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Slice 290 of 365

Feeling super lazy today, so I’m giving you a sneak peek at a chapter from the Jersey Justice sequel.

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Glass, café chairs, and other assorted shrapnel sprayed the area. I dropped to the ground as the town car took most of the brunt from the blast. Waiting until I heard nothing else dropping from the sky, I looked up into a cloud of smoke and dust. My ears were ringing. I could hear muffled screams and cries for help. I heard running and shouting. I heard chaos.

Quickly taking assessment of my body, I decided I was OK.  I got to my feet, shook the debris off my back and took in the scene. Smoke was pouring from what used to be RJ’s. The glow of flames could be seen inside. A crowd was gathering. Several people lay on the ground, injured. A policeman was already on scene, he must have been nearby.

I made sure the old women in the Lincoln was OK, she didn’t have a scratch on her. That’s the way American cars were built then. I ran to an injured man, who waved me off, “I’m OK, there was a kid on a bike right behind me. Find her,” he yelled. I nodded acknowledgement and looked for a child and a bicycle.

It was difficult to see through the smoke and dust but under a pile of debris I spotted a pink sneaker with sparkles. She was covered with glass and red bricks. I grabbed whatever I could, throwing it aside, slicing my hand in the process but I just kept going. Uncovering her showed blood and slashes to her body, her purple bike, a twisted mess of metal beneath her. She got caught right outside the store. With no glass left in the large picture window, I could feel the heat of the flames rising.

She had to be moved quickly. Carefully I picked her up and started across the street to a safer area. Fire trucks and emergency personnel were now filling the scene. The second explosion happened after I had gotten just a few feet, throwing me to the ground. I did my best to shield the little girl while not falling on top of her. It must have been a gas line that blew.

Everyone took cover. I again examined my body and all my parts seemed to be there, so I took off like a bat out of hell behind a car parked across the street. I laid my little package down gently so I could find an EMT when I discovered she wasn’t breathing.

I stood and yelled help, but nobody could hear me over the chaotic commotion. I knelt down beside her and did my best to recall my last CPR class that seemed like eons ago. Tilting her head back, I pinched her nose and breathed in two breaths. I took her pulse. No heartbeat. I breathed in two more breathes, laced my fingers and started chest compressions.  I repeated this process several times before a cop found me and alerted a couple of medics.

“Don’t stop,” said medic number one, hurrying to my side and kneeling. His name tag said Frank. He retrieved his stethoscope and placed it on her chest. As he did, she began to cough. Oh, thank heaven, she was breathing.

“Roll her on her side,” instructed medic number two, whose name tag I couldn’t see but who I recognized. I wasn’t sure if she recognized me. Just as we rolled the little patient, she vomited up some blood. “OK, she probably has some internal bleeding, we need to stabilize her and get her to Valley Hospital, Stat.”

She and her partner worked a few more minutes. The girl lay unconscious, and I could see her face now. She looked to be about five or six. Bright red hair and the requisite freckles that went along with it. It was hard to tell with the medics over her and she was on her back, but I’d bet Carmen’s boobs that she was wearing two braids in her hair. They loaded her into an ambulance which sped off for the three-minute drive.

“What about her parents?” I asked Kathy the medic. The Kathy I’d used to escape the hospital last summer. The Kathy who might still be pissed at me and had a right to be.

She looked me up and down. “The cops are working on finding her parents. She didn’t have any identification and no one is looking for her yet, so it seems she was alone.”

“OK, good, if I can help with that in any way,” I trailed off, waiting for her to deck me.

“I’ll let the police know.” She started to walk away. Turning back, she said, “You’re forgiven, Jimmy.”

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I asked anyway, “Why?”

“Because you saved her life.” She turned and jogged back to her rig.

Everything happened so fast I hadn’t even thought about that. I made a note in my phone to stop by the hospital after I was done here and check on her.

Refocusing on what had happened, I sought out someone in charge. I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing her. Wanda Mae Wilky was 30 yards away, barking out orders like a drill sergeant to her grunts. It would have been amusing to watch had there not been bomb rubble strewn about.

Slowly I made my way to her side. I didn’t want to get in her way for fear she might swallow me whole and vomit up my bones.  She had yet to see me when shots began to ring out.  Pulling her to the ground quickly, I instinctively covered her body with mine. She was a big girl, I barely covered half of her. Unfortunately it was the top half of her where we met face to breast. I considered motor-boating them but there were bullets flying.

“God damn it, Jimmy. Get the fuck off me!” she yelled. “Feel me up when it’s not a life-threatening situation, OK?”

I rolled off her before the laser beam eyes could activate. Side by side in the prone position we lay and surveyed the scene. More shots rang out. Or what sounded like shots. They didn’t seem to be hitting anything.

The fire chief, who was on the ground like everybody else, carefully rose and made his way closer to the fire. “It’s not gun fire!” he yelled out. “It’s firecrackers.” He cupped his hand to his ear. “Not sure where they are exactly, but it’s definitely not gunfire. Everybody back to work,” he commanded.

