Chapter 55 & 56
Rickie felt the cold metal of the floor as he slowly became aware of his surroundings. The fire in his belly flared as he tried to take a deep breath, and he couldn’t hold back a gasp.
“He’s awake!” He heard someone say, and then a black-clad soldier leaned over and looked him in the eye.
“Don’t move. We’ve secured the area, and are waiting for a litter to bear you to the helipad.” Rickie grimaced and tried to sit up, but the pain was overwhelming and slipped back down to bang his head against the floor. The knife had been secured in place with cravats, but the red stain spreading through the muslin illuminated the severity of the injury. The soldier put a steadying hand on his chest that nevertheless felt like a stone’s weight.
There was a commotion near his feet as several other soldiers brought a metal Stokes basket and carefully loaded him onto it, the jostling causing bolts of pain until he was safely with the basket’s edges and secured.
Soon enough, they were at the helipad. Rickie weakly looked around, but it appeared to be intact. His nose detected the acrid smell of hot metal and smoke, but he was quickly ushered into the aircraft’s hold as they prepared to transport him back to the mainland.
Meaghan stood along with Cynthia with a group by the hospital’s landing pad as the dark gray helicopter gracefully dropped from the sky. She had received a cryptic phone call from Raine asking her to meet them here. Too distraught to think, she contacted Cynthia, who willingly picked her up and drove to the location, where they had been waiting. Raine had explained that Rickie had been wounded at the gas rig, but she did not know the extent of the injuries.
Like a dragonfly, the aircraft delicately alighted on the concrete pad. At once the blades began slowing down and doors on either side of the canopy rolled open to discharge passengers. A dozen or so people walked from the aircraft towards the group waiting at the site, but Meaghan didn’t pay attention to them as she searched for the one person she wanted to see.
The ambulance behind her strobed the scene as the medical team trotted towards the helo with a yellow stretcher in tow. They disappeared behind the machine, and Meaghan gripped Cynthia’s hand as they stood there.
Then, from behind the copter, the medics wheeled the stretcher towards the ambulance, carrying a familiar figure. Meaghan’s breath hitched as she realized Rickie was injured enough to need this type of medical attention. She broke away from Cynthia and intercepted the stretcher at a run.
At Meaghan’s cry, Rickie said something to the medics, who stopped the stretcher, but clearly were impatient to get him into the vehicle for the short hop to the Emergency Room.
Meaghan swiftly glanced over Rickie’s prone figure. He was swathed in sheets head to toe, with a strange lump in the middle of her torso. Then she forgot everything as she looked into those cerulean eyes, now glazed with pain, and began crying.
Rickie slowly lifted his hand and used his thumb to carefully wipe away the tears falling from her dark eyes, his own throat tight. Nothing had ever made him happier than her presence here, with her warm hand on his cheek.
“Hey, beautiful,” he managed to say, “I’m glad you’re here to welcome me. Thanks to you, we stopped them. Stick around, and I’ll tell you all about it.” With that, he reached up and touched the hand on his face and curled his fingers around hers as the stretcher started moving towards the ambulance. Meaghan was forced to let go as they loaded up the stretcher; by then Cynthia had caught up and was holding her shoulders as the doors to the unit shut, and the ambulance pulled away towards the Emergency Room entrance.
It was several hours before Rickie was again aware of his surroundings. The wound turned out to be less deep than they had feared; no organs were damaged and it only required suturing. The doctor admonished no strenuous movements and a round of antibiotics and antinflamatory medicine. JoAnne hovered while the doctor gave his final instructions, and plucked the prescriptions out of Rickie’s hands to get them filled. As she walked out of the hospital room, she spoke with someone in the hallway. Rickie sat up, despite the protest from his stitches, when he saw who it was.
Meaghan placed her hand on the bedrail and leaned over until she was finally enveloped in his familiar arms. She began crying softly, overwhelmed and happy that he was safe. He made soothing noises and rubbed her back until the storm passed and she pulled back, sniffling. He gave her a lopsided grin, flashing his dimple.
Tearing up again at the sight of his smile, she turned and busied herself with the humidifier until she felt more composed. Once she was done, she turned to face him and sat down on a chair next to the bed. He picked up her hand and idly began rubbing his thumb across her knuckles.
“How are you feeling, Rickie?” she asked, with just the hint of trembling in her voice.
“Well, I have been better, but the doctor said I could leave soon. It’s probably been rough on you too.” Rickie decided it was time to really tell her how he felt. “Meggie,…”
“There he is!” A deep voice intruded into the quiet moment, as a well-dressed older gentleman strode into the room. Meaghan quickly pulled her hand away, much to Rickie’s consternation, and stepped back from the bed. The man reached the bed and clapped Rickie on the shoulder, almost knocking him down.
“Rick! You’re looking pretty good after all the excitement tonight. You’ve done a good job for us. That was some excellent intelligence you managed to discover. I expect we’ll be able to root out the entire organisation after this.”
Rickie glanced over to Meaghan, standing immobilized by the window. He nodded towards the man.
“Meaghan, this is my former boss and Director of the Special Branch of the BKN, Datuk Seri Abdul Bakar bin Ali.” Meaghan made a nervous bow and tentatively reached out to feel her hand enveloped in his grasp.
“En Torno, thank you for your wonderful assistance in this endeavour. I can see you decided to follow in your parent’s footsteps. We are sorry for their loss; it was a blow to our division. You’re the exact image of your mother, you know. And Rick here had always admired your parents. In fact, he trained under them. You must be proud of the job they performed for their country.”
Rickie winced, realizing he had never told her about his relationship with her parents, or the organisation they worked for under the guise of consultants; his old supervisor had just pulled the rug out from under his woman.
Meaghan was having trouble comprehending what had been said. She looked back and forth between the two men. Rickie’s expression was guarded, as if he had bad news. The other man gave nothing away in his expression, and she felt the floor tilt, as if the world suddenly shifted it axis.