by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: March 2003
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: Action/adventure, 1st person POV (original character.)
RATING: PG-13 language, violence
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: any
SUMMARY: You don't have to go off-world to run into big trouble.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: would be much appreciated. :)
"All alone at the end of the evening When the bright lights have faded to gray...."
I sang along with the CD player, loud and off key. When you get to my age, you get to do things like that. Besides, the windshield wipers were out of time, so I didn't feel so bad.
I almost didn't stop. Big black pickup with the hood up, tall guy in a leather jacket, soaking wet. Aw, hell. He reminded me of my oldest boy. Tommy would've been forty-seven this year, if he'd come back from Saudi. And I saw the Air Force bumper sticker on the truck. I pulled the RV over and backed up to the truck. "Hey! Need a lift? Or do you want me to call someone for you?"
He closed the hood and came up to the door.
"It isn't locked, it sticks at the top! Smack it one!"
He obliged, and then messed around with getting it to close. One of these days I'm gonna get that door fixed.
"Thanks, lady. Not many women traveling alone would pick up a guy who was stranded out here."
"Well, you sure are a sight for sore eyes, I have to admit. Got a little arthritis in that knee, maybe, but I'd still bet good money you could outrun me if I just couldn't control myself."
He gave me a look, then laughed out loud. We shook hands. "Jack O'Neill. And you must be Granny?"
That's what my license plates and my tee shirt said. "My name's Agnes Garrett, but everybody calls me Granny, yeah."
"Sorry about the mess, I'm getting water all over."
"Got some old towels under the sink. Just throw 'em in that box under there when you're done. Then come on up here and set down, you must be freezing."
"Thanks." I heard him rattling around for a couple of minutes, then he came up front and landed in the shotgun seat. I cranked the heater up and asked, "Where to?"
"If I remember right, there's an auto parts store a few miles up this way. Thanks for the lift."
We were on a back road north of Colorado Springs, smack in the middle of nowhere. One of my daughters is a forest ranger up here. I was planning to drop in and surprise her on my way to spend a couple of weeks in Las Vegas. "No problem, I was headed this way anyhow. Hell of a place to get broke down."
"Yeah, the damn alternator's shot. I thought I could make it to the lake but the battery gave out."
"You'll need a jump to get 'er going, then."
There was a run-down little strip mall and a gas station near the freeway on-ramp. I bought gas while Jack was in the Autozone.
A battered, rusty van pulled into the filling station just as we were headed back to the truck. I saw a couple of characters who made the guys in Deliverance look like choir boys, but I didn't pay much attention to them at the time. It started raining harder than ever, and I never trusted pulling the RV under those filling station canopy things. I was looking up to make sure I didn't tear the roof off.
We were going to live to regret that we didn't pay more attention to those guys.
I drove back to the pickup and pulled in front end to front end. "You got jumper cables? I have a set but who knows where I put 'em."
"Yeah, I have some. Let me get the new alternator put on."
I made coffee while he was doing that. I figured we could both use something hot. It was still winter and the winter rain up here in the mountains has a chill to it that goes right through you.
I heard another vehicle pull up behind me and figured, another good samaritan. People look out for one another in the high country. A few minutes later I heard Jack hit the top of the screen door to get it open.
I started to tell him the coffee was ready, but I didn't get a word out. There were the two guys from the gas station. They had guns and one of them was carrying a plastic bag from the convenience store. Full of money. And we'd seen their faces.
A guy with a scraggly beard and mustache and little piggy eyes seemed to be the leader of the two. I could see from his eyes he was high on something. "Both of you, sit down."
Jack kept himself between the robbers and me. "Granny, stay calm and do what they tell us."
What, did I look like Rambo? I sat down at the table and Jack sat across from me.
The other one had been shot. There was blood all over the front of his greasy flannel shirt and it was soaking his jeans. He was younger than the ringleader, just a kid, eighteen if he was that. He looked scared to death.
I had a vague memory of the girl who'd waited on me when I paid for my gasoline. Blonde, blue eyes. No older than this punk. Had she shot him? Was she even still alive?
I figured if they thought we were useful, they might not kill us. "Son, I'm a nurse. You're losing a lot of blood. Why don't you let me take a look?"
The ringleader ordered, "Shut up, you stupid bitch."
Jack didn't like that, God bless him. "Hey! She was just tryin' to help, you don't have to talk to her like that."
That got him a hard whack across the mouth from Pig Eyes. He yelled, "I said, SHUT UP!"
