This story is one I began a while ago and is really where the inspiration for the Two Switches came from. It is a step away from my normal stuff and is more of an emotional slow burn.
I want to thank Wax for the excellent proof reading so this story could be a surprise for my usual proof reader.
This is for you Sabina, you are my angel. Without you I am broken.
The Colt Anaconda looked exactly like what it was. The perfect tool for ending life. Forty-seven ounces of nickel plated metal with a 4-inch barrel and a moulded grip.
She opened the cylinder. Six holes beckoned, waiting to be filled.
She took a breath and slid the brass and lead cylinder in to one of the holes.
It slipped in with a precise click.
A deft hand movement closed the cylinder and spun it.
She thumbed back the hammer slowly.
Then placed the barrel in her mouth.
She tasted gun oil and the tangy copper of adrenaline, as her system began to pump the drug around her body in preparation for injury.
She closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.
An empty chamber.
She breathed out.
“Guess you’re going out to work then.” She said aloud.
Every morning for the last month she had performed the same ritual.
Every morning the same result. She was the luckiest, unlucky person alive.
Some mornings a small part of her was glad. Others, not so.
Danielle Whyte had been low before, but this was a different level of low. PTSD and depression went hand in hand with members of the armed forces. Normally women didn’t serve on the fighting line, and to be fair Danielle wasn’t even meant to be in the midst of the action. As the pilot of a medivac Blackhawk, she would swoop in pick up injured and be out again before the Taliban knew she was there. And in the worst case the Apache escorts kept any anti-aircraft fire at bay.
Unfortunately, fate played its hand and the tail rotor of the Blackhawk had caught a stray burst on exfil. They had nearly made it out of the hot zone when the damage blade sheered and dropped the helicopter like a bag of stones. Her co-pilot, loadmaster and the injured marine didn’t survive the crash. That left herself and the Anaconda.
Fear is your enemy.
That is what the instructors tell you when you’re downed behind enemy lines.
As far as Danielle was concerned fear was her entire life at that point. Nothing else existed. Trapped inside the wrecked Blackhawk surrounded by the stink of jet fuel and the thoughts that Insurgents could be climbing over the wreckage any second were the only things in Danielle’s mind.
In reality the SAR was scrambled, and the gunships remained on over watch in case any of the Taliban got too close. She was never in any real danger. But for the three hours she was on the ground alone she had never been so afraid.
In those three hours Danielle discovered she was afraid of being alone.
This fear was exacerbated when she was returned to flying duty. Suffering from severe flashbacks and signs of PTSD Danielle was sent for a psychiatric evaluation. The subsequent failure coupled with the continual nightmares of the crash left her a total wreck, emotionally and physically, and she had to be invalided out of the forces.
That left her squarely where she was today. No money, no friends, unable to hold on to a job for more than a few weeks and worst of all, alone.
Every night was a repeat of the same nightmare. When she closed her eyes, she was instantly back in the wrecked helo. The smell of jet fuel would make her gag and the sound of bullets whining overhead would turn her insides to water. And always she was alone.
Just her and the Anaconda.
She made a move to replace the handgun in its box, then changed her mind. Maybe it was because the tiny room she rented was littered with empty vodka bottles and the stink of vomit, or maybe today was just worse than any other day.
She flipped the cylinder out again, the eye of the unused .44 stared at her. Slowly and deliberately she fed another five shells in to the cylinder and snapped it closed.
She eased the hammer back and placed the barrel in her mouth.
She pulled the trigger.
“What the fuck…?”
She opened the cylinder again. The six shells gleamed in their snug holes.
“If you keep doing that you’re going to make me really angry.”
The voice made Danielle freeze.
“Hey. Over here.”
Slowly she turned to where the voice had come from.
In the corner of the shitty one room apartment sat a young woman. Pale skin, with heavy black eye make-up, short spiked red hair, torn denim jeans, a biker jacket and short ankle boots. Not catwalk attractive, but certainly not ugly. Her hand cradled a cigarette which curled smoke upwards towards the paint peeling the ceiling.
The Anaconda swung around to point at the redhead.
