Life Saver, Part 2

Keith Alan

DAMNIT! Shot again!

I am NEVER doing product work again! What the hell is it with these morons? Why are they so quick to violence?

My "bodyguard" is sensibly behind a barrier. Clearly his reflexes are an order of magnitude better than mine. Like an idiot, I was standing out in the open. I glance at him from my position on the ground, hoping he'll rescue me yet again. Then I see him suddenly stand up and, in what appears to be rapid fire, sweep the pistol I didn't even know he was carrying around in an arc.

At first I think he's also an idiot, randomly firing like the morons were doing (my wound was no doubt bad luck on my part, I'm sure it ricocheted off something before it hit me), then I realize it's silent, no more gun fire. He looks at me. I'm pressing with all my might on my thigh, doing my best not to bleed to death in the next few seconds. He grabs me by my collar and drags me behind the barrier. When I look up he's vanished. I don't hear anything and am wondering if he left me to die. He didn't do that last time, which is what got us into this situation.

The previous time a client threatened my life I foolishly shrugged it off. Then that client came back and shot me in the chest. Dumb luck that my "bodyguard," he called himself Bob at the time, happened to arrive the moment I got shot. Bob killed him with a single blow to the back of the head. With his fist! Then took me to a veterinarian who removed the bullet and stitched me up.

This time, when a different client threatened me, I decided to be proactive. Perhaps too proactive, given the blood steadily flowing between my clenched fingers. Since Bob was so casually efficient at killing that last person, I thought I would hire him to accompany me, feeling confident he could handle things if they got out of control. Usually, Bob hires me to convey him about the globe, people smuggling has steadily been increasing as a percentage of my business, but I still did some package work. Well, no more; if I live through this I'm sticking with people!

Over the next several hours long minute or so before he returns, I hear occasional gunfire. Bob shows up and looks down at me with his typical expressionless expression. I don't see his pistol any longer. I guess it's back to the mysterious location from whence it originated. Bob bends down and picks me up like I were a child. I knew he was strong, based on how he bashed the brains out of that other guy who tried to kill me, but this is amazing. Granted, I spend most of my time sitting on my ass, but he looks really normal to me, completely average. As I lay in his arms, continuing to do my best to minimize my bleeding, I realize his arms feel like stone. The guy must work out hours a day to be like this.

Bob carries me to a table inside an office. He places me on the edge, then sweeps all the stuff onto the floor. He pushes my torso down, then slips something under my butt to raise my thigh. He pulls a light over and shines it where I got hit. With casual efficiency, he cuts away my pants and starts to clean things. From somewhere he got some kind of medical kit and is using it on me. Every time he pulls my hands away blood spurts out. I figure this is a really bad thing. I didn't bleed this much when I was shot in the chest! If he's concerned, he isn't showing anything. Then again, I can't recall when he's shown much change of expression at all. I have to suppose that he wouldn't be spending his time if he thought I was going to die, so try to relax and trust he knows what he's doing.

He squirts something in the wound and the blood very quickly stops spurting. Some kind of magical compound, I guess. I wonder how expensive the stuff is. I find myself starting to feel cold and am having problems keeping focus on what he's doing. The room starts to swim, kind of like bed spins from too much drinking. Bob glances at me for a moment and says "Just relax." Amazingly, I feel better almost instantly. I take a few deep, shuddering breaths and work hard to take his advice. I'm staring at the ceiling, trying not to pass out, when I notice I keep hearing a "clinking" noise. I force myself to look at my thigh and see him with some sort of forceps rooting around. Looking at the depth of the forceps in my thigh, I get light headed again and decide the best course of action is to return to studying the ceiling.

I find I'm able to look at Bob's shoulders without getting lightheaded, so see he's still intently working on me. Finally, he pauses and turns around to look at me. He pulls out this bag of clear liquid, hooks it up with a clear hose, then jabs my arm with a needle. The fluid seems to help, after just a minute or so I stop feeling like I'm on the edge of fainting. I recall this from those medical shows on TV as well as my vaguely remembered last experience being shot. I guess it's an IV, whatever "IV" stands for. Bob immediately turns back to my thigh after he hooked up the IV thing. At least the bed spins stopped.

Bob glances at me every now and again. After one of these times, he has me hold the bag of fluid in my hand and holding my hand as far above me as I can manage. I see some dripping in the tube, the dripping speeds up the higher I hold it. I can feel the coolness flowing through my arm. It's a really weird sensation. At least it gives me something to focus on.

I suppose it may have been 20 minutes since he carried me into the room when he starts to finish things up. He wraps gauze around and around my thigh, then puts a few wraps of tape on top of that. Amazingly I haven't felt any pain. I wondered about that last time. It sure hurt later! I suppose once my thigh starts hurting it will hurt like hell for days.

