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The Ambulance Men
Isabelle’s head is swimming with panic. Her only hope is that her father believed her and comes to save her.
A few hours earlier she was in a car wreck. She suffered a concussion, after driving her car off the road and crashing it into a tree. The crash was her own fault. She didn’t realize it was happening until she felt the car lurch to the side, and before she could hit the brakes, she hit the tree. She shouldn’t have been trying to play Royal Match on her cell phone while driving home to her parents’ house outside of town. It’s just that it had been an unusually late night at her newspaper internship and the game was helping her to unwind. She knew being on her phone
, while driving , was a dumb thing to do. The only reason she hadn’t been more careful was that there was absolutely nobody else on the road at 4 a.m., out in the sticks.
The car was totaled, but fortunately she was mostly fine – other than the aforementioned head injury. It looked bad in the mirror, but other than a headache, she felt okay. Isabelle had been well enough to call emergency services, who promptly dispatched an ambulance to the scene. Actually, considering the rural area, she was surprised at how prompt they had been. After an initial assessment, wherein she was asked the day’s date, and who the current president was, among other things, she was placed inside the back of an ambulance and told to remain there until they could run some more tests.
Outside she could hear the driver and other paramedics talking.
“I think we hit the jackpot with her. Let’s stage things and get out of here. I don’t think anyone is going to drive by, but just in case… we don’t want to be seen.”
Confused, she sat up and looked through the not-quite-closed rear doors and saw three men hurriedly putting what appeared to be blood in her driver seat and on the car windshield.
“Why are they making it look like I died?”
Struck by mad inspiration, she examined the opening between the back of the ambulance and the driver’s seat. She climbed through it, desperately nervous that they would return to the vehicle any second. She pulled herself through, as quietly as possible, fearful that she might have shaken the ambulance enough that they noticed it moving.
“What if they send someone over to check on me?” she whispered frantically to herself.
Once in the driver’s seat, she checked the side mirrors and two of the men appeared to be finishing up with her car, while the other one was writing something down, probably the fake accident report she thought. It had only been a couple of minutes. She hoped sneaking out might be easier and less obvious from the front doors, but then she noticed something better. The keys were still in the ignition. Without another thought, Isabelle started the ambulance, put it in drive, and tore away. She only had time to see the men looking up, startled, as she fled.
Gathering herself as she drove, Isabelle began to realize that nobody would believe her and that she had just stolen an ambulance. She would surely be going to jail.
“Well,” she thought with her heart still racing, “jail is better than being sold, or having my organs harvested, or whatever it was that they were planning to do to me.”
Isabelle realized that she needed to abandon the ambulance. What if those guys followed her? They would need a little while to get another vehicle, but they surely would. Inside the ambulance, she was driving a big neon banner letting them know her exact whereabouts, and she was still, for the moment, by herself. If they caught up to her, even a group of strangers might look the other way if they just grabbed her and took her. She looks like she is injured. Strangers would believe them if they said that she stole their ambulance. With the obvious head injury, she knew she would look like she was just out of her mind.
Isabelle began to think about what to do next and came to another bleak realization. She did not feel her cell phone in her back pocket. In fact, she could
not remember having it since she made the initial call to emergency services after the car crash. Did she leave it in the car? She must have. Not only can she not call for help, but the men from the ambulance also now know where and how to find her just by using her phone. They could open her social media apps, or her contacts list, or her banking app, and more or less learn everything about her. Surely, if they are murderers, or human traffickers, they wouldn’t want someone out there who can give descriptions of them to the real authorities. They’d want to kill her. She is alone, driving their easily identifiable emergency vehicle, and she does not have a cell phone.
The first thing Isabelle wanted to do was to abandon the ambulance. At the very least, she needed to be hard to find. “They have probably called for assistance by now,” she thought, and they saw which direction she was going when she fled. There might be police officers looking for her at this moment. She decided to risk driving a little farther, to the gas station two miles ahead. With luck she could park and use a phone inside to call her parents. The only cell phone numbers she had memorized were her parents’ numbers. She desperately hoped they would answer. If she could just get to her mom and dad, she knew that she would be safe.
With her eyes on the rearview mirrors at constant intervals, Isabelle finally saw the gas station up ahead. There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot. She parked the ambulance in as concealed a manner as possible, with another car between it and the road, hoping that it might go unseen and buy her a little extra time. If the ambulance men come to find her, rather than the police, she thought she could maybe even give whoever is here the appearance of being kidnapped by them
, if they tried to take her. The more people present, the better. She could not let them get her alone again.
After she went inside, as discreetly and confidently as she could muster, Isabelle asked the cashier behind the counter if she could use his phone to call her parents.
“That’s a pretty nasty bump you have on your head,” he said.
“Yeah,” she answered, “that is why I need to make the phone call. I’m not sure I should be driving home.”
Her tone was not at all combative, but it did indicate that she was exhausted, not feeling well, and not in the mood to talk. He didn’t comment on the ambulance she pulled up in, so she hoped that he hadn’t noticed her driving it. The cashier let her borrow his cell phone. She texted her parents
, in a group text, letting them know that this number was her and that she needed them to answer their phones when they got a phone call from this number. Her dad was first to reply with, “ok.” She then called her father and spoke to him quietly – hoping that the cashier wasn’t listening.
“Izzy honey, are you okay? It’s 5 a.m.”
“Daddy, I’m at the Sinclair gas station on Highway 15, just north of Upton. I was in a car accident and then the ambulance workers tried to kidnap me. Please don’t call the police I’m afraid they will give me back to those men.”
