Chapter 2: An Unlikely Hero
She watched upon the rock-torn shore
Her lover's ship to spy
But summer came without his sails
And winter passed her by.
She went and asked the rushing tide,
'Oh water, where is he?'
I hold him here within my breast,
replied the raging sea.
Come forth and see him if you will
I'll swiftly take you down
And you can be his Siren queen
With coral for a crown.
~ the author
Rosco swerved as Daisy hit her brakes in front of him. The world moved in a blur of colors and motions as his right wheels climbed the embankment, tilting the police car sideways beside the Jeep.
And then the road next to him was empty. There seemed to be no sound (that was the thing he would remember forever afterwards) like one of those old-timey picture shows with the captions running along the bottom. A slow, silent, timeless eternity as the shadow of Dixie raced unnaturally across his hood.
She flipped forward, end over end, and if they had been anywhere else in the county, or on any other road, that might have been the worst of it. The Jeep landed hood first on the steep grade of loose rocks and rolled; once, twice, over and over down into the ravine with such speed and force that each turn bore it aloft before it crashed down and rolled again... until it came to rest on its drivers side in the waters of Crockett Pond.
He didn't remember driving off the road or parking beside the pond; he didn't remember getting out or wading in. The water was only knee high where the Jeep had come to lay, and he slogged through it, terrified of what he would find and mumbling a prayer that she wouldn't already be dead. A sudden movement under the water scared him almost more than the silence, and seconds were lost while he stared, white-eyed, at it, until Daisy emerged and struggled to pull herself up from the wreckage.
The mud sucked at his feet, and the water sloshed around his knees as he tried reach her. She clutched at the Jeeps's roll cage, her head just above the water. Whether the metal was slick with mud or she fainted, Rosco didn't know, but her fingers slipped before he made it to her, and with a splash she plunged back down beneath the muck.
"Oh Lord..." He fumbled blindly down into the murky water, his hands scrabbling for her. They found something soft and unyielding, and he grabbed her and pulled her out.
Water poured from her clothes and he lay her head back in the crook of his arm, pulling wet hair and strands of slimy algae from her face.
"Daisy! Daisy, oh please don't be dead..," he moaned, pressing trembling, callused fingers beneath her pale jaw and holding his breath until he felt the soft, fluttery beats of her pulse.
Relief that she was alive quickly dissolved into panic as he waited for her to draw a breath. He glanced at her mouth, trying to remember anything he had ever learned about resuscitation and cursed himself for being too lazy to take that first aid class down in Capital City the year before.
She began to cough then; brown, brackish water trickled from the corners of her mouth, and he turned her to the side, pounding on her back. When the coughing subsided, she gasped, dragging air into her starved lungs. He turned her to see her face, and she opened her eyes wide, looking up into his.
"Rosco," she croaked, hoarsely, "why're you crying?"
Her words made him laugh and cry even harder. "You done scared the living daylights outta me, Daisy Duke," he said. "Are you hurt bad anywhere?" He asked. "Can you stand up?"
She gave him a weak nod, and her right hand clutched at him for support as she got her legs underneath her.
He helped her lean back against the dented frame of the Jeep, smelling the burning oil where it had leaked onto the hot engine block. He swallowed back the queasiness when he noticed her left arm was broken where it hung by her side and instead focused on her face.
"What happened to me?"
"You flipped your Jeep over the ridge after them rotten crooks shot your tire out," he told her. "You're lucky to be alive! I thought you were dead for sure."
She didn't answer him. In fact, she wasn't even looking at him anymore. He turned around to peer over his shoulder where her line of sight had drifted, but there was nothing there.
"Daisy?" He snapped his fingers in front of her face, but she neither blinked, nor did her focus return. She began to shiver. "Daisy, what's wrong? You're scarin' me again."
Her eyes fluttered shut as her body sagged heavily against his, and he caught her before she could fall back into the water.
"Help!" he shouted, desperately. "Somebody help me!"
