Luka ordered him, not unkindly. "Hold pressure here!" Luka showed the man the sucking chest wound on Carter's chest. "Don't move your hand, keep pressure on this, okay?" The man nodded his head; he understood. Luka moved Carter's body completely down to the floor. "YOU hold onto that, I'm going to roll him over, okay?" The man nodded again.
Luka pulled up John's shirt; he didn't see an exit wound. The bullet was lodged somewhere but without x-ray equipment there was no way to tell where. Luka slowly moved Carter's body onto his back. "Do you know CPR?" the attending asked the man, who shook his head. "Okay, you just put your hand on this, okay? Don't move your hand!" Luka pumped John's chest, and counted in his head. He hyperextended Carter's neck, placing his mouth on that of his friend and colleague, trying to will the residentís chest to move but knowing the only reason it did was because of the breath he had just given him.
"Don't you die!" Luka mumbled under his breath as he moved to pump John's chest again. He heard sirens vaguely in the distance. The screaming in the train had turned to sobs of agony, and the quiet of the dead. Luka had seen more than his share of wartime injuries: this was very similar to the events of home country. He would never get used to this - not in an urban area, not in his country, not anywhere. He just didn't understand why someone would do this. He continued CPR, willing his breath to keep John Carter alive until they got to the ER.
Benton had come up behind Luka silently; he had triaged almost every victim he could. There were numerous gunshot wounds, one heart attack, and five dead, including the baby. Tearing his eyes from the sight of Luka working on Carter's unresponsive body, the surgeon looked out the window, and saw the flash of the ambulance lights.
"The ambulance is here," Peter said quietly. Then, swallowing hard, he continued, "Any pulse?" He didn't really want to hear the answer, he knew he already knew what it was, but he had to ask anyway. He was distantly aware that he should be helping Luka, but he couldn't; it didn't even occur to him that he could move of his own accord at the moment.
"No, not yet," Luka said hoarsely in between breaths. "Go get the paramedics!"
Benton seemed to come out of his daze somewhat. "HEY! Over here!" he shouted at the paramedics. They hurried inside the train. Luka's face was showing the strain of performing CPR as long as he had by himself. The paramedics took over, letting Luka sit back for a moment and catch his own breath. He thanked the man that had been helping him, who only looked relieved not to be needed any longer.
There was no cardiac activity whatsoever as they hooked the electrodes up to John's chest: no pulse, no respirations. They had him intubated in seconds. Luka took control of the ambu bag, continuing to breathe for Carter. The paramedics worked rapidly and efficiently, starting the IV, and injecting the Epinephrine to try to get some kind of rhythm going. The EKG showed nothing.
"Give another amp of Epi," Benton ordered tersely, receiving a concurring nod from Luka which he didn't see. The paramedics looked at one another: they were the doctors. They gave another, again with no result.
"Charge to 200! Clear!"
Luka let go of the ambu bag momentarily as they administered the shock. Blood gushed out of the wound on Carter's chest, and Luka moved to apply pressure to the wound. The resident was losing blood, and fast, but Luka didn't have the equipment necessary to do anything about it. The EKG continued to show no cardiac activity. Luka quickly gave the ambu bag another push.
"Charge to 250 and CLEAR!"
The paramedics administered a more powerful shock, as Luka met Peter Benton's dead, blank, unblinking gaze. "Give another amp of Epi....." Luka said, then they saw the blip on the monitor.
"Wait! He's got a beat!" Benton said, watching as the scene unfolded before him. He couldn't control this. He had no idea how long Carter had been down, or if they should even be performing "heroic" measures. Looking at his watch, he berated himself again over how stupid he had been not to check the time on the platform. Now he couldn't even remember what time it had been the last time he looked at his watch. Benton shut his eyes tightly, and told himself that they were doing the right thing. Carter had a chance... Peter had to take it; he couldn't let his friend die here, like this.
"Okay, we have a rhythm, let's move him out!" The paramedics lifted John onto the backboard and out of the train car.
'Sure,' Benton thought, 'he has a rhythm, if it can even be called that, but how long was he without oxygen?' He didn't want to bring Carter back only to live as a shell of his former self, a living, breathing vegetable. But it was out of his hands. It was out of his hands the moment he walked onto the El car. It was out of Carter's hands the moment he boarded the train. It was so arbitrary, just like the other time. Benton fleetingly wondered how random things could conspire against Carter with such a vengeance.
After a very brief, very brutal verbal argument, Luka rode with Carter in the ambulance, while Benton stayed at the scene to instruct the newly arrived paramedics on which victims were stable and which needed to be transported first. It took Peter Benton less than ten minutes to help the paramedics, then he raced back to County.
What the hell did the greater good matter anyway? he wondered angrily as he viciously pummeled his way through the unyielding crowd of curious on-lookers. If Carter didn't make it, and Benton had been delayed because Luka ordered him to stay behind -
The surgeon shook his head, not wanting to concentrate on thoughts of revenge, especially against the person who had managed to keep Carter alive this long. Kovac had been doing the job; it wasn't his fault that the job involved a friend this time, again. Besides, none of that was important, as long as Carter was still alive. And if he wasn't... The last thing Benton wanted was for the younger man to die alone. He knew his parents had left him alone, the women in his life, all left him again, alone. He couldn't stand the thought of Carter dying alone.
Benton picked up his pace, and entered the ambulance bay doors, very much out of breath, looking around quickly to see which room had the most activity. He knew Carter would be there. It had been maybe twelve minutes, thirteen tops... They wouldn't have called it yet.