Bob takes off my shoe and sock on my shot leg, looks over at me and tells me to wiggle my toes. He seems satisfied after a moment of that and puts my sock back on. Doesn't bother with the shoe; it's covered with blood anyway so I doubt I'll want to keep it. Once again, he picks me up and carries me as if I were a child. He deposits me in the back of my plane, but on the floor and with a bunch of stuff under my legs. My legs are well above my chest, this time I feel some throbbing in my thigh. I guess the pain is on its way, though based on past experiences I greet that prospect with some satisfaction.

Bob disappears for a while. I glance at my watch from time to time and see he's gone for around a half hour. I'm still holding the bag of fluid in my hand (a second one, the first ran dry as he was carrying me to the plane) as high above me as I can reach. I either pass out or fall asleep. I wake up several times when my arm clunks to the floor. Finally, I hear him pull up the stairs, then the engines start and feel the plane start to taxi. I wonder if we're going to another vet again or what. I doubt we want to visit a real hospital and deal with the required explanations.

When the bag runs out of fluid, I decide I no longer needed to keep my arm up in the air, then must have fallen asleep. I wake up wrapped in blankets and surrounded by seat bottoms. He must have raided every seat on the plane. I shift around, stiff from lying on the floor and realize my forbearance is at an end, the pain has begun. I must have groaned. I hear steps coming from the cockpit. I look up at his upside down face, peering at me.

"Another hour or so and I'll be putting you in a real bed. You'll have to go hungry for a while longer. I don't want to be out of the cockpit for very long."

I try to nod at him, but he's already gone. I didn't feel hungry until he said something, now that's all I can think about. The throbbing in my thigh is an incessant, painful pounding. I curse myself for wishing the pain would start. After a few minutes of struggling to be less uncomfortable, I manage to get back to sleep.

The next thing I remember, he's carrying me off the plane. It's night, and other than seeing some stars, I have no idea where I am. I'm carried into some sort of rustic looking, one-room cabin and he sets me down on a bed. He again props my legs up, then piles blankets on top of me. He sets up another bag of fluid, this time hangs it from a nail on the wall. At least I won't have to try and manage that.

"I'm going to get a professional to look in on you. I should be back in a couple of hours. I've put some candy bars next to the bed, along with some sports drink, but try to take it easy on this stuff as you might find yourself puking if you to go fast. Here's a bedpan. I assume you know how to use it."

I nod at that. I'd plenty of experience last time I went through this. Bob heads out, locking the door behind him. For a minute or so I look around. It's a spare, yet comfortable looking camping cabin, with a large, full bookcase on one wall. I can tell the lights are all solar; low voltage light has its own particular glow about it. I see a large fireplace, wood stacked neatly nearby, but there's no chance I'll be starting any fire. The "decoration" fairly screams out primitive man. I wonder if a woman has ever seen this place. Guys can always recognise other man caves. Though I still shiver from time to time, I'm starting to get pleasantly warm from the pile of blankets on top of me and am able to drift off to sleep once again.

I wake up when I feel someone touching me. I must have been asleep for several hours as I can see sunlight through the window. I look up at the back of someone unfamiliar. Their focus seems to be entirely on my thigh. The blankets that were covering my legs are now piled on my torso. I can feel some probing on my thigh. I wonder why it isn't painful. I see some movement beyond and can just catch a glimpse of Bob over this other person's shoulder. Now they're murmuring to each other. Though I feel perfectly lucid now, I can't make any sense of the language they're speaking. The unfamiliar person seems to be a man, though, based on the bass tone of the conversation.

Bob nods and reaches over me to the empty bag hanging on the wall. He gets out a new one, then injects something in it, from a vial given to him by the mysterious stranger. After Bob hangs the bag back up, and I feel that now familiar coolness flowing in my arm, I realize I really, really need to pee. I start to struggle to get to an angle that I can use the bedpan. The stranger guesses what I'm up to and I can feel him touching me. Normally I would be extremely uncomfortable with anyone, particularly a man, touching me there, but under these circumstances my sense of urgency has completely suppressed those thoughts. Bob looks at me and says "It's OK, let it go." My sense of relief is unbelievable. I must have sounded like a deflating tire as I sighed in relaxation.

The man hands the pan to Bob, who pours it in the little sink, then rinses everything. As he brings it back to the bed, Bob pulls the blankets over my legs. They talk again in whatever language they've been using. I can see Bob nod from time to time and, based on the tone, ask a few questions. Seemingly satisfied, Bob hands the mystery man a significant wad of cash, then ushers him out the door. Not once did the man ever look at me. I guess we're all safer that way.