On the floors, a nurse learns real fast which male patients she can deal with herself, and when she needs to call for assistance. I sketched a shake of my head at Jack. That son of a bitch would just as soon shoot us as look at us. I didn't know if Jack might not try to be a hero and get us both killed, and that scared me bad.
"Watch them. If either one of them does anything dumb, shoot the old lady."
"Denver, I think I'm shot pretty bad. Maybe the old lady should have a look."
"Is everybody freakin' deaf? Don't be such a pansy. You'll keep till we get some distance between between us and the cops."
"Sure, Denver. Sure. Whatever you say."
Billy didn't really have his gun pointed at either one of us. He was going that chalky gray-white that goes with impending shock. He wasn't going to live out the day if he didn't get treatment right away.
I rolled up a towel and pantomimed pressing it against the wound. Billy took it and did as I said. I knew it wouldn't make that much difference. If he was bleeding out, he'd do it just as well internally. Sometimes, though, all it takes to make the difference between life and death is to give the patient the idea that he can make a difference in his own survival.
I didn't want this kid to die on my watch. Seen it happen way too many times. But for now, this Denver was calling all the shots. He pulled out onto the road and headed south towards the Springs.
He took a turn-off that eventually led to a dirt road. The third rough patch we bounced over was all Billy could stand. His eyes rolled back and he collapsed.
He didn't answer. Jack said, "Denver, listen to me! Billy's going to die if you don't let us help him!"
"OK, but just the old bat. You stay where you're at and keep your hands where I can see 'em."
I scrambled over to Billy, only to confirm what I already knew. The kid had bled out right in front of us. I felt sick. His heart hadn't been in a life of crime, but it had killed him anyway. "He's dead. He bled to death."
Denver took the news as if I'd made a comment on the weather. "Get moving, lady. Out of the camper. You, Air Force, you get his carcass."
He marched us out into the rain and had Jack dump Billy's body.
Jack and I shared a look. There was not a doubt in my mind that we were about to die. They say your life flashes before your eyes, and I guess mine did in a way. I saw my kids and grandkids. I can't even say I was really scared. When you get to the high side of seventy, something's going to take you out of here.
That was when Jack tackled me and knocked me out of the line of fire. I don't know where the knife came from or when Jack threw it, exactly. Denver made a horrible gurgling noise and then a thud as he hit the ground. Probably dead before he got there, and no great loss to the human race at that.
Jack fell to the ground beside me and cursed in pain.
He'd been hit in the shoulder. I noticed in passing as I treated the injury that he had a scar from a previous gunshot wound in almost the same place. I got the bleeding stopped and helped him back into the RV to finish bandaging the wound.
He bitched and whined as a matter of course, but I've been a nurse long enough to know he was just distracting the both of us. The real pain never made it past his eyes.
"I got to get you to a hospital."
"No, I'll get patched up back on base. It's closer anyhow."
Things happened PDQ after that. I got as far as the Cheyenne Mountain parking lot. Jack was taken inside while a couple of enlisted boys kept me company until the sheriff got there.
It turned out that Denver and Billy were wanted for a spree of gas station robberies across half a dozen states. Three clerks had been killed and another three injured. Thankfully, the clerk who had waited on me was alive.
The deputies took my statement and let me go. I ran into Jack again in the lobby of the sheriff's office. He had his arm in a sling. There was a big black guy with him who wore a fedora pulled low over his eyes. Jack introduced him as Murray, but if that was his real name, I'm the Queen of Sheba.
I was planning on getting a motel room for the night, but Jack wouldn't hear of it. He insisted that I stay at his place until the sheriff gave my RV back. "Murray" drove us there.
I noticed he had his own key to the two-story log house.
I called my kids to let them know I was OK, before they could see all this on the news. Likewise, Jack called the other people from his team who were various places on leave.
I put my cell phone back in my purse, and I noticed that my hands were shaking as I did that. We had pizza and beer for supper, and Jack made sure I had a full bottle of beer close by the rest of the evening. I guess I must have fallen asleep on the couch, because that's where I was when I woke up. It was a little after six AM.
I could hear Jack rattling around in the kitchen. Sometime he'd put a quilt over me, but he'd had sense enough to let an old woman sleep while she could. Especially a grumpy, hung over old woman.
God, what a headache. The bottles were gone, so I was left to wonder just how many beers I'd drunk last night. I always have been a talkative drunk, so I figured Jack had heard every one of my kids' and grandbabies' life stories by now. My only consolation was that he probably had been just as soused as I was.
We had black coffee, toast, and aspirins for breakfast. "Jack, I don't remember if I thanked you for saving my life."
