Who's To Blame? Excerpt
For an indeterminate amount of time, twenty-four-year-old Keri Ann Lawrence’s world had been dark and silent. But suddenly, a few small stimuli began to reawaken her deadened senses. The scream of sharp and clear sirens from somewhere very close by. The haze of red and blue lights flashing just beyond the confines of her eyelids. The taste of blood in her mouth. And finally, the frantic pleas of a panicked male voice that seemed to be just a few feet from her eardrums.
A panicked male voice that kept saying, “Jody! Jody, wake up! Come on! Wake up!”
Groaning as her sore and aching body finally regained the ability to move, Keri Ann slowly and gingerly lifted her throbbing forehead from the steering wheel of her car. There’s been some sort of accident, she realized as she flopped back in her seat and began to massage her sore neck. And it must be pretty close because those sirens sound as if they’re…
Gasping as all of the items that had re-stimulated her senses finally allowed her to draw the conclusion that she was the accident victim, Keri Ann’s blue eyes flew open, and she began to frantically look around at her surroundings. Still seated in the driver’s seat of her now smashed and dented dark purple Ford Taurus, the first sight she saw through the cracked windshield was her car’s hood, which had crumpled up like an accordion. Slowly turning her head to the left, her bleary eyes focused in on the two wailing red and white ambulances, which had the town name of Citrus Grand printed on their sides in large gold letters, that were now speeding onto the scene and coming to abrupt stops in the middle of an intersection that her brain had just remembered was the one that met at Busy Lane, Fashion Boulevard, and Sucrose Road in the downtown section of her suburban hometown of Keystone, California.
As a white police cruiser, which had gold and sky-blue trim on the sides and the logo of the Keystone/San Pepe Police Department emblazoned on its front doors, blared into the intersection after the ambulances and gently bumped over a car bumper and some shattered glass that was laying in the middle of the road, Keri Ann closed her eyes again and groaned. How long was I out of it for? she thought as she resumed rubbing her neck. It couldn’t have been that long because the emergency workers are just getting here.
“Jody!” the voice that had initially jostled Keri Ann back into consciousness pleaded again. “Jody, wake up! Come on! I…I can’t live without you!”
Gasping again as the urgent mention of her younger sister’s name immediately made her remember that she hadn’t been traveling alone when the wreak had occurred, Keri Ann abruptly turned to the side of the car that she had yet to examine: the right side. And it was then that she saw her. Her sister, Jody, who was slumped over in the passenger seat with her head resting eerily still against the dashboard while Earl Jaminson, the college junior who had a hopeless crush on her, desperately tried to shake her awake.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Keri Ann, the sensations of pain that had shot through her body when she had made such a sudden move completely transforming into alarm as she leaned toward Jody and Earl. “Earl!” she desperately cried. “Earl, is she okay?”
Upon hearing Keri Ann’s voice, Earl, who had crouched his tall and lanky frame into somewhat of a sitting position outside the completely broken-out window on the passenger side of the vehicle, looked up at her with tears streaming from his blue eyes down onto his pale freckle-sprinkled cheeks. “I…” he stammered as he shakily began to shake his head, “I don’t know. I…I keep asking her to wake up, but she…well, s-she won’t!”
Now feeling her heartbeat kick into anxious overdrive and her own body begin to shake with dread as Earl burst into heartbroken sobs, Keri Ann hurriedly took hold of Jody’s wrist and began to feel around for her veins.
Sniffling as Keri Ann finally located a vein and firmly but gently pressed her fingers against it, Earl reached into the pocket of the belted jeans, which had rolled-up cuffs, that he was wearing with black boots, yellow suspenders, and a black short-sleeve polo shirt that had thin yellow and orange stripes printed on it and pulled out a handkerchief. “I…I called nine-one-one,” he informed her as he blew his nose. “And…and they’re here now. So should I go get someone to help Jody?”
But just as Keri Ann was opening her mouth to respond, another voice behind her suddenly asked, “Miss? Miss, are you all right?”
