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Novels: In That Moment #1[#2}

Chapter Two

I love the night.
I love everything about it.
I love how the blackness hides things that I might not want to see, yet at the same time exposes things that I wouldn’t see in the light of day.  I love the stars and the moon and the velvety wetness against my skin.  I love how Lake Michigan turns black in the dark and shimmers like shattered onyx glass in the moonlight.
It always feels a little bit dangerous. Maybe that’s why I like it, too.
I grip my camera as I step over the soft, damp sand of the beach.  The breeze is always cool here, but it’s just because the air is cold as it blows in from the lake.  The water is always frigid, summer or winter, like God dumped a big glass of ice water into it.  I wrap my sweater more tightly around me before I look through the lens again.
The moon is full tonight and it hangs just at the edge of the horizon, right where the water meets the sky.  It’s got a reddish tint to it, something that we don’t get to see very often.  The sailors call it a Blood Moon and I can see why.  It’s ethereal and beautiful; haunting, actually.  It’s why I’m here tonight.
I start snapping pictures; kneeling, standing, then kneeling again.
When a large wisp of fog floats partially in front of the moon, I gasp.  I’ve never seen a more perfect picture.  It will make an amazing painting.  And the framed print will look good, too.  Either way works for me since I’ve got customers for both.
I take at least a hundred pictures before I’m finally satisfied with the light, the luminosity and the angle.  As I tuck my camera into its bag, I take a huge breath of the fresh, crisp lake air and enjoy my walk back along the beach.  I love the way my bare feet sink into the thick silvery sand and I take care not to trip over random pieces of jagged driftwood.
It’s a good night to let my thoughts drift.  The air is so still and the silence is enormous.  Even the seagulls have gone to sleep, so there is no one here to bother me.  Complete and perfect solitude.
As the breeze blows my hair away from my face, I absently think of my to-do list in my studio and what I need to order tomorrow when I re-stock my supplies.  I also wonder if I remembered to lock my house, although it won’t be a huge issue if I didn’t.
In a larger city, I’d have to be more careful about that, and definitely more careful about walking alone at night.  But here in Angel Bay, I’m as safe as I’m going to get.  We have a crime rate here that belongs in a 1950’s Mayberry kind of town.  The most crime we see is jaywalking during peak tourist season.
As I climb over a dune and into the parking lot where I left my car, I’m surprised to find a black, glistening muscle car facing the lake.  It hadn’t been here when I arrived earlier.
I sigh.  My solitude has been interrupted.  But honestly, it doesn’t matter.  I’m leaving anyway.
Slipping my shoes back on, I pad across the pavement toward my car, but as I do, I notice that the other car’s door is standing wide open.  I can hear the dinging sound from here. Apparently, the keys are still in the ignition.
That’s strange and I pause, staring at the lonely car.
I’m uncertain, because it’s dark and I’m alone.  But the insistent buzzing ding of the open car door pulls me to it.  I can only hope that the owner isn’t a mass murderer.  I curl my fingers around the cell phone in my pocket, as if it could actually shield me from danger. Regardless of the ridiculousness of that thought, I keep the phone planted firmly in my palm.
As I draw closer, I see a black battered boot dangling through the doorsill of the car.  It isn’t moving.
Normally, I wouldn’t think anything of it.  I’d think that the person attached to the black boot was just asleep.  But something seems wrong here.  Something tangibly ominous seems to hang about like a cloud.  Not many people could sleep with that annoying buzz coming from the open door.
I creep up on the car and gaze inside, covering my mouth with my hand as I do.  There is an overpowering stench of vomit and I immediately see the reason.  The guy in the driver’s seat has passed out in a large pool of orangey-red puke.  His mouth is slack, hanging open, and sticky tendrils of vomit stretch from his chin to his chest.  I shudder.  It’s definitely not this guy’s finest hour.
He’s very, very still, but I know he’s breathing because he’s making strange gurgling noises.  The tiny snorts vibrate through the cartilage of his nose, muffled by the vomit bubbling around his mouth.
That can’t be good.
I gag from the smell and shake his shoulder.  His head lolls loosely around and hangs to his chest.  I shake him again, but he doesn’t come to, his head just jerks limply from side to side, like a doll with a broken neck.
Holy crap.
I feel more panicky by the minute, my heart thrumming like a hummingbird trapped inside my ribcage.  I’m not sure what to do.  He could’ve just passed out from drinking too much. In fact, I see a bottle of whiskey on the floorboard that could attest to that.  But there’s something wrong.  Something that I can’t put my finger on, but my gut is screaming at me now.
So I do the first thing that I think of.
