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"I got you!" Dee hissed as she scrambled for the fallen cross and its occupant. She knelt beside the wounded man. His eyes remained open... the dark blue orbs stared past Dee's face at the sky beyond.
Then they shifted. He looked into her eyes, but didn't respond to her presence, not even to question who she was or where she'd come from. He was alive and awake, but probably in shock. Probably dying.
"Hold on," she said. Dee opened her backpack and slipped her hand into one of the interior pockets. Several items slipped past her fingertips; Dee knew them all by touch. She pulled out a pair of latex gloves and slipped them on quickly. "I'm a nurse." Dee took the man's pulse, which was very weak yet steady. His breathing was slow... deep. He was hurt, but was surprisingly calm. Relaxed, even. It must have been the shock. She examined the man's wounds, quickly sorting and categorizing them. "I'll treat what I can here," she said. "But you need a hospital. These are already infected. These birds..."
Dee looked up. A few of the black bird circled high above, but the majority of them had fled. Carrion eaters. Dee wondered what infections they carried on their beaks and talons. She returned her attention to her patient. She's saved him from the birds, but now he was going to bleed to death... slowly. Once she stopped the bleeding, he'd be all set to die from infection.
This assumed that whoever had beaten and crucified him didn't come back and kill them both.
"Can you hear me?" she asked. "Is there somewhere close by that I can take you? A hospital? A doctor? Someplace... clean? With water?"
The blue eyes remained fixed on her face. The man's head slowly twisted to one side, then to the other.
"Okay. Okay, so you can hear me and respond. That's good. Hold on..."
Dee peeled off one of the gloves and returned to her bag, retrieving her meager stash of medical supplies. She had a standard emergency kit, supplemented with a few extra things from the hospital... mostly a suture kit, some antibiotics and painkillers. She'd be using every bit of it to save this man's life.
The man watched her as she worked, but didn't move, not even after she cut his arms and legs free. He had no reaction when she used the suture kit to sew his flesh closed, or used her scalpel to widen wounds in order to remove debris.
"You must be some kinda badass, right?" Dee said as she worked.
The man stared at her. His lip quivered, but it was just a twitch.
"So who did you piss off, eh? Who did this?"
The skin around the man's eyes tightened. A frown.
"They coming back?"
The stranger nodded, slowly.
"Was it the guys in the uniforms?"
No response. Dee glanced at the remains of the man's shirt. There hadn't been much left to begin with, but she'd cut it off of him and shredded it with her knife. She used the relatively clean parts for bandages and discarded the rest. The material was the same as what she'd seen on the dead soldier.
"You... you're one of them, aren't you? If you are, PLEASE don't tell me you throw people in cages and take them to be eaten. Because if I just used up all my medical supplies on-"
The man inhaled deeply, flexing his arms and legs as if waking from a long sleep. He opened his mouth... then closed it quickly and grunted. He tried to sit up-
"Wait... waiiit..." Dee put her hand on his chest and pushed him back down. He went willingly. She checked his pulse again. Stronger. Much stronger.
A rough, calloused hand closed over hers. He held her hand tightly... almost enough to hurt.
"...just... checking your pulse..." she said. His fingers roamed over her hand and wrist as if searching for something... then he let her go.
He sat up. Dee tried to push him down again, but it was like pushing a wall. The man wasn't muscular, but the muscle he did have was hard and well-used.
"I'm... done anyway," Dee eased herself back. "That's all I can do without a hospital. I've got some antibiotics and some..."
The man stared at her.
"My name is Dee. Dee Williams. You are..."
The man opened his mouth, then frowned and closed it. There was a brief flash of frustration, then he shook his head.
He pointed to his mouth.
"Did they... do something to your mouth?"
Dee reached out for his mouth. The man jerked backward, eyes wide with shock. He looked at Dee as if she were insane.
"Hey! What's the problem?" Dee asked.
The man pointed to his mouth, then at Dee. He shook his head.
"Don't touch... your mouth?"
The man nodded slowly, frowning as if he wasn't sure why he needed to explain himself.
"Okay. Fine with me; I'm not a dentist anyway. If something's going on in there I canNOT help you." Dee stuffed the remnants of her first aid supplies back into her bag. Then she stood and held out her hand. "Come on," she said. "We need to get you somewhere. I can't carry you; but you look strong enough to walk. We need to be elsewhere when your friends get back."
The man slapped her hand away and stood on his own. Halfway through the motion, he spotted the knife on Dee's belt. It was the one she'd taken from the corpse of the soldier hours before. The man saw it and halted for a moment, then finished standing.
He pointed to the knife, then reached out his hand expectantly. His intention was clear.
"Oh, really?" Dee said. She fingered the pommel and stared up into the man's suddenly cold eyes. "You want this here?"
He opened his mouth as if to speak. His jaw hung open silently. He made a weak coughing sound, then sighed.
"You can't talk, can you?"
The man shook his head, again regarding her as if she should have already known the answer to her question. He curled his fingers impatiently, indicating the knife at her side.
"Nope," said Dee. "This is mine. And as