DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.
Owen's optimistic estimated time of arrival at the diner did not survive. Two exits short of the one he'd take to leave I-95 for I-74, there was a crash that tied up the interstate in both directions. The crash involved an 18-wheeler, a charter bus, and an SUV. The 18-wheeler was hauling wood chips. When it overturned, the chips spread all over both sides of the highway, causing a secondary crash in the northbound lanes.
Owen was only a few cars back from the vehicles involved in the initial crash and barely managed to avoid winding up in a collision himself. The first thing he did was call 911 and report the accident. The second thing he did was put the red light he still had in the console from his days as a volunteer with the Buzby Beach Rescue Squad on his dash and plug it in. Then he messaged Kenzie about the wreck and apologized because he didn't think he'd make it to the diner before closing time. Finally, he got his EMT kit out of the trunk of the car and headed for the closest vehicle - the bus.
For the next he couldn’t have said how long, Owen worked to get the ambulatory passengers off the bus and treat those most in need of attention. His biggest concern was getting everyone he could off the bus before the smoke he’d seen rising from the crushed SUV that had cut off the bus turned into a fire or caused an explosion. Owen had checked the SUV driver, a woman who looked to have been in her thirties, and determined she was quite dead. Then, he’d returned to helping those on the bus.
Two volunteer firemen who were also in the mass of cars backing up the highway due to the wreck also began helping. One of them checked the big rig driver and brought back the sad news that the trucker was dead.
As more emergency vehicles began arriving on the scene, Owen went back into the bus once more.
Are you a paramedic
"Are you a paramedic?" an anxious man greeted Owen as he entered the bus.
"I'm an EMT," Owen acknowledged. "How badly are you hurt?"
"I’m okay!" the man exclaimed. "It’s my wife! I think she's having a heart attack!"
"Show me," Owen commanded.
The man led Owen to the front of the bus where a woman was lying against what had been the right-side windows. She was clutching her chest. "What's your wife's name?" he asked the man.
"Sharon," the man replied. "Her name is Sharon. I'm Ed."
"Sharon, my name is Owen. I'm an EMT, and I'm here to help you. What are you feeling right now?"
With agonized breaths, the woman told Owen, "My chest feels like it's been crushed. Every breath hurts."
"Okay, Sharon. Please don't try to talk anymore." Owen turned to the husband. "Where was your wife sitting when the bus tipped over?"
"Um, she was in the aisle seat. The window seat was empty. The lady sitting next to her had gone to the restroom."
"Who was sitting across the aisle from her?" Owen asked as he maneuvered himself toward where the woman lay.
"I was, why?" asked the husband.
"When the bus fell on its side, what happened to you?"
The husband's eyes filled with fear. "Oh, no. I fell on her. What have I done? Oh, what have I done? Oh, my God! And then the man next to me fell on me. He's twice my size. My wife was crushed under us both."
Owen only listened to Ed with half his attention but heard enough to determine Sharon probably had several broken ribs and possibly other dangerous internal injuries.
"Sharon, don't try to talk. I'm going to check your vital signs, and then I'm going to see if I can tell where your injuries are. I'll try to be gentle, but it might hurt."
Sharon gave a slight nod of her head, enough to assure Owen she understood.
A few moments later, Owen was certain the woman was not having a heart attack. He was just as certain that she had several broken ribs and internal bleeding. Owen was about to tell Ed to see if more paramedics had arrived when the roof hatch above him opened.
"You the EMT?" the woman who stood in the hatch asked when she saw Owen.
Owen nodded and proceeded to give a rundown of his patient's vital signs, known symptoms, and injuries he'd observed or suspected.
"I'll get a couple of my people in there, and we'll get her on a board and get her stable," the woman paramedic assured Owen. "Can you stay with her until they get here?"
"I can, but, tell me, has anyone figured out what happened to cause this wreck?"
"What's your name, EMT?" the woman paramedic asked.
"Carlyle, Owen S," he responded automatically.
"Carlyle, Owen S, I'm Lydia Jameson, lead paramedic for the Lumberton EMS. Let's get your patient stable and out of this bus, and then I'll bring you up to speed."
Ten minutes later, Owen helped the EMTs from Lumberton lift the backboard with Sharon strapped to it out of the bus and onto a waiting gurney. Then, he helped Ed out of the hatch.
"Are you coming with us?" Ed asked when Owen didn't follow him out of the bus.
"You're in good hands now, Ed. The Lumberton guys will take care of Sharon. I need to collect my stuff and get back on the road. Remember, I'm not part of the EMS crew here. I just happened to be driving by."
"Thank God you happened to be driving by, Owen. We owe you a lot."
"Help Sharon get better, and that's all the thanks I'll need."
Ed nodded and waved before hurrying to catch up to Sharon as they put her in the ambulance.
"Hey, Carlyle, Owen S," Lydia said as she stuck her head in the hatchway. "Your patient was the last one off the bus. Come on out. I've got a story to tell you."
Lydia backed away from the hatch, and Owen climbed out of the bus.
What caused the wreck
"You asked about what caused the wreck. It was the lady driving the SUV," Lydia informed the tired medic. "She wasn’t alone. There was someone behind the driver's seat. A little boy about a year old was back there wrapped up in a blanket hidden from view. The driver - you were right about her, she was dead on the scene - had kidnapped him just a few minutes before. His parents have been notified. They’re on the way to the hospital to see him."