He looked back up at the road, but there was no one around but him, and he knew he couldn't wait for anyone else to show up. Earl, the ambulance driver, was on call but he would have go to the city garage to pick it up before he came, and Rosco was already closer to Capital City than Hazzard. Daisy needed help, and she needed it now.
He wasn't strong enough to pick her up and carry her. Too old, too soft and flabby. Instead, he hooked his arms under hers and dragged her backwards out of the pond towards his car. Twice he almost tripped in the mud which seemed to tug at Daisy's heels, trying to wrench her from his hands. His mind recalled terrifying old tales of muck monsters and swamp demons, pulling their victims under the water to drown them, though he hadn't thought of such things since he was a child.
When at last they were free of the pond, he dragged her over to his car and hoisted her into the backseat, taking a cursory inventory of her injuries.
"Daisy," he muttered, miserably, "why'd you have to go and try to stop them guys yourself? Dontcha know that's why I wanted in front of you?"
Gingerly, he tucked her broken arm beside her. Other than that, her face and arms were etched with a multitude of scratches, mostly superficial but a couple which might need stitches. There was not much blood, but he was more afraid of the blood he couldn't see. She was still shivering.
The only thing he had to keep her warm was Flash's dog blanket, and it wasn't nearly large enough. "Now, I know this ain't enough to keep you warm," he said, "but I'll turn the heat way up." He tucked it as best he could around her shoulders before slamming the door and crawling into the driver's seat.
He drove back up to the road, both hands gripping the steering wheel in a white-knuckled vise. Running lights and sirens, he pushed the Dodge Monaco to its limits, racing through the backroads of Hazzard County faster than he'd ever dared, even while chasing the General Lee. The car bucked as he turned and skidded onto the asphalt highway of County Road 20, and its water temperature needle shifted a notable tick towards "Hot" as the motor revved before the wheels caught.
The trees and fields blurred together on either side of him. Now on smoother roads, he grabbed frantically for the CB without taking his eyes off the road, knowing if he went much further he would be out of range of any of the Dukes.
"Bo..Luke..Jesse," he called, trying to hide the shaking in his voice. He'd never felt his heart beat so hard. "Any of you Dukes got your ears on? Come back."
Oh please, God, let them answer! If they didn't, he'd try and get hold of Cooter. There was no going back, not with Daisy in the back seat still out cold. He flashed a glance behind him, over the seat, but she hadn't moved a muscle.
"Rosco? This here's Luke. We're over here at the Dickerson place. Those crooks ain't here, but their other car still is. We think we know where they're headed. If y'all meet us down by Stone Bridge, we'll cut them off."
"Just...Just never you mind about that now," he told them. "Now boys, I...I don't rightly know how to tell you this, but I'm on my way down to Tri-County Hospital with Daisy. She's done flipped her Jeep over the ridge."
The dead air that followed was almost worse than the telling, and he felt his hand on the wheel grow slick with sweat.
It was Bo who finally answered. "Rosco, is this some sort of a joke?" His voice sounded hopeful, but even Rosco could hear the thread of fear behind it. "Cause if this is a joke, it ain't funny!"
"I wish it was, Bo. Honest, I do, but it ain't. I've gotta go. My speedometer's clockin' at 95, and I need both hands on the wheel."
"We're on our way, Rosco!"
Oblivious in the back of Rosco's cruiser, Daisy made her way to Capital City for the second time that day.
Rosco cut his siren as he pulled into the emergency entrance. A triage nurse ran out to help as he opened the back passenger's side door.
"She's been in an accident!" he told her. "I think she's breathing, but she's been unconscious for about thirty minutes.
The nurse crawled into the back seat beside Daisy and felt for a pulse and respiration. "I need to know exactly what happened,' she said. "Was she conscious at any point?"
Before Rosco could answer, she yelled behind her to the other triage staff who had just come through the door, "Call Dr. Richardson stat! He'll need to check her before we can move her." Without turning her attention from Daisy, she said, "I'm sorry, Sheriff. What were you saying?"
