Chapter Three: Ashe
"Thanks," he said, sitting up. "But I don't drink any caffeine. Messes with my system." His legs were cramped from the awkward sleeping position.
"S'all right. More for me then." She set down the cup and turned to check on his father."How are you doing this morning, Mister Heyoka?" She put a hand on his forehead, smoothing back his hair gently. "We're going to take you to the big hospital up in Tucson."
"He hasn't woken up," Ashe said, looking over her shoulder.
"We always talk to them like normal," she said with a smile. "You never know—they may be listening to us in there." She checked the chart. "I've seen people in much worse shape. Your Dad should pull through just fine."
"You think so?"
She nodded. "Oh, here's my other half."
Drake entered, giving him a cool smile. "Mr. Heyoka ready for transport?"
"Yes. Want to bring in the gurney?"
It was all going too fast. "Can I have a moment with him first?" Ashe asked.
Drake shook his head. "We're on a deadline here—"
"Sure you can," Avery said, steering her partner out the door. "We'll be right outside. Just call us when you're ready." She closed the door behind them.
Ashe was grateful for her intervention. He sat next to his father on the bed. "I don't know if you can hear this, Dad," he said, taking the man's wrinkled, age-spotted hand gently in his, careful not to jostle the IV shunt. "These folks are going to take you to a bigger hospital where they can make sure you'll be all right. I'll follow along and meet you there." He stared for a moment at the ugly bruise across Kino's face. "Once I know you're okay, I'll find out who did this to you." He leaned down and kissed his father's other cheek. "I promise."
He felt Kino squeeze his hand, ever so slightly.
Ashe grinned. "So you can hear me, old man. Hang in there. We'll get you all fixed up."
He squeezed his father's hand back gently, and then went to open the door. "He's ready—he squeezed my hand! Thanks for that."
Drake pushed past him into the room and started to prepare Kino for transport.
"I'm sorry about that. Drake's not a bad guy. He's just… focused," Avery said, looking after her partner.
"Are you two the only EMTs in Bisbee?"
"Just about. There's another team, but they're not on until this afternoon, unless they're needed while we're gone. That's why Drake wants to get this done."
Ashe nodded. "Take good care of him. He's my only family."
She nodded, and pulled the gurney into the room to transfer his father from his bed. "See you around, hotshot."
Only later did it occur to him she'd probably been flirting.
* * * * *
Ashe swung by the Circle K to fill up his bike. He'd replaced the ignition last week, but it seemed like there was something new wrong with the old motorcycle at least twice a month. He'd skinned his hands more than once replacing parts.
The sky was filled with heavy purple clouds, the storm he'd felt coming in the day before. It hadn't rained yet—with luck, he'd make it to Tucson before it let loose. One of the nurses had told him about a cheap motel not too far from campus, and he figured he'd be able to pay for a few days there if he was careful.
He'd called the ranch and told them his father was sick, and that he needed a couple days off to take care of him.
He had considered calling Jaxx, but things had ended badly between the two of them years before. With luck, his father would be released in a couple days, and he could figure out a way to get them both home without too much outside assistance.
As he thought about the beating Kino had taken, his anger rose inside of him—who had done this to Kino? Why?
Now was not the time to let his anger out.
He took a deep breath and then another, thinking about the place in the Chiricahuas where he sometimes went when he needed a day away; a pine tree-shaded campsite far away from everything, with a meadow where the wildflowers bloomed—white and yellow prickle poppies and sandmats, with their delicate orchid-like blooms.
His goosebumps averted, Ashe pulled out onto Tombstone Canyon Road and followed it up to the highway, making his way up toward Interstate 10.
He had just passed through Tombstone, with its graveyard full of historic kitsch, when the rain caught him. It was just a smattering at first, but then it started to come down in buckets, big drops splattering across his visor. He slowed to a crawl, and then his bike began to cough and sputter. "Don't you quit on me," he said, nursing the bike along another half mile. Then the engine up and died altogether.
"Crap!" He pulled onto the shoulder, hopping off the bike and taking off his helmet to hurl it into a bunch of creosote bushes. He felt his anger building once again, and this time he let it blow. He needed to burn something.
Golden feathers sprouted along his arms and back and up his neck.
"Shit shit shit!" He kicked the bike hard, and flames surged up his arms. "You useless, fucking piece of shit!" he yelled at it, shaking his blazing arms. "I am so goddamned sick of this bullshit." The flames leapt higher. He was out of control, but he didn't want to stop. "Nothing fucking ever goes right for me. And now this, in the middle of a fucking thunderstorm in the middle of fucking nowhere!" He shouted the last part as the flames burned off his shirt, and it felt good, so fucking good just to scream.
All around him the rain kept pouring down, surrounding him like a shroud.
Eventually his anger ebbed, and the rain doused the flames. His feathers receded, and he was all alone, feeling like an idiot.
He retrieved his helmet, which had a decent dent in it now.
He was always telling his father to keep it cool. To keep a low profile, and to let go of his anger. And here he was blowing his top over a stupid motorcycle.
He looked up to see a young cowboy sitting in a beat-up blue pick-up truck, waving at him from the road through the rain. "Hey, you okay over there? Need a ride?"
He nodded sheepishly, aware that he was naked from the waist up, and singed. "My bike died on me. There was a little fire…"
The man whistled. At the story, or at his shirtless body? It wasn't clear. "Sorry t'hear that. Throw it in the back. I've got some tools at my ranch up the road in Saint David—where you goin'?"
"Perfect. Bet we can get her fixed real quick."