"I never saw any sign of another person in the SUV. Was there a car seat I missed or something? Was he hurt badly?" Owen asked as they walked toward Lydia's Ford Explorer.
"Other than being scared half-to-death, the boy didn’t have a scratch,” Lydia assured him. “And there was no way to tell he was in the car. The firemen only figured it out when the boy started screaming after they pried the door off to get the driver’s body out.
"Too bad about the trucker. Head trauma. He wasn't wearing his seatbelt. The bus driver should make it though he won't be driving a bus or anything else for a while."
"What about the other bus passengers?" Owen wanted to know.
"Your patient was the worst of the lot," Lydia told him. "There were a couple of broken arms, a broken leg, concussions, along with the usual assortment of scrapes and bruises. All things considered, there were a lot of lucky people tonight. It could have been much worse."
"Do you need me to fill out any reports or anything?" Owen asked when they reached Lydia's vehicle.
"I don't think so," Lydia said. "I know who you are and where to find you if I do. Thanks for helping with all this, Owen. You made a difference."
"I’m glad I was here," Owen said sincerely. "Call me if you need anything."
Lydia started to wave him off but stopped and grabbed something out of the back of her Explorer. “You might want to put this on. Your shirt has blood and grime all over it.”
Owen took the shirt, thanked Lydia, and returned to his car. He noticed the highway behind it was empty.
"The Highway Patrol rerouted traffic and then pulled everyone back and sent them through the detour," one of the firemen said when he noticed Owen staring at the barren stretch of road. "He said to tell you that when you're ready to go, just head back to the roadblock and they'll stop traffic and let you in."
"Thanks," Owen managed to say before climbing into his car once he’d changed into the t-shirt Lydia gave him. Blazed across the front was Lumberton EMS. After he sat down behind the wheel, he noticed his cell phone in the passenger seat. He picked it up and checked the time. 7:58. Then he saw the message from Kenzie.
[Kenzie] I saw about the wreck on the news. They showed a few seconds of you in the bus helping some lady who was hurt bad and said you'd gone in even though the car the bus hit was on fire and could have blown up. I don't know what time you're going to be coming by, but the diner will be open until you get here, and your favorite server will be here to wait on you.
Owen smiled and sent a message back.
[Owen] I'm on my way and cannot wait to try tonight's special.
Even with the Highway Patrol letting him break into the traffic pattern it took Owen more than ninety minutes to reach Jasper's. There was one car in the parking lot, and the closed sign was showing on the door. The only lights were coming from behind the counter in the kitchen area. Owen pulled up to a parking spot in front of the door and pulled out his phone.
[Owen] I'm here.
Kenzie's reply came instantly.
[Kenzie] I'll meet you at the door.
Kenzie unlocked and opened the door for Owen and locked it behind him when he came in.
"Are you the only one here?" Owen asked as he looked around.
Kenzie's reply was a bear hug followed by a shove and a reprimand. "You big jerk! I was so worried after I saw you on the news. If that Tahoe had blown up, you could have been killed."
Her reprimand was followed by a second bear hug, after which Kenzie regained her composure, straightened her apron, and said, "Please take a seat at the counter. Your server will be right with you."
The sudden changes in Kenzie's demeanor stunned Owen. The depth of emotion she showed at first was far more than he expected from a girl he barely knew. The instantaneous flip from a concerned friend to all business hostess flummoxed him even more.
Kenzie was already at the counter and waiting by the time Owen shook off his stupor and took a seat.
"I know you were looking forward to tonight's special," Kenzie began, "but we sold out of fish. Is there something else on the menu you'd like to try?"
Owen tilted his head and regarded Kenzie carefully before replying. Was there a hint of moisture in her eyes?
Kenzie blinked several times and repeated her question.
"What I'm really in the mood for is a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, no bun, and a side of very crispy French fries," Owen said without looking at the menu.
Kenzie blinked again, this time in confusion. "No bun? Who orders a cheeseburger with no bun?"
"The bun just fills you up and adds no valuable nutrition to the meal," Owen explained. "It's extra calories I don't need."
Kenzie's eyes scanned Owen's chest and abdomen. "You don't look like someone who has to worry much about calories."
"Thank you," Owen said with a chuckle. "Being careful of calories helps me stay this way."
Kenzie tilted her head and narrowed her gaze. "You're not wearing the same shirt you were wearing on the news. When did you join the Lumberton EMS?"
Owen looked down at the shirt Lydia had given him before sending him on his way. His own shirt had been covered with soot and blood and torn in a couple of places.
"This was a present from Lydia," Owen explained. "She was in charge of the first responders at the scene. My own shirt was a mess, and she happened to have a box of these in the back of her truck, so she gave me one and told me I was an honorary member of the team."
Kenzie nodded and then said, "I can cook you a burger but not the fries. The fryer had been turned off for the night. There are some potato chips we serve with our cold sandwich items if you'd like those."
"The chips would be good," Owen replied.
Kenzie laughed. "Chips and fries are okay but not the bun?"
"Hey, what can I say? I have a complicated palate."
Owen's story concludes in Chapter 11
- Owen's Love (A Buzby Beach Novella) Chapter 11
Is this feeling growing between Owen and Kenzie real, or a fleeting infatuation?
© 2021 DW Davis