"You never would have got in trouble in the first place if you hadn't stopped to give me a lift."
"All the same, I'm not gonna forget it. That had my name on it," I said, indicating his bandaged shoulder.
"Yeah, well, that'll teach me to move faster next time. You got a hell of a story to tell those grandkids of yours, anyhow. It isn't every day you get kidnapped by armed robbers."
I laughed in spite of myself. I figured the people in this man's life probably laughed a lot--when they weren't wanting to wring his neck. God, he was so like my boy Tommy. All Irish charm and fire, he was. "Did the sheriff say what I'm supposed to do about my RV?"
"Just that you should get it back today or tomorrow. There isn't going to be an inquest about Denver, so you'll be free to go as soon as all the paperwork is out of the way."
I figured, damn right there wouldn't be an inquest. A kabar against an assault rifle is an open and shut case of self defense if I ever heard of one. "It's just a damn shame about that Billy."
"Yeah. He was just seventeen. Denver's cousin."
I shook my head, wondering why the hell. Well, no matter how old you were, you joined the adult world the minute you picked up a gun. I've seen dead gang bangers who weren't even old enough to shave. Everybody's the damn same naked on a slab with a tag on their toe.
I reminded myself I'd left all that shit in my rear view mirror at the Boise city limits.
Jack said, "They tell me you were in the army."
I looked up. "Somebody has been doing their homework. That was almost forty years ago. I was a nurse, in Nam back in '64 and '65."
So we talked about duty stations and it turned out we'd been some of the same places, me at the start of the war and Jack at the tail end of it. Even so, I figured he must have lied about his age to get in the Air Force.
The conversation went around to my husband Tom, who had been a Ranger. We'd met in Nam. After my tour of duty, we'd got married. I was already a month along with my Tommy then. I'd come back home to Boise and it became a running joke that every time Tom got leave, I got knocked up. Tom did his thirty and retired, we sold the house and bought the RV and set out to see the country. We spent a year happily bumming around. Then in '91 he had a heart attack in Florida and Tommy's helicopter went down. I never let any grass grow under my wheels since. My kids are scattered all over, and I don't land in on any one of them long enough to be too much of a pain in the ass.
I ended up staying another night, thanks to a snafu with the red tape involved in getting my RV back. Jack wouldn't even let me thank him for saving me a hotel bill. He said that having a nurse as a house guest kept him from making a trip to the mountain to get his dressing changed.
That evening we went out to dinner with a couple of folks, at first they just introduced themselves as George and Janet. They were both Air Force, and George and I had a lot in common, being close to the same age. Janet was a doctor, a flight surgeon. We had some fun comparing what it had been like for a military nurse forty years ago versus the present. Janet was right on the cutting edge of things I only read about in journals.
It wasn't until we got down to pie and coffee that I found out George was General George Hammond, and this dinner date was really a job interview. Well, I should've suspected something when they ran a background check on me.
"Well, I don't know....I've been retired for a lot of years now."
Jack said, "So what? I was called out of retirement for this gig, and the General here put off his retirement plans."
Janet said, "We realize your skills might be a little rusty. You'll be hiring on as a ward clerk, and we'll work you back out onto the floor gradually as you get your sea legs back. You're level headed in an emergency and you have more trauma experience in your little finger than most of my nurses had in their whole bodies on their first day on the job. I can promise you the chance to practise nursing in an environment that demands and rewards excellence--and that you'll never get bored."
"Well, I--" I'd been burned out when I retired, but that had been thirteen years ago. Now, the thought of getting back in the saddle was surprisingly attractive. "I don't know what to say."
Jack gave me that Irish grin, and I seriously doubt I'm the first girl who's thrown all common sense right out the window for those dark eyes of his. "Say you'll think about it. You don't have to answer tonight. Visit your daughter and have fun in Vegas. Let us know after that."
"All right. I'll think about it," I said. I wondered to myself exactly what I'd just agreed to think about getting myself into.
That was exactly what I ended up doing. Kelly--the forest ranger--joyfully announced that I was going to be a granny yet again. I'd only be a few hours away when that happened.
Vegas was always fun, but this time I realized it would have been more fun if I'd had a bunch of other old biddies to share it with. Rolling stones gather no moss, but they don't make a lot of friends either. I'd had enough of living on the road for a while. It was time to settle down again.
This time when the Eagles and I took it to the limit, I wasn't worried about what was getting smaller in my rear view mirror. I was too busy looking for a road sign telling me how far to Colorado Springs.
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