The coffee here was great, Carrie noted to herself as she sipped some milky liquid at the Coffee Cafe. Great coffee, not so great title.
Bitter though her coffee was, it warmed her nicely as snow fell around the cafe and sent New York City into a craze, despite the fact that it was only yet around half a centimetre deep. As she spoke, she heard some wheel spin outside, which she turned in her seat to view. Her eyes widened and she stood, spilling her coffee onto the table, as she saw a large car with several passengers careening toward a still SUV, parked in the middle of a one-way street with no driver.
Before the cars had even collided, Carrie lifted her phone to her ear and ran out into the small parking lot, pulling on her leather jacket as she came to a stop.
The smash of metal on metal was deafening just as Al answered his cell phone.
"Carrie?!" he cried once he'd heard the noise.
"I'm fine – get down here, Coffee Cafe, these people are going to get hurt."
Carrie said nothing more as she shoved her phone deep in her pocket and ran towards the cars. The SUV was obviously armoured, it had barely even rocked as the people carrier had charged into it. Or the family car was tampered with, Carrie thought, disliking the clichéd expression but knowing full well the meaning it often held.
The front left corner of the car had been completely smashed beyond rescue, so Carrie ran around to the back door on the other side and tugged on the handle. Locked. She pulled at the passenger door and it opened. A male fell out and Carrie caught him quickly, dragging him out and toward the curb opposite the diner, where a collection of witnesses had gathered. "Come help him, please!" she called out and, thankfully, a few gentlemen ran over and took the male from her.
Returning to the car, Carrie reached behind the passenger seat and pulled up the lock. She wrenched open the back door and found a toddler, possibly around three, crying on her car seat, with the most desperate, helpless expression on her face. Carrie glanced quickly over and saw her likely brother, around ten, unconscious in his seat.
"Sweetheart, honey, it's okay, my name's Carrie Wells and I work for the police, alright? You wanna put your hands up here?" Carrie tapped her shoulders and the girl wrapped her arms around them as Carrie reached across and popped her seat belt.
The girls pink car seat was completely undamaged; it was the front of the car that had taken the full brunt. "What's your name, sweetie?" Carrie asked softly.
"Alisa," the girl barely whispered, gasping through her tears.
"I promise you'll be okay, Alisa, these people have run over to help you. You'll be safe with them, alright? You hear me?"
Alisa nodded as Carrie set her on her feet and she turned toward a waiting woman who was just starting to show pregnancy.
"Daddy!" the little girl cried, and the pregnant woman carried her over to sit beside her father, where a thick coat was set upon her shoulders.
"One for him, too," Carrie instructed.
The smell of fuel caught her nose. She jogged over to the front of the car, where the bonnet steamed and hissed. It was too hot to touch, and Carrie knew there was little time left.
Carrie dived into the backseat and unclipped the boy's seat belt. She dragged him across Alisa's car seat and lifted him up, struggling under his weight to the curb.
Really pushing for time and adrenaline, Carrie sprinted to the passenger door and unfastened the driver seat belt. It was a female with a very large head wound. She slouched over her airbag as Carrie pulled on her wrist – which she could feel was fractured – to remove her from the car. The muscles around the broken bone tensed horribly, but Carrie was sure that the woman would rather her life than her hand.
She tugged with all the strength she had until the woman was hanging halfway out of the passenger door. Carrie saw the briefest glimpse of flames in her peripheral vision.
The car exploded just as Carrie had covered half of the distance between it and the curb, where she was knocked to the ground by the force of it. She turned to see the driver's limp hand burning, hanging off the passenger seat. "No," Carrie whispered as she realised she'd been too late. Just two more seconds, two more and that family may have had a mother as well.
"No!" Carrie gasped and turned to see where the voice had come from.
The passenger was sitting up by now and had just seen his wife blown to smithereens.
Carrie sat up slowly and watched him with her mouth open, her pained expression appearing as though she'd cry herself. The man looked as though he'd physically been stabbed: he was writhing as much as his broken body would allow and crying uncontrollably.
As it often did, Carrie's mind wandered and she saw herself from years ago.
Al was bent over her, crying without reigns in the same way as this man was now. She was injured badly, unconscious; her clothing was entirely soaked with blood.
"Carrie!" he cried desperately, his hands fumbling over her uselessly. He tried to put pressure on her wound as she let a very quiet moan escape her lips.
"Oh, Carrie!" Al repeated, leaning over and cradling her head in his lap, drenching his suit in blood. "Carrie, I thought... Oh, Carrie!"
Al continued to cry over her until the EMTs came. He wouldn't let go of her hand until he was dragged away while she was X-Rayed. An EMT in the ambulance told him to keep speaking to her, and he told her stories of their past together for three hours straight, achieving the faintest smiles when she slipped temporarily into consciousness now and then.
Carrie remembered every detail of the room, the words he spoke while she was awake and most of those he spoke while she was drifting back to sleep.
"You remember that time we took my sister and her family to the movies? We thought they were engrossed in the film, and I kissed you and suddenly the kids and about ten others they'd met turned around and they cried out! They thought we were gross! And then I started to pull away, but you grinned and kissed me again, sneaking a few glances at them. They all pretended to be sick, but they laughed a lot. You've always been so great with kids..."
"Carrie!" Al called, startling her out of her reverie. He ran over to where she was sitting on the ground and knelt in front of her. He whispered her name again when he saw the blood gushing from her head. Déjà vu weighed heavily on him for a moment before he snapped back to reason.
"Okay, Carrie, can you hear me? You doing all right?" he shouted over the roar of sirens and people crashing around.
"Yeah, Al, I'm fine, what's up, why are you so worried?" Carrie chuckled slightly, though her eyes darted back to the passenger frequently as he was loaded onto a cot.
"Carrie, you can't even feel you're hurt?" Al's eyes were shining and his voice shook almost imperceptibly.
"Why, what's wrong with me?" Carrie asked uncertainly. She was definitely behaving entirely out of character.
Though it was cold, even for February, Carrie still wore only a thin tan sweater under her jacket. Her black trousers were damp and smudged with snow; her badge was still attached around a belt loop but it was now dirty; there were embers everywhere, burning holes in her trousers and top in several places, and the car, she could see, was sending even more out as it was extinguished by the fire brigade.
"Come on," Al said, tugging gently on her arm and leading her to an ambulance.
Carrie winced as she put weight on her left foot. She limped to the ambulance with Al's support, but she wanted nothing more that to sleep. "Let me rest, Al," she murmured.
"Carrie! You need to stay awake, I'm sorry, but you do. Look, we're right here," Al continued to say things to her as an EMT led her to the chair just inside the door.
"Déjà vu, huh?" Carrie said quietly as she looked up at him.
Al couldn't say anything, his throat was so thick. For need of just the slightest comfort, Carrie reached out and gripped his hand. "I feel dizzy," she whispered.
"All right, Carrie, they're going to drug you up now, hon," Al soothed.
Carrie smiled slightly when she heard him call her 'hon.' He'd always called her that when they were together. It still gave her butterflies.
"Carrie!" Nina and Roe called as they reached the back doors of the ambulance.
"She'll be alright," Al told them as Carrie slipped into a foggy sedation in response to the shot in her vein.
"Al," she breathed before she slipped away.
"Yes, Carrie? Carrie, honey, what is it?"
"Stay with me."
"Of course. Of course, I'm here, honey. I'm here."