The chaotic activity resumed and all the little ants did their leader’s bidding.

Getting to my feet, I could see Wanda, hand on hip, waiting to rip into me. I should have run but instead I said, “How the hell are ya, Wanda?” I went to hug her and she kicked me in the shin.

“You gonna buy me dinner first before you touch me again, Jimmy Vincent.”

Hopping on one foot, I went with it, “Italian or Chinese?”

“Thai, that place in Hackensack on Main Street.”

“Geez, Thai and Chinese are basically the same thing,” I said, able to use both legs again without too much pain.  For an FBI agent you’d think she could do something cooler than kicking me in the shin, although it was very effective.

“What are you doing here Jimmy?” her patience obviously wearing thin.

Of course I wanted to make the smart ass remark, but my other shin told me to watch it.  “An old high school buddy of mine, who I haven’t seen or heard from in years, owns this place, I was coming to see him.” I told her the truth.

“Why is it, trouble follows you, and I happen to be there?” she asked rhetorically and then continued, “so you just happen to be here.”

I nodded.

“To see an old high school buddy.”

I nodded again.

“Who happens to run this place.”

“He owns the building actually,” I interrupted.

Looking hard at me, she corrected herself, “Who owns the building. And with you..” She motioned her arm up and down the block.

“I was at the traffic light.” I pointed.

“With you just down the block, the place blows up.”

It didn’t sound so good the way she said it.

“Total coincidence.” I said.

“Uh-huh. In your business anything is possible.” She was about to walk away, “Jimmy your hand is bleeding.”

I looked down and had forgotten I sliced my hand on some glass digging out the little girl.

“I got cut on some glass,” I said. I didn’t tell her the story. She had enough on her plate right now.

“You need some stitches, get over to the hospital.”

I was actually feeling a little light-headed, so I think I agreed with her. “Yeah, I think I will do that.” I started towards my car. “Hey, how did you get here so fast? FBI wouldn’t be called that fast.”

“I was meeting my sister here for lunch. Fortunately, as is her way, she was late.” She pointed to RJ’s and kept walking.

Wow, was Wanda the target? That was a tough one to wrap my mind around, but then again maybe not. Obviously she would have people pissed off at her, lots of people, and not just people she put away either. Did she somehow have a tie to Bobby? I’d have to follow that up later.  Right now my hand was throbbing, and I hoped I could drive to the hospital without passing out.

As I passed by the scene one last time, the fire appeared contained.  The major damage seemed to be only to the cafe.  The dry cleaners and the apartments above may have gone unscathed. It was still hard to tell. There would probably be water and smoke damage regardless. Several emergency vehicles were getting ready to leave while cleanup crews arrived.

I managed to get in my jeep and drive without too much trouble. Five minutes later I was sitting in the ER waiting my turn. While waiting, I got the lowdown on casualties.

The man who waved me off just had some small cuts and bruises. A few stitches and he was released. An employee who had been on a smoke break out back had a broken leg from a wall collapsing on her. Her leg was being set right now. Several other people had scrapes and bruises from flying wreckage and being thrown to the ground. That was it. No one had actually been in the restaurant when the bomb blew.

Small miracles.

I asked about the little girl and found she was upstairs in surgery, with her parents waiting. I’d go up and check on her after I had my hand stitched. It was a slow day, and I didn’t have to wait for very long after being called into an examination area.

“Boy, I can’t get rid of you, can I?” said Kathy as she entered. Out of her medic togs and into her nurse’s uniform now.

“Yeah, I’m like a bad penny. I just keep turning up.”

“The difference is when you turn up, there’s always trouble.” she mused, grabbing my hand not so gently.

“Ouch!” I shouted, more loudly than I intended.

“Oooooo, big strong man got a boo-boo?” She made a pouty face and smiled. “I’ll get you cleaned up, and the doctor will be in to sew you up. Looks like you’ll need six or seven stitches.”

She was looking kind of hot in that uniform. I thought about Marci. Marci would look hot in that uniform, I made a mental note.

She went to take my hand, “Easy this time.” I said.

“Big baby,” she said, as she cleaned and sterilized the area. She finished quickly. “Doctor will be in soon.” She went on to her next patient.

Sewn up and bandaged, I made my way upstairs to the surgery waiting room on the third floor. I caught a nurse as I exited the elevator and managed to find out that the little girl’s name was Brooke and that it was too soon to know yet, and her condition was still critical. She also didn’t know how much longer surgery would go.

She trotted off and I went to the waiting room. The sign said family only, but I was feeling a pretty strong bond to Brooke right now so I took that with a large grain of salt and pepper.

Inside was a couple huddled on the couch, probably Brooke’s parents. They heard me come in and raised their heads.

It was Bobby James and Kathleen Kovell.

Until tomorrow…

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