“Seriously. You’ve been pulling that trigger for a month bursa escort and haven’t blown your head off yet. What makes you think it’s going to do anything now?”
Out of panic Danielle pulled the trigger.
The noise in the small room was deafening. The magnum charge spat flame as the .44 slug tore towards the woman sat on the room’s only chair.
The woman frowned at Danielle impatiently as the smoke from the weapon discharge cleared.
“That was just to show you they’re not dud shells.” She said as she opened her clenched fist and dropped the copper jacketed slug to the floor.
“Now are you going to put that down a listen to what I have to say? This is really against the rules and I’m in serious shit when I get back.”
“Are you my imagination?” Danielle asked almost convinced she was hallucinating.
“No, I am real, my name is Redieal, and I am sick of watching you trying to end your life.”
The room spun around Danielle and everything went black.
A pin point of light entered her mind and slowly grew in to the morning sun trying to force its way through the dirty window.
Danielle was lying on the floor. The smell of the filthy rug assailed her nostrils making her want to heave.
Then she remembered the strange red head woman.
The chair in the corner of the room was empty, as was the rest of the room.
Shaking her head Danielle stood up. That had got to be the most vivid dream she had ever experienced. She could even smell the cordite from the round she had fired.
Stooping she retrieved the handgun from where it had fallen when she passed out. No doubt due to lack of anything solid entering her stomach in days. She worked the catch and emptied the shells. Five heavy bumps and one light jingle sounded as the five unused rounds and the one spent cartridge bounced off the floor.
Danielle frozen as she watched the brass cylinder roll across the floor.
She had inadvertently fired the pistol in her dream. Her stomach heaved again. The walls of the building were paper thin and with the magnum charge a .44 could easily go through two or three of the apartments.
Eyes rapidly scanned the walls searching for a tell tail bullet hole and finding none.
Maybe she had loaded a spent shell by accident?
Although that would explain everything, including why she hadn’t managed to actually kill herself, but somewhere inside her she knew she had loaded six live shells.
She crossed the room to replace the Anaconda back in its case. Kicking something as she did so.
Frowning she looked down to see a copper jacket slug that looked as though it had been dug out of a Kevlar jacket.
This time when her stomach heaved she couldn’t keep from vomiting. For what seemed an eternity she wretched, bringing nothing up but air and bile. Tears stung her eyes as she tried to stand up.
Had she imagined it?
Possibly. She had spent the last six months trying to drink herself to death with vodka that tasted more like turpentine, so it wasn’t surprising that she was imagining things.
But where had the slug come from?
That one she couldn’t answer.
Danielle crossed to the chair. It was still the same chair it had always been. Cheap crappy wood that could barely support her skinny frame. There was an odd scent of a perfume she didn’t recognise and a small amount of cigarette ash on the floor.
The image of the young woman flashed in to her mind once more. The lithe figure in tight denims and black makeup smoking a cigarette.
For a brief second, she was back in the Blackhawk as it spun in to the ground. Danielle rested heavily on the wall to steady herself. She really needed some fresh air.
After some gentle persuasion Danielle got the small window open, breathing deeply she gulped in air, trying hard not to be sick again.
In the side street below the lone figure of the redhead propped against a mailbox, a plume of cigarette smoke dispersing in to the breeze.
A steady thud beat in Danielle’s chest as her heart pulsed wildly. She had to speak to this woman and find out just who she was.
The apartment door banged open and Danielle half ran and half stumbled down the stairs to the street door.
The redhead had gone.
Or maybe she wasn’t there in the first place.
Danielle turned to re-enter her building. A flash of red caught her eye.
Around twenty meters further along the street was the woman.
What did she say her name was? Radial or something? Fuck it, Red will do for now.
Danielle started out after her forcing her way between the pedestrians heading towards her. No matter what Danielle did she was always the same distance behind. Even if she came to a crossing the Redieal was on the far side.
The crowds grew thicker as they crossed on to West 8th and in to areas Danielle hadn’t travelled since her fall from grace. She didn’t even know why she was following the woman. There was just something compelling bursa escort bayan Danielle to speak to her.