Now turning her attention toward her own shattered window, Keri Ann was greeted by a young male police officer who had dark hair, blue eyes, and a gold pin that had the last name “Markey” engraved on it attached to the right side of his dark blue button-down uniform shirt. “I’m fine,” she quickly assured him. “But my sister…” Shaking her head as she turned back toward Jody, who was still just laying there like a limp rag doll that had long since been abandoned by a careless child, she swallowed hard and continued with, “Well, she really needs some help. I mean, I…I just took her pulse, and she’s alive and all, but…”
“She’s alive?” Earl, who had buried his face in his handkerchief and started shaking his head in despair, interrupted with an excited gasp as he instantaneously looked up at Keri Ann again. “Oh, thank God!”
“Yes,” Keri Ann confirmed with a nod. “She’s alive, but…” turning back to the police officer, she continued with, “well, her pulse is kind of faint, so…”
Not having to hear another word in order to comprehend how serious the situation was, Officer Markey straightened to his full height, put his hands on his hips, and turned his attention toward the emergency crews who had arrived on the scene. “Hey!” he shouted to some EMTs who were investigating a smashed-up dark blue Chevy Suburban that sat across the intersection from Keri Ann’s car with its hood forced open and a cloud of steam rising off the engine. “Get some of your people over here now! We’ve got a victim who appears to be in bad shape!”
As a team of EMTs turned and started rushing over to her car, causing Earl to instinctively stand up and jump out of the way, Keri Ann felt the full reality of the situation suddenly come crashing over her like a tidal wave. “B-bad shape,” she repeated, her lip beginning to tremble with the same fear that Earl had been exhibiting ever since she had awakened to find him crouched at her sister’s window. “W-what does that mean? Does that mean that she’s going to…going to…”
Intuitively knowing what question Keri Ann was struggling to ask, Officer Markey once again leaned down, reached into the car, and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “They’re going to do all they can for her,” he assured her as the EMTs reached the car and started to work at prying Jody’s completely smashed-in door open. “And you should let them examine you too. Because even though you’re conscious, you could still have some serious injuries that you haven’t noticed yet. Injuries like that gash on your arm there that probably has some glass embedded in it considering the condition of your car and all.”
As Officer Markey nodded toward her right arm, Keri Ann looked down to find that she did have a pretty deep and nasty gash that was now starting to throb excruciatingly. “Okay,” she softly agreed with a nod as the EMTs finally managed to ease Jody’s door open. “Yeah, I guess I should do that.”
As Keri Ann slowly tore her eyes away from Jody, for whom the EMTs were now starting to analyze the best way to remove her from the car without further exacerbating whatever injuries were causing her state of unconsciousness, and turned to start fiddling with her door handle, Officer Markey gave her a kind smile. “Uh,” he said, “you might want to lose the seatbelt now. I mean, it’s great that you were wearing it when the accident happened and all, but now…”
“The seatbelt,” Keri Ann realized as she stopped toying with the door handle and looked down at the safety device that was still holding her in place. “Right. I guess I just found out how important these things are, didn’t I?”
As Keri Ann reached down to unbuckle her seatbelt, Officer Markey gave her a small smile. “Yup,” he agreed as he pulled Keri Ann’s door open from the outside. “When they keep people like you and your sister from becoming road pizzas, the other officers and I are just as grateful for them as you guys should be.” Extending a hand to Keri Ann, he said, “Now here. Why don’t you let me help you out of there?”
Already knowing that she was definitely going to be at least a little shaky once she finally stood up, Keri Ann gratefully reached up and took Officer Markey’s hand. Then she carefully swung her legs out of the car and allowed him to slowly pull her to her feet.
Just as Keri Ann was getting her balance and smoothing down her blood-spattered light pink V-neck short-sleeve top, another policeman, this one a large and pudgy guy with a friendly demeanor and the last name of “Howard” printed on his own name pin, suddenly came hurrying over from the Suburban. “Jake!” he shouted, huffing and puffing as he came to a stop beside his partner. “We’ve got a problem.”
Letting go of Keri Ann’s hand, Jake crossed his arms over the front of his uniform shirt, turned to his fellow officer, and gave him a small knowing smile. “What’s that, Cliff?” he asked. “You need a doughnut to get you through the rest of this shift?”
Finally regaining his breath, Cliff shook his head. “No,” he replied. “I mean, yes, I am hungry, but…well, no. We’ve got a much bigger problem than that right now!”
His face now taking on a stricken expression, Jake slowly asked, “And that would be?”
Taking a deep breath, Cliff announced, “We can’t find the driver of the SUV that caused this accident.”