Chapter Two: A Camera and a Dog
Colorado Tears, the sequel to Colorado Blood
The Archuleta County emergency SUV slid to a stop where a guy wearing loose jeans held up by a curling cowboy belt and a flannel shirt waved from the side of the turnout at the Willow Draw trailhead. A huge black and gray dog sat woodenly at his side, ears up but tips down. Molly Barron jumped from the SUV cab, tripped on the dried ruts in the turnout, flailed back upright, and raised her eyebrows in question at the stranger.
“Did you call us? Where is she?” Molly registered the slender young man with the dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. His flannel shirt was tucked into his jeans, his jeans tucked into his hiking boots. He had a big gray backpack that matched the dog. She didn’t know him, or the dog, and only cared for his answers. She didn’t notice the camera settled over the backpack.
” Up there, on the rise above the creek. Can you get the gate open? You’ll have to carry her out,” the stranger said quietly. The dog raised its head and seemed to stare into Molly’s eyes. She took a hurried step back and turned towards the truck.
“Chris, let’s get the stretcher. We need to get across the creek. “She turned back to the man, then glanced at the heavy metal pipe that crossed the dirt road leading to the Willow Draw trail.
“We’ll call the forest service and get someone out with a key, but that can wait. “She grabbed her medical bag and headed towards the blocked trailhead.
“Over to the left. There’s a log. Cross at that shallow spot.” The stranger and the dog turned together and led the way across the creek and up the rise. Molly hurried to catch up.
Josie hadn’t moved.
Molly knelt next to the woman lying still, silently on the trail, quickly categorizing her observations. Unconscious, breathing, not hemorrhaging now but dried blood on head and neck, clotted into the auburn hair, leg crudely braced, and then it hit her.
“Josie?” Josie!?” Molly flung back a swath of her blond hair that had fallen over her shoulder.
“Chris, get the backboard, the neck brace, fast. She’s bad,” Molly yelled to the other EMT who was just struggling up the rise with the stretcher. Chris dropped the stretcher, turned, and ran back down the hill, balanced across the creek rocks, and sprinted to the county SUV. Molly blew up the pressure cuff on Josie’s left arm and listened while watching the pressure gauge bouncing downward.
“Good enough,” she said to herself.
“You know her.” The guy who’d called 911 and flagged them down had shadowed Molly.
“Josie Tate. She’s my vet, and she’s a friend. Who are you, exactly?” Molly had begun gently cleaning the blood around Josie’s eye and the vomit and drool from her chin and neck, after listening to her heart and lungs and lifting her left eyelid to check her pupil. She didn’t want to risk touching her right eye or moving her head.
“She said she,..” the stranger started to say.
Molly interrupted him. “She was awake? She talked?” She questioned him insistently. “When?”
“She said she was riding. Yesterday. Riding yesterday. She said she wasn’t bucked off, but mostly she was concerned about her horse, a red roan, and then she vomited and passed out. That was after I called 911. After I found her. After my dog found her. We were heading out Willow Draw to Elk Trap. Half an hour ago? About how long it took you to get here “
Molly pulled out her cell phone and started to call dispatch.
“Damn it! How’d you call us? I’ve got no reception. “
“New phone. Verizon. From that high knob.”
Chris arrived and Molly and Chris worked as a team, gently feeding the yellow padded collar under Josie’s neck. Molly pulled off the denim jacket that had covered her patient, her friend.
“Yours?” She handed the jacket to the young man when he nodded.
“Can you lift that splinted leg just a couple of inches?” Molly asked the stranger while she and Chris carefully slid the rigid backboard under Josie’s head and back and hips from left to right where there was a little more room between rocks and brush, one inch at a time. There was a padded indention for Josie’s head and straps that would hold her head steady for the ride out, and wide webbed straps for her body and legs. They spread a blanket over Josie and tucked it around her.
“We need to get her to the hospital. Let’s go.” Molly commanded.
“One, two, three,” Molly chanted as they rose in practiced unity, lifting Josie over onto the stretcher, and then up. They started down the hill to the creek carefully, sidestepping at the steepest section and around a boulder or two. They lifted the stretcher over the still closed and locked forest service barrier and hurried to the SUV. Molly balanced her end of the stretcher on the bumper shelf and opened the back of the truck. They slid the stretcher into the service bay that was set us as a mobile emergency room, elevated and locked the stretcher in place, and Molly repeated her examination and rechecked Josie’s vitals. This time she’d put the pressure cuff on the right arm and Josie moaned and fluttered her left hand. Molly got out an IV catheter and hung a bag of lactated ringers on the hook above the stretcher.
“Josie? Josie, it’s okay. We’ve got you.”
“Let’s go, Chris. You drive. I’ll call emergency as soon as I get reception. I’m not sure we want to run fluids with the head injury.”
Truck lights flared, the emergency lights began to blink, the engine growled, and Chris put the big SUV in gear but slowly navigated the deep ruts and potholes of the trailhead parking lot. They inched over the berm along Mill Creek Road and accelerated towards town on the gravel road, slowing for the washboard on the uphill curve past Cross Creek Trail. The increased traffic from hunters was making the trip on the county road jarring.
Molly and Chris never noticed the stranger taking a picture of them as they had loaded Josie into the truck bay. Or the telescopic lens on his camera. They didn’t get his name.
The huge, long-haired dog with perked ears and a long tail held low to the ground raised her head and howled. The man turned and walked off to the north.
Colorado Tears is the sequel to Colorado Blood, published in 2017. The fans have spoken and Josie and I were listening. My plan is to submit a chapter once or twice a week, get as many reviews and comments as possible, and put them all together at the end, wherever and whenever that may be. Thanks in advance to readers and contributors.
Here’s the link to Chapter One: Collision in Willow Draw