I pull out my phone and call 9-1-1.
They answer on the second ring and ask what my emergency is.  I stare at the young guy.
“I’m not sure,” I say uncertainly.  “But my name is Mila Hill and I’m down on Goose Beach in the parking lot.  There’s a guy here, passed out in his car.  I can’t wake him up.  I think something’s wrong with him.”
“Is he breathing?” the woman on the phone asks calmly.  I check again, then tell her yes. 
“That’s good,” she tells me.  “Do you feel comfortable waiting there until help arrives?”
“Yes,” I tell her.  “I’ll wait with him.”
Knowing that help is on the way calms me down.
I move a couple steps away and watch the unconscious man.
He still isn’t moving, except for the slow, ragged rise and fall of his chest.  I swallow hard as I glance over the rest of him.  He’s got tattoos on his toned bicep and a jagged scar in the shape of an X at the base of his thumb.  I know this, because his arm is now dangling outside of the car. Vomit runs down his forearm and drips onto the pavement.  I cringe and move back to him, lifting his hand and placing it on his stomach.
His stomach is hard and flat.  And covered in vomit.  If he weren’t lying in that vomit, he’d be handsome.  That much is certain, even in the dark.  He looks to be in his mid to late twenties.  He’s wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and has brownish-blonde hair.  He’s got day old stubble and I find myself really wishing that he’d open his eyes.
“Wake up,” I tell him.  I don’t know him, but I definitely want him to be okay. I’ve seen friends pass out from drinking before. This isn’t that.  This is far worse.  The strange gurgling coming from his nose is proof of that.
I glance at his car again.  I’ve seen it around town, but I don’t know him.  I’ve never bumped into him before…until now. And this isn’t a great first impression.
I am trying to wake him again when I hear a woman’s angry voice.
“Pax, you f**king ass**le.  I’m not walking into town, so you’re going to take me.  I f**king mean it.”
I startle, then straighten up to come face-to-face with the owner of the less-than-pleasant words.
She’s as startled as I am.
I’ve seen her before.  She’s a rough-around-the-edges woman who hangs out all day in a bar on Main Street. Since my shop is only a few blocks away, I’ve seen her walking around.  Right now, she’s wearing a tight-tight mini skirt and a shirt that is so low cut, I can practically see her navel.  She’s covered in old, faded tattoos and her make-up is smeared.  Classy.
“Who the f**k are you?” she demands as she stomps up to the car.  Her brown hair is tousled and tangled.  She looks harsh. And then she starts screaming when she sees the guy in the car.
“Pax!” she screams, as she rushes to him. “Oh my god.  Wake up.  Wake up!  I shouldn’t have left you.  Holy f**k, holy f**k.”
“What’s wrong with him?” I ask her quickly.  “I called 9-1-1 because I couldn’t wake him.”
She yanks her face away from his.
“You called the police?” she snaps.  “Why would you do that?”
I’m incredulous.  Clearly, her way of thinking is much different than my own.  Her priorities are definitely in a different place.
“Because he needs help,” I tell her.  “Obviously. An ambulance is on the way.”
She starts to glare at me again, but the guy in the car, Pax, starts gurgling again. And then he abruptly stops. He is still, his chin buried in his chest which is no longer moving. 
The woman and I look at each other.
“He’s not breathing!” she cries as she grabs him.  “Pax!  Wake up!!”
She’s shaking him so hard now that his teeth are rattling.  I grab her arm.
“That’s not going to help,” I tell her urgently.
Holy crap.  She’s right though, he’s not breathing.  My mind is buzzing as I try to figure out what to do and before I can decide on a plan of action, my body is moving with a mind of its own.
I shove the woman out of the way and pull on Pax’s arm with all of my might.  He only comes partway out of the car, dangling half in, half out.  He slumps over, his head almost grazing the concrete.  His legs are firmly tangled beneath the steering wheel and we are now both covered in his smelly vomit.
“Help me,” I bark at the motionless woman.  She snaps out of her hysteria and between the two of us, we drag the man out of the car and onto the sandy pavement.  I kneel beside him and feel for a heartbeat.  He’s got one, but it’s faint and thready. And since he’s not breathing, I know it won’t last long.
I try to remember the details of CPR, fail and then just do the best I can.  I pinch his nose closed, tilt his head back and breathe into his mouth.  He tastes like ashes, Jack Daniels and vomit.  I fight the urge to gag, fail, and dry heave to the side.  Then I square my shoulders and give him a couple more breaths.
I gag again as I pause and listen at his chest.
He’s still not breathing.
“Do something,” the woman hisses.