It's a couple of hours before Bob gets back. I guess he was driving the mystery person back to wherever he got him from. I fitfully doze off and on, eventually struggling to pee in the bedpan again. Hopefully I didn't make a mess. I can't see a damn thing about what I'm doing. I didn't feel anything suddenly get warm and wet, though, so hopefully I didn't embarrass myself.

Bob gets back and sees I'm awake.

"It looks like you'll live, once again."

"I really need to break this habit of getting shot! At least you've been there to pluck my ass back from the precipice!"

"The doc says I did a passable job, so you just need a couple of days and we can get you out of here."

"Where are we?"

"In a place you don't need to know about."

I get a serious look from him. I decide this is just the sort of questioning that could get me dropped off a real cliff, so shut the hell up.

The next several days are rather boring, but at least I can waddle to the toilet and don't need the damn bedpan. It's some sort of box-like affair, no water to flush. Instead, just sprinkle sawdust on the leavings. I'm surprised it doesn't stink. If it has any smell at all it might be like dirt from the woods. The trips hurt like hell. When I get back, I often have to lie in the bed for a half hour or so to let the pain ebb enough to focus on anything else.

Bob often sits in a corner, reading a book. He got the fire started and the heat radiating out feels nice. The air in the cabin isn't that cold, but most of the morning's smell like there's frost outside. Bob tells me the titles of the books in his library. The English stuff isn't that extensive, so I wind up reading about the Roman Empire. The subject is a little bit interesting, but I keep getting lost in all the different names and dates, so am really just skimming it out of boredom.

Finally, Bob decides I've been healing long enough. It's dark. I guess I don't need to see the surroundings. Before, I'd never bought into the concept of "ignorance is bliss," but now I'm happy to do so. We ride for an hour or so and wind up at a small grass air strip. I see my plane parked off to the side, and get a bit of deja vu from the last experience. He drops me off at the plane, then parks the SUV off to the side somewhere. I slowly hobble up the stairs and have only just reached the top when he returns.

I struggle into the cockpit. While I can bend my knee, the stretching of the skin is amazingly painful, so it's a lot of awkward bending and twisting of the rest of my body. I occasionally see Bob outside with a flashlight, doing the exterior checkout. I've only just settled into the seat when I hear him pull up the steps. He joins me in the cockpit and begins to go over the plane's startup checklist. I'm not able to offer much help, but he doesn't seem to need any, so I just relax.

I'd been taking to calling him "Bob" whenever we met, ignoring whatever name he offered. He didn't seem to care and it gave me some continuity and was one less thing to remember. As we got ready to take off I realized I'd never introduced myself.

"Hello! My name is Jim."

I hold out my hand. He looks at it, then looks at my face; his is the usual noncommittal. After 30 seconds or so, he reaches out to grasp my hand and says:

"Hello Jim. You can call me Seacay, if you like."

Hmm, no doubt this is another assumed name, but I have to imagine it's more important to him than the usual names he gives me.

"Thank you, Seacay. For saving my life. Twice."

He shrugs and turns his attention to getting ready to take off. It's just as well, my leg is practically unusable so I can't manage the foot controls myself.

"When did you learn to fly a plane?"

"After your tutorials, I spent some time reading about the topic. While there are clearly elements where experience matters, the basic mechanics aren't that difficult to understand. The most interesting part for me was learning about short-term weather prediction. I've actually used that knowledge a number of times operationally and find it's amazingly accurate."

Wow, I think that's the most he's spoken to me at one time, ever. He must be passionate about flying to have got so much out of him.

"I'm glad you got something out of my monologues. Didn't you take formal classes?"

"The only plane I've ever flown has been yours."

As he focuses on taking off, I watch in amazement. If what he said is true, and why would he lie about it, he's learned to fly by reading a few books and watching me. Scary and impressive as hell at the same time. He's very casual and makes no mistakes, though I can't help but watch him closer now that I realize his inexperience. Technically, he's right. Flying a plane isn't that much more challenging than driving a truck. Even though there is the third dimension, in many ways it's easier since there are no unpredictable morons trying to drive themselves under your wheels. Yet I don't think I know anyone who would be so comfortable flying a plane with just a couple of ad-hoc lessons and some book reading.

When we get back to civilization, I notice he erases the GPS logs. I do that quite often myself. I don't want anyone to know where I've been flying. But it was interesting to me that he also did so. I was careful to _not_ look at the GPS when we were at the airstrip. I want to remain blissfully ignorant.

