Amanda stayed beside Lee until she sensed that he was sleeping, his chills having temporarily subsided. Carefully, she got up and searched through their meagre belongings until she found the knife that Lee had fashioned earlier in the day. She peeked in the entrance of the cave-like den just to ensure that no one was home. It wasn't overly large but, in a pinch, they could fit inside. Glancing up at the darkening sky, she predicted rain before nightfall. If they couldn't go back to the chopper, they'd need to find some shelter and this might be it. Using the knife, she scraped away the soil and managed to hack and bend back some of the branches thus enlarging the entrance, so that Lee's sturdy frame could fit through the opening.
Her efforts had caused the cut on her hand to open up again and she paused to put a fresh bandage on it. Then, on all fours, she crawled into the shelter and looked around. It was dark and had an earthy smell but they could both fit, if they didn't mind huddling together. The floor was scattered with leaves from previous years and a few insects scuttled away as she disturbed the usual quiet of their habitat. Suppressing a shiver at the sight of a large centipede, she backed out and then pushed the duffle bag of supplies inside.
Next, she checked on her sleeping partner. He had flung the t-shirts off and was mumbling slightly. The growth of several days beard darkened his face and shadows could be seen under his eyes. Bruises were peeking out around the wrappings that kept his arm and shoulder in place and the infection in his leg was oozing through the bandages. 'Please, please, please,' she prayed. 'Let help come soon.'
The air was damp and a cool breeze was beginning to blow, causing her to shiver as it passed over her sweaty skin. She stared at the sky, watching the dark grey clouds roll by. The wind suddenly picked up and the leaves began to rustle as they swayed on their slender stems. Slowly, one by one, fat drops of rain started to fall, making plinking sounds as they landed. Wet spots began to appear on her shirt with increasing speed and Amanda realized that this was not going to be a light sprinkle. She would have to wake Lee so he could move into the miniature cave before they were both totally soaked.
She called his name and shook his shoulder. Unlike earlier in the day, it took several attempts to rouse him and he looked at her with bleary eyes. Quickly explaining what must be done, they worked as a team to get him inside.
Amanda sat in the cramped space. Her side, still sore and bruised, was letting her know its displeasure at her activities today. Crawling on the forest floor hadn't been the best idea and helping Lee move...well, he was no lightweight. She was exhausted from both her efforts and the emotional roller coaster she'd been on all day.
Lee's head was pillowed on her lap. She looked down and ran her hand lovingly across his brow, wishing yet again, that there was something more she could do to help him. Once inside their new shelter, he had immediately fallen into a restless sleep, mumbling slightly as he dreamed. In the dim light, Amanda felt herself becoming sleepy and began to doze, half listening to Lee's voice as he muttered crossly.
"I don't know why we have to wait here. Nothing is going to happen. This whole mission is a bust," he grumbled. Suddenly, he tensed, sat up and pushed her behind him while shouting "Get down! Stay in the car and call for backup!"
Amanda's head made contact with a bit of branch that helped form the walls of the den. Naturally the point of contact was her original bump and she growled at Lee, even though she knew he wasn't aware of his actions. It was a bit of a struggle but she managed to keep him from exiting the shelter, mostly because his leg gave out when he'd tried to get past her.
He fell into a calmer sleep after that, his fever abated somewhat. She checked his wound again, the sight of the infected cut making her slightly ill. Even though it wouldn't do much good, she changed the bandage and applied more cream. Noticing how, even in sleep, he winced in pain, she wondered about giving him some whiskey to drink. Did you give alcohol to someone with a fever? Frowning, she searched her memory but couldn't recall. Well, once he woke up, they'd talk about it, though she was sure she knew what his answer would be!
Unsure of what to do next, Amanda just sat, half asleep, waiting for the rain to stop. What she would do when that happened, she didn't know. Even if she could find some dry wood, did she dare light a fire? What if Dwayne and his friend came back and saw it? Yet, without a fire their damp clothing wouldn't dry and they'd be cold and uncomfortable tonight.