"Her Jeep flipped and then landed in a pond," he said, "But...but, she was talkin' to me! And she stood up like she was fine!" In the background, he heard the page for Dr. Richardson relayed over the intercom.
"Did she say if anything hurt or complain about anything before she passed out?"
"Her arm was broken, but..but she didn't seem to notice." He remember her staring over his shoulder. "Then she went into some sort of trance, I guess you'd call it, staring out at nothing. And then she fainted. She started shivering, too," he added. He craned his neck over the woman where Daisy lay - so very, very still. "Can't you get her out of the car?"
"The doctor needs to check to make sure her neck's not broken before we move her," she explained. "He'll be here in just a minute."
No sooner had she said that, than a young man in light gray scrubs ran out the door and past the other triage staff who had wheeled a gurney beside the car. The nurse inside the car switched places with him, filling him in on what Rosco had told her, using terms he didn't understand like decompensation and normal oculocephalic reflex, as the doctor bent over Daisy and began to feel gently around the back of her head and neck.
"What's her name?"
"Daisy," offered Rosco. "Daisy Duke."
"Daisy?" the doctor asked her, loudly. "Daisy, can you hear me? You said she stood up and spoke, Sheriff?"
"Yeah, and right after the wreck, she was able to pull herself out of the water before she fell back in."
The doctor crawled back out of the car. "I don't feel anything in her neck or spinal column to worry about, and her respirations are good," he told the triage team. "Let's get her in, get an I.V. started and make sure she's stable, but she'll need an MRI and CT so call Life Fight and get them on the way. She's got an open fracture of the left forearm so let's support that side as much as we can. Sheriff, can you move your front seats up to give us more room?"
Rosco, happy to be doing something other than standing impotently and worrying over Daisy, scrambled to move the seats.
In a cumbersome balancing act, Dr. Richardson and his team managed to transfer her to the gurney with a minimum of jostling and rushed her through doors into the building, leaving him alone. Blood had pooled on the hard vinyl of the backseat, presumably where her broken arm had rested, and run down into the carpet where it left a half-dollar sized, dark stain. He tossed Flash's blanket over it and slammed the door.
Standing in a daze, he realized his car was in the way, so he moved it into the parking lot before going inside himself. The automatic doors opened with swift, smooth efficiency, and the cool air conditioning hit him just before the biting smell of antiseptic.
Tri-County Hospital was small and old, but clean, and the tile floor gleamed with new wax. The posters offering advice on signs of stroke and the importance of hand washing were faded and curled at the edges, and the fabric of the waiting room chairs was an off-colored peach that might have once been orange at some point.
Rosco's hands rang the brim of his hat convulsively, feeling the early twinges of a headache forming as he stepped up to the nurses' station.
One of them looked up at him and smiled sympathetically. "Sir, are you the officer who brought in Ms. Duke?"
"Yeah, that's me," he said. "Is she gonna be alright?"
"The triage unit is back there with her now, but I don't have any specifics," she said. "Do you know if her family has been contacted?"
"I let them know that I was bringing her here, but I had a head start."
She nodded and flipped open the chart in front of her, taking down the names of Jesse, Luke, and Bo Duke that he provided. Rosco wasn't completely sure about her birthday, sometime in the winter, but he was able to give basic information and her address and phone number.
"If you need to stay and wait for her family, they're going to Life Flight her to Grady Memorial in Atlanta, since we don't have an MRI available at Tri-County."
Rosco murmured a 'thanks', and dropped into one of the faded chairs beside the window, only then realizing that he was wet and covered in noxious smelling, half dried mud. Dixie rolling down the hill played on a constant loop in the back of his mind. All for a stolen safe that wasn't worth the trouble in the first place, just something to do to kill the monotony of life in Hazzard.
The only thing inside it had been Flash's dog biscuits.