Finally, the redhead halted by the 7th Street metro entrance. She turned to face Danielle and briefly their eyes met.
The elusive woman winked sassily then was swallowed by the crowd.
Swearing Danielle reached the corner and stepped inside the metro station. As she descended, every turn Danielle made Redieal was just turning the one ahead of her. She reached a platform just in time to see Redieal enter a stationary train.
Danielle sprinted for a door and squeezed through just as they closed.
As the train pulled away Danielle glanced around the crowded car until she spotted the familiar face staring at her from by the doors at the opposite end of the car. With no clear route to get to her Danielle decided to just watch for when she got off.
She remembered Redieal to look a little different in the apartment the face more rounded and softer. Now she could see that she had high cheek bones and slightly slanted eyes, an odd combination for a Caucasian. She could be Eastern European, maybe even Russian.
Danielle’s heart leapt. Maybe she was a spy and intended to kidnap her for military secrets.
Then common sense broke through. What use was she to any spy ring? There must be something she was missing. If she could just speak to her for a minute.
The train stopped at a station. Danielle glanced out to see where they were.
Jefferson Park. Where ever Redieal was going it was in the direction of Santa Monica. Totally out of Danielle’s stomping grounds.
She glanced back. Redieal was smiling at her in an annoyingly smug way.
They broke out in to bright sunshine and the train stopped at several more stations. The crowd in the car ebbed and flowed but remained packed shoulder to shoulder.
Once more the train slowed. Santa Monica Place. Last stop.
Redieal winked again and stepped out of the doors as they opened, and the train emptied. Danielle followed suit trying to keep her eyes on the red hair bobbing like flotsam on the human tide.
Slowly the platform cleared.
Redieal stood at one end, one hand lighting the cigarette in her mouth and the other jammed in to jacket pocket.
Danielle walked slowly towards her expecting her to make a break on to the street at any moment.
A few meters to go. Redieal blew out a cloud of smoke then pointed to one side.
Drawn by the gesture Danielle look to where she pointed.
A woman pushing a stroller whilst holding the hand of a young child approached an intersection.
Danielle glanced back to Red frowning at the distraction. Red was pointing elsewhere. Once again Danielle allowed her gaze to look away.
A tow truck that was winching a car up made a loud screech then a bang and the car began to roll backwards.
Danielle watched the car picking up speed. Then glanced back at the woman. It didn’t take a genius to realise the two were going to meet.
The smell of jet fuel came back to haunt Danielle followed quickly by the horrible feeling of being alone.
Her heart beating faster than she had ever known it Danielle knew what she would do to solve everyone’s problems.
Time to go down in a blaze of glory.
Without a second thought she hurdled the platform barrier and on to the road. A horn blared as a car swerved to avoid her.
The woman with the stroller looked up to see the dishevelled mess of Danielle running towards her. Confused she turned away from the edge of the sidewalk, putting herself and the stroller out of danger, but placing the young child directly in the path of the runaway car.
Danielle screamed as she snatched the youngster in to her arms.
The car hit her squarely and lifted her on to the hood. There was a sickening thud as she collided with the windshield and flew sideways back on to the road
She was vaguely aware of someone screaming as she looked down to see the child held protectively in her arms looking at her blinking.
“You smell bad.” The child said as the world began faded away.
A voice drifted through the darkness. “It’s okay you can open your eyes now.”
Slowly Danielle opened her eyes. Redieal was stood in front of her. A proud expression etched on her face.
“I knew it was still inside you somewhere.” Red was saying.
“What are you talking about?” Danielle asked. “More to the point just who are you?”
A half smile danced on her lips. It looked oddly very sexy.
“My name is Redieal. I am an Angel. A Guardian Angel to be precise. I was assigned to watch over you, and I have been doing so since you were born. All humans have a birth date and a death date, and our job is to ensure that the course of events are followed as ordained. I have watched you grow up and I have protected you when the need has arisen. I have seen you reach the climax of your life and now the deepest regions of bursa merkez escort your depression. I could no longer sit idly by and watch your pain.”
Danielle glanced around her not believing what she was hearing.