She had given up all thought of going back to the crash site— she'd never get Lee that far. Trying to think of her next move, Amanda laid her head back against the wall and let her eyes drift shut. She'd just rest for a few moments...
Sometime later, Amanda awoke with a start. Lee had his hand clamped over her mouth and he was making shushing noises. She strained her ears to hear whatever had alerted him. The rain had stopped but water was still dripping off of the leaves. In the dim light her eyes met his, a question evident in her gaze. Was this another fever induced hallucination or had he really heard something. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, she continued to listen. Finally she heard it too— the sound of someone approaching. There were male voices but too distant for her to determine who they might belong to.
Carefully bending over so that her mouth was by his ear, she whispered, "Do you think it's Marcus' rescue team or Riley's men?"
Lee shook his head, "I can't make out the voices. We need to try to see who it is. Do you think you can manage to peek around the corner and not be seen?"
"I'll have to, won't I? We can't risk staying hidden in case it's the rescue team."
"But we can't risk being discovered either. Neither of us will stand a chance if Riley gets his hands on us."
Amanda grasped the knife in her hand and moved as silently as possible towards the entrance. She listened intently trying to determine where the voices were coming from and how near they might be. Deciding that whoever was out there was probably a distance away, she cautiously peered around the corner and almost let out a gasp. It was the same men she had seen earlier in the day and they seemed to be searching the woods.
Creeping back towards Lee, she saw that his brief adrenaline rush, caused by the sound of the voices, was rapidly fading. He was leaning against the back of the cave, his eyes closed, his breathing uneven. She whispered her report to him, hoping he was still conscious.
"Oh Lee, we're in big trouble now. Riley's men are back and they seem to be searching around this area looking for us. We'll have to stay here, hidden and as quiet as possible. Do you understand me, Lee? No sounds, okay?"
Lee nodded. She turned to face the entrance, the knife clutched in her hand, but felt Lee grab her arm. Looking back she saw him holding out the gun to her. Amanda stared at the gun for a brief moment before raising her eyes to his.
His steady gaze held hers and he mouthed the words, "Take it."
Amanda swallowed hard and set down the makeshift knife. Her trembling hand took the weapon from him. She hated guns and did very poorly at the firing range but it was up to her to protect both herself and her partner. Removing the safety, she crouched by the entrance waiting for whatever might happen next.
Time passed slowly. It seemed like hours but in reality was probably much shorter. Her hand was cramping from the tight hold she had on the handle of the gun. Wiggling her fingers slightly, she quickly glanced down at her hand. The bandage was red with blood. She wiped her hand on her pant leg but then resumed her death grip on the weapon. Footsteps could be heard approaching and Amanda scarcely dared to breathe.
"They must be around here somewhere. That local that we talked to said his buddy had given the survivor of a crash a ride to town. One of them must have gone for help and left the other two back here."
"Well keep looking. There's probably a clue somewhere and once we find it, we'll track them down, hand them over to Riley and get our money."
Hands shaking and palms slippery with blood and sweat, she raised her arm and pointed the gun at the entrance to the den. "I can do this," she told herself. "I have to save Lee." Swallowing hard, she cocked the gun.
A booted foot came into her line of vision and the voice that she thought belonged to Dwayne called out, "Hey, Bob! Look here!"
Forcing herself to wait, Amanda held her breath. A knee and leg appeared as the man knelt down to peer inside. Closing her eyes, Amanda fired.
A cry of pain and surprise was heard and she fired twice more and then paused, not wanting to waste her ammunition.
"What the hell?" The man named Bob could be heard running and shouting. Amanda found it difficult to make out his words due to the rushing sound in her ears. She shook her head, forcing herself to stay conscious and in control. Behind her, she could here Lee moving about.
"Amanda, I hear something..." he said in a shaky voice.
Too intent on watching the entrance to the den, Amanda shushed Lee, not listening to his effort at gaining her attention.