I tune her out and breathe into Pax’s mouth again.
And again.
And again.
What the hell do I do now?  I am past being repulsed at the taste in his mouth.  I’m only focused on trying to keep his lungs filled with oxygen, trying to make him take his own breaths.  But it’s not working.
He’s not breathing.
I am frantic and on the verge of hysteria myself, when I give him two last futile breaths.  And then I have to lunge out of the way as he chokes, then coughs, then vomits in a geyser-like fountain of orange puke.
I quickly shove him onto his side so he doesn’t choke on it.
By this point, he and I are both completely covered in his vomit.  It isn’t pleasant, but at least he’s breathing now.  It’s ragged and slow, but he’s breathing.  His eyes are still closed, but I can see them moving now, rapidly, behind his eyelids.
And then he starts convulsing.
Oh my God.  I don’t know what to do.
“What do we do?” I cry out to the girl behind me.
I don’t even look at her, I am just focused on the orange foam coming from this guy’s mouth.  It billows out and upward, soaking into his nostrils and smearing everywhere as he flails.  Bits of it fly off of him in orange flecks and land on my sweater.
I grab his arm and hold it down.  He’s strong, even in this state and it takes all of my weight to keep him immobile.  I practically lie across his chest, his arm folded beneath me.  After a moment, his convulsions stop and he’s limp.  But he’s still breathing.  I can hear the rattle of his chest. It seems like every breath he takes is an effort.
I am on the verge of crying, simply from not knowing what to do, when I see red and blue lights flashing against his car.
I exhale a breath of relief.  Help has arrived.
Thank God.
“Run over and bring them here,” I tell the girl.  I turn, only to find her gone.
What the hell?
I peer into the darkness and see her running away, up and over the nearest sand dune.  Apparently, she doesn’t want to be here when the authorities arrive.
It takes the paramedics only a minute or so to leap from their ambulance and begin administering help to the prone man in front of me.
I’m not sure what to do, so I shrink back to the periphery and limply wait.  I watch as they shove a breathing tube down his throat.  And then I watch as they do chest compressions, which can only mean one thing.
His heart stopped.
At that realization, mine feels like it stops as well.
I don’t know why.  I don’t even know him.  But being thrown into this intense situation makes me feel connected to him.  It’s a stupid notion, but I can’t help feeling it.  Even though the only thing I really know about him is his name.
I can hear the sickening sound of his bones cracking and bending while the paramedics thrust hard against his chest, trying to force his heart into beating again.  It makes me cringe and I look away, trying to tune it out.  It’s at this moment, while my eyes are squeezed shut, that a police officer approaches me and asks me some questions.
Do I know him?
What was I doing here?
How did I find him?
Was he alone?
The cop’s monotone runs together and I answer as best as I can.
By the time he is done, the EMTs are loading Pax into the ambulance.  They run to the front and jump in, their tires squealing as they lurch from the parking lot and onto the road leading to town.  Their siren and lights are on.
That’s got to be a good thing.
That means he is still alive.
I’m frozen in place and shaky as I stare at the car, as I watch the policeman search through it.  He puts some items into plastic baggies and shakes his head.
“I don’t know why I bother.  His dad will get him off, just like he did last time.”
The cop is muttering and I’m not sure if he’s talking to me or to himself.  So I ask.
He smiles grimly. “Either of us, I guess.  The situation is just frustrating. Here’s a kid who could have the world on a string, but he seems to be dead set on f**king himself up.  Pardon my language, miss.  But he needs to land himself in jail or rehab, in order to straighten himself out. But he comes from money and his father is some big shot attorney in Chicago, so he always gets a pass.  One of these times, though, someone’s gonna take him away in a body bag.  He’s just lucky that you found him in time tonight or today would have been the day.”
I picture the orange foam that erupted from his mouth as Pax had convulsed on the rough pavement in front of me and I’m not so sure that I’d use that word.  Whatever he is, lucky doesn’t seem to be it.
I’m shaken now as I head to my car and drop onto the seat.  I am covered in vomit and my mouth tastes like an ashtray from the seediest bar in the world.  I grab a bottle of water and gulp at it, swishing it around inside my mouth and then spitting it out on the ground.
What the hell just happened?  I had come here to get some shots of the beautiful, tranquil full moon and had ended up saving someone’s life.
Unless he dies.
And in that case, then I guess I ended up doing nothing at all…except acquiring a horrible taste of someone else’s vomit in my mouth and seeing images that I am sure will haunt my dreams for some time to come.
I take another shaky drink of water and turn the key in my ignition.
I hope he doesn’t die.
I really do.


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