Her father paused for what felt like a long moment and told her that he was already awake because he had been called by the police from her cell phone a few minutes earlier. He then told her that their story was that she was intoxicated, that she crashed her car into a tree, and that she then fled the scene before they arrived. He told her that he does not know what is going on, but advised her to stay where she is, to not go wandering off by herself, and that he would be there in about thirty minutes.
“Thank you, daddy. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
She wa relieved that he is coming, but she didn’t hear belief in her story in his voice. She hoped that she would be able to convince him after he arrived. Either way, she felt less alone.
Isabelle returned the cashier’s cell phone and thanked him. He appeared to have not been eavesdropping, but she couldn’t be certain. Then she waited, holding her breath and feeling her heart race every time a car approached the gas station, and especially when anyone entered – which only happened three times. Those were the longest thirty minutes of her life.
Finally, at 5:45 a.m., Isabelle’s father arrived. His grumpy face changed to concern
, when he saw the bruise on her head, and then back to anger once he seemed confident that she wasn’t badly injured.
“What were you thinking?” he told her in a tense whisper. “We taught you better than this.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she protested, in a voice that carried well beyond a whisper.
Her eyes filled with tears, and he softened, but only a little.
“You don’t call getting drunk, crashing your car into a tree, and then abandoning the car ‘something wrong’?”
“I didn’t… well, I did crash the car, but I didn’t do the rest.” She then told her father the story of what had happened. When she got to the part about parking the ambulance in the parking lot, outside, he stopped her.
“There isn’t an ambulance in the parking lot. I was just out there. I would have noticed it when I got here, and assumed it was for you.”
Isabelle walked with her father to the door, peered out into the parking lot, and saw that the ambulance was gone. She patted her pants pockets – no keys. How? Did someone take the ambulance while she was talking with her father and paying less attention to what was happening outside the store?
Dazed, she got into the passenger seat of her father’s pickup and they left together. A few miles down the road, her father put on his hazard lights and pulled onto the side of the road. He pointed at a damaged tree.
“That’s where you crashed. The police told me your car caught on fire, and that the volunteer fire fighters had to put it out. On the whole, it was probably a good thing you got out and started walking. I reckon it took you at least an hour to make it to the gas station. That was close to a five-mile walk. It was lucky, considering your state, that you made it safely.”
“Daddy, that’s not what happened,” she said, firing up.
“Sweetie,” her dad interjected in a firm but empathetic tone, “I believe you are telling the truth that you remember, but you hit your head really hard. Look in the mirror. That’s a nasty bump. We need to get you looked at by a doctor. I promise we’ll look into all of this, and take your story seriously, when we’re sure that you’re okay.”
She felt reassured that he was at least going to humor her
, once she got checked out, but it bothered her that he didn’t believe her, yet. The rest of their drive was quiet.
Once they got back into town, they checked into the hospital. After a while, a nurse led them into a waiting room and began asking questions.
“Your hearing, vision, coordination, and balance are all good. The doctor is concerned though about the possibility of other damage, so we would like to do a CT scan.”
“I think that’s fine,” replied Isabelle’s father.
“Let me just verify that you have not had anything to eat or drink for the last few hours.”
Isabelle answered hat she had not.
“Good. I need to give you an injection of contrast material for the scan. This is to highlight the area of your body being examined – which in your case is your brain” The nurse gave the shot and shuffled out.
Isabelle waited with her father for an hour. She was exhausted and her head was swimming. As they sat together, something occurred to Isabelle.
“Daddy, why did the police tell you that they thought I was drunk?”
Her father had clearly hoped to avoid this conversation
, until after they were back at home. He replied somewhat tensely that her drink in the cupholder smelled strongly of alcohol.
“I didn’t have a drink in my cupholder, but I probably have no way to prove that since the car burned up. I should have requested a blood-and-alcohol test when we got here.”
The nurse returned to get Isabelle and lead her back to the doctor. She advised her father that he could wait just outside, since there wasn’t room for him in the CT scan room. As she was leaving, something else occurred to Isabelle.
“Daddy, how can they say they found a cup in my car, and how could they have found and used my cell phone to call you, if my car caught fire after the crash? How would they have searched it while it was on fire?”
These questions seemed to resonate and trouble him, and she could see it on his face as she left.
The nurse had Isabelle lie down in the exam room for her CT scan
, and then left just before the doctor entered the room. He was pleasant and asked about her concussion. She told him it was from a car crash a few hours earlier, but she didn’t tell him about the almost-kidnapping that happened just after. Come to think of it, though, she probably should tell someone, either at the police station later, or at the hospital, about that. Someone who worked at the hospital had to have been involved in what happened to her. They had used an ambulance, after all. She wanted to think about it more, and to start formulating plans of investigation, but after the adrenaline rush and panic from earlier, not to mention the total lack of sleep, she was too tired to connect her thoughts.
The doctor told her that she seemed to be well, but wanted to be certain that she didn’t have any brain bleeding resulting from the accident. It was possible for the symptoms of a brain bleed to be invisible until an aneurysm occurred, in which case a seemingly healthy person might die suddenly and unexpectedly hours after an injury.
The doctor was wearing a face mask, but his hospital ID showed his entire face. Just as the CT scan was beginning, as he leaned close to her, Isabelle looked at that ID.
A terrifying thought tried to emerge through the fog of her mind. “I think he’s one of them!” Her eyes were swallowed by light. She didn’t know if she could scream or if anyone would hear her if she did. She hoped somehow that her father’s presence could save her.