Passing Through Midnight

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Authors: Mary Kay McComas
was raw and soul-deep, and as pernicious
as any cancer she'd seen. She shook her head in regret and disgust as
they pulled him away, and climbed into the ambulance during his final
litany of threats. "You touch him, you die, bitch. You're wasting your
time. He's gonna die. So are you if you help him. Stay out of it. Let
him die. You touch him, you're dead."
    It had been easy enough to put the angry young man out of
her mind as it filled with other, more important issues and events.
Fighting the mob to get both victims into the ER. Working frantically
to stop the flow of blood, while keeping one eye on the police
barricade and the efforts being made to disperse the crowd. Inserting a
chest tube and starting blood replacement on the stabbed patient and
sending the gunshot wound to surgery. Paperwork, lab tests, X rays.
Sutures, dressings, oxygen. Too much to do to give hollow threats a
second thought.
    Much later, she would marvel at how precious and fragile a
thing life was, and how ugly and stupid it could be at the same time.
    Her forty-eight-hour shift was over at midnight that
night. She had the next two days off and a million things to do, which
was what she was thinking about when she left the hospital.
    It was a pitch-black night, heavy October cloud cover and
no stars. The parking lot was well lit, and the doctors' parking lot
was only a few yards from the exit. She wasn't thinking danger, and,
therefore, she didn't see any.
    She unlocked her car and got in. She removed the For Sale
sign from the dash, thinking it was a good thing she hadn't yet sold
the little Bronco. With the Porsche in the shop so often, it might be
wise to keep it as a backup. She'd talk to Philip about buying out his
share of the second vehicle. Automatically she turned on the cellular
phone as there were invariably questions from her replacement or lab
work she wanted to hear about. She put the car in reverse and pulled
    A light-colored van that looked as if it had seen better
days pulled out behind her, but, again, she wasn't looking for danger.
People came and went from hospital parking lots at all hours.
    She drove the ten blocks of stop-and-go traffic to the
freeway entrance. Lots of people used the freeway too.
    Habit took her to the left-hand lane. She was tired, and
she wanted to get home. She ran the speedometer to five miles over the
limit, knowing cops wouldn't stop anyone for less than seven, and
hummed along with the old Beach Boys song on the radio.
    The van was in a hurry as well, she noted absently, then
watched its lights as it switched to the middle lane and attempted to
pass her on the right. Obviously they were in a bigger hurry than she
was, and she let her foot off the gas to let them pass.
    From that point on, time and events welded together in a
distorted sequence of bizarre pictures and abstract thoughts.
    The bump from the right rear of the car. Wrestling the
tires for control of the car. A second impact, from the right side this
time. Headlights. Screaming rubber. There were sparks flying past her
window as she slid along the concrete meridian, turning sharply to the
right. A third impact—another car crashing into the retaining
wall Spinning. The cry of folding metal. Glass shattering. Complete and
absolute silence.
    Then faint traffic noises. Horns. Lights. Distant voices.
She needed help. She reached for the phone beside her. So dark. Bright
lights. A light-colored truck coming her way. Cutting off traffic. Help
coming. No license plate—maybe it was in back. Light colored.
A van. Beat-up old van. Not stopping. Not stopping. Stop!

    "I didn't know until later that he'd backed away from me
two more times after that before he drove off, before… he
left me for dead," she said, speaking into the darkness as if she were
alone; reviewing simple facts; trying to reconcile them in her mind.
Gil sat quietly, taking in the general whys and wherefores of her story
as she told it, sensing she was leaving twice as much

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