The price we'd agreed on for his actions as a bodyguard was never claimed. I had it in cash in a briefcase and "somehow" it got left on my plane when it was all said and done. For a couple of times afterwards, I would bring the case and hand it to him. He would always act grateful and apologize for having forgot it. Once again, it would mysteriously turn up after the job was over. I decided I was better off not to make a big deal about it. Clearly, if he felt wrong about taking my money, I would be wrong to push him. Perhaps he saw his help as simply a way to ensure my services remained available to him.

In subsequent jobs, Seacay would talk more as we flitted about the globe. Still not very chatty, but instead of an almost pure monologue on my part I would get questions and occasional comments from him. I have lots of time alone in the air and when waiting for clients, so might have taken advantage of his stoicism to verbally puke all over him. He never seemed to mind, though. After my fourth or fifth complaint about my latest girlfriend, he commented that my stories made him very happy he sticks with one-night-stands.

I estimated, one time as I bore through the air at altitude to pick him up, that we had collectively spent a couple of hundred hours together in a cockpit. Yet all I really knew about him was a name that is a virtual certainty to be assumed, that he's into one-night-stands, is in unbelievable physical shape and is incredibly good at killing people. He has to know everything about me. I can't think of any aspect of my life I haven't bored him with at some point over that time.

There was this one trip that was different, though. I generally get plenty of notice regarding a job. Well, plenty in this business. But this time he said he expected to need me immediately. The pickup was in the US midwest, just into the "foothills"' of the Rockies. Not the first time I've been there, it's one of the very few places with repetition. When he gets in the plane and joins me in the cockpit, he's even more quiet than usual. Normally his face is entirely expressionless, but this time it has a peculiar set look about it. Unusual for him, he seems lost in thought. Normally he doesn't seem to miss anything.

When I drop him off, he tells me my debt is paid, then leaves to join a blonde woman in a car. Just like the cash, he can choose to ignore my debt, but I'm not going to. It's clear something important is going on. I decide to wait for a few days to see if I might be able to lend a hand later.

Not surprisingly to me, in a couple of days I do get contacted again. He wants an exfiltration of someone. Since that's basically my job description, there's no issue. I improve somewhat on his basic plan and tell him where to meet me. Other than weight, I didn't get any information about my new passenger, so may have starred in slack jawed amazement when they arrived. She is easily the most beautiful woman I ever recall seeing, in person, on the TV or in movies. The only flaw, if one could attribute that word to such perfection, is she isn't as well endowed up top as I like. She clearly went through something nasty, though. She's heavily bruised and has small cuts all over.

I didn't get any name from her, not unusual at all, but she sat with me in the cockpit quite a few hours as we flew our convoluted path back to Seacay's place. She, at least, seems to have had some formal training, though on single engine two seaters. My jet was something new for her. She's amazingly smart, likely smarter than she is beautiful, if that's even possible. Intimidating too, if she weren't so easy going and friendly. She picked up flying the plane amazingly quickly as well. Clearly, Seacay sees more than just her body.

It wasn't too long after that when Seacay was at his most chatty. Sometimes things work out really well and I can pick up a fare, so to speak, both ways and don't have to "deadhead." This was one of those circumstances. I needed to be somewhere, Seacay wanted to get to to the same location, so I could give him a drastic rate cut since I'd already charged my other client for the full trip.

Like our previous trip, I can tell he's distracted. Shortly after we reach altitude, and my job becomes keeping an eye out for other planes, he starts to have the most personal conversation I've ever had with him. It seems things weren't going that smoothly with his new woman. I get names this time, the woman who rode with me is Isabel. Seacay's description of her was amusing, her beauty was the last attribute he listed. Brains was first, but deadly reflexes was second. I can't imagine being turned on by deadly reflexes, but Seacay clearly operates in a different world than I do. Then he tells me about this other woman, Tessa. Apparently they have a three-way relationship. Tessa, it seems, is even more deadly. My imagination was running wild thinking about two beautiful women at once. I've been a serial monogamist my whole life, so never got beyond fantasies.

It seems that Seacay's sexual expectations were not being met. I get that. I've had that problem many times in my varied relationships. Most of the time, women think being with a pilot is really romantic and are excited when we fly to another state, or even country, for a dinner and a show, but that quickly pales once they realize that translates to my being gone a lot. Often with little or no notice. There is also this very repeatable artifact where once we start shacking up, the sex frequency and quality goes into the toilet. I'm sure that's part of what Seacay is experiencing, he'll just have to learn to adapt or find a way to move on. He lacks any experience, though, since he's been all about one-night-stands until he hooked up with Isabel and Tessa.

I wind up getting to know them all pretty well. Soon afterwards, we start to vacation together a time or two each year. I'm quite sure that at least a few of those vacations were not entirely about relaxing. I feel sure they had some job on the side. But I suspect people like that aren't entirely relaxed unless there is at least a little mayhem involved.