That was when she saw her own body lying in a pool of blood on the road side. The woman with the stroller screaming and the young child tottering towards its mother.
An ambulance screeched to a halt dispensing an EMT to Danielle’s body.
A feeling of serenity drifted across Danielle. “Am I dead?” She asked Redieal.
“You’re standing on the bridge between life and afterlife. A step either way will decide.”
In that moment Danielle wanted nothing more than to stay with the curious Redieal, something about her was reassuring and comforting. It made Danielle feel complete and importantly, not alone.
She reached out a hand towards Redieal.
A jolt of bright light flashed across her vision as the image of Redieal was snatched away.
Darkness ebbed away, slowly bringing light. Danielle’s eyes flickered open. A white ceiling ran in to white walls lined with medical equipment. A stab of anguish flared. Redieal had gone, and she was alone once more.
Then she smelled something.
An odd perfume mixed in with cigarette smoke.
“I will never leave your side Danielle. You have many lives to save including the most important person in the world.” Redieal whispered in her ear.
The feeling of comfort and reassurance drifted back, and Danielle closed her eyes smiling for the first time in a long while.
“Do you feel up to a visitor?” The nurse asked as she helped Danielle sit up.
Although she felt like saying ‘no’ Danielle nodded knowing she would have to face people other than the hospital staff at some point.
The visitor introduced himself as Karl Stevens one of the directors of a company called LASTAR (Los Angeles Surgical Trauma Air Recovery). Apparently one of their air ambulances had flown Danielle to the hospital and therefore helped save her life.
Danielle tried to pay attention, but the image of Redieal kept flickering through her mind, it was almost as if she was trying to tell her something but try as she might Danielle just couldn’t quite make it out.
“It was touch and go for a while.” Karl was telling her. “But I am glad we managed to keep you alive. We were quite surprised to find out you were a medivac pilot. Anyhow just before I go my daughter wanted to say thank you.”
The door opened and the woman who had been pushing the stroller appeared holding the hand of the child Danielle had saved from the runaway car.
Danielle felt something click as though a part of her life that had been missing fell in to place.
“We honestly can’t thank you enough.” Karl was saying again. “When you get out of hospital give me a call, I would be honoured if you would come and fly for us.”
As Danielle closed her eyes she was sure she heard Redieal’s voice. “Always at your side Danielle.”
Flight team Delta sat outside the ready room enjoying the morning sun. Danielle had been flying with the two medics and the co-pilot for nearly six days. It was strange to say the least. While many of her fears had evaporated since her ‘meeting’ with Redieal, she knew there were still parts of her broken life that required fixing.
She just had to find the missing parts first.
The team had treated her like one of their own from the start and she found herself enjoying the job and the company, but she remained distant from them, unable to fully integrate. No matter how complete her life felt, she knew there was still a piece missing.
Absently Danielle lit a cigarette and breathed a plume of smoke in to the air. She had started smoking when she was discharged from the hospital. She found the smell of the smoke reminded her of Redieal and it brought a hint of hope that she would see her again one day.
One of the medics a fellow LA guy called Joe was talking to one of the flight mechanics about something unimportant.
Then Danielle heard her name mentioned.
“It’s true honestly. She jumped in front of a moving car and snatched the kid up taking the full hit herself. A buddy was the onsite medic, he said that her left lung was punctured from two broken ribs and a shard of bone was within millimetres of shredding her heart. For her to be still alive is a miracle.”
Danielle didn’t hear the mechanic’s reply.
“I kid you not she must have zero fear. When she flies she’s in total control, I’ve never seen a pilot like her.” Joe answered.
She sat up in her chair and mashed the cigarette in to an ashtray. “Joe there are only two types of people in this world.” she told him staring through the mirrored lenses of her sunglasses. “Those who are afraid and those who are too stupid to realise they are afraid.”
“Is it true that you flew medivac in Afghanistan?” The second medic, a woman called Anna joined the conversation.
This was exactly why Danielle didn’t enter in to discussions during their downtime. Too many questions about things she either didn’t want to explain or couldn’t explain. She settled for nodding as she touched a flame to another smoke, knowing too well what question was going to follow.