Amanda heard gun fire and immediately fired again to keep her enemies at bay. There were more voices and more running feet. "Oh my gosh," she whispered. "Riley's sent more men. How long can I hold them off?" Fear rushed through her system and she trembled uncontrollably. Footsteps came closer and closer... People were shouting.... Someone paused just outside the entrance. Sweat dripped in her eyes and she could hardly see. Amanda braced herself to pull the trigger again when suddenly Lee called out from behind her.
"No!" Somehow Lee had managed to gather enough strength to launch himself across the shelter. He pushed her hand up and to the side just as she fired. Bits of debris showered down upon them as the bullet buried itself in the roof of the cave. Lee let go of her wrist and collapsed on the ground beside her.
Amanda's shocked gaze moved from Lee to the entrance.
" Lee! Amanda!"
A voice impinged on her mind. She knew that voice—it was Mr. Melrose, her boss! In slow motion, Amanda let her arm drop to her side and the gun slide from her hand. Her head slowly sank to her chest and she felt herself falling forward as the world around darkened...
Chapter 14 (more like a tag)
2 days later...
Amanda sat beside Lee in the hospital. As usual, he was grumbling about the treatment, the food, the IV....the list went on and on. She reached over and grabbed his hand.
"Lee, if you spend less energy on griping and more on resting, you'll get released sooner."
"No, I won't. Once medical personnel get a victim, they keep you for as long as they can, poking and prodding and taking blood—a bunch of sadistic..."
Amanda ended his tirade by placing a finger across his lips. "You promised me..."
"I know, I know. If I want company, I have to quit complaining."
Lee lifted her bandaged hand to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss on her scraped knuckles. He smiled up at her and said, "Amanda, you were terrific out there. I know how you feel about guns and shooting but you managed to incapacitate Dwayne by shooting him in the foot and..."
Uncomfortable with the trend of the conversation, Amanda interrupted saying with sarcasm, "Oh, sure. I was really terrific! Almost shooting your section chief is a great way to further your career!"
"I stopped you in time and Billy understood that you didn't know it was him."
"Honestly, I didn't hear the rescue chopper! I was so scared I could barely think, let alone hear."
"Billy knows that." Lee reassured. "We were sure lucky that they arrived when they did. We only had that one gun and eventually our ammo would have run out..." His face clouded over and Amanda knew he was thinking about what could have happened.
"Never mind." It was Amanda's turn to offer comfort. "It's all in the past and we're safe now. You'll be well enough to leave the hospital soon, I only have this cut and a few bruises left and with the information Marcus gathered, Riley and the rest of them will be behind bars for some time to come."
They both sat quietly for a while, lost in thoughts of their most recent adventure.
Lee began to nervously pleat the sheets of the bed and then cleared his throat before speaking. "Amanda, now that your memory's mostly returned, do you still think...I mean, do you recall what we were saying just before..." He paused and grappled for the words, and the courage, to ask the question that had been burning in his heart since their return to civilization.
Amanda apparently knew what he wanted to ask and took pity on him, "Yes, I still love you. Memory or no memory, you're always in my heart." She leaned forward and kissed him slowly and tenderly before pulling away and staring into his eyes.
"Manda, I love you too - for always," Lee promised, before reaching up and pulling her back down for another kiss.
"Hmm! That's the medicine I need," he chuckled as they broke apart.
"If you're a good boy, you might get another dose," she teased.
"Is giving medicine in the Bedside Bluebell manual?"
"Don't you remember?" She whispered as her lips descended on his again, "I wrote my own chapter."
(Well this was the end maybe…..but as the GG girls were reading, they kept posing questions which got me to thinking….someone didn't really trust Marcus and where the heck was he any way? What all was Amanda forgetting in Chapter 1 – she thought there was something she had to do.. a rendezvous – hmm. And at the end here, her memory has mostly returned….Oh dear, and Riley has never been caught...
I am presently trying to answer these questions in a follow up story so…maybe this really isn't the end or maybe it is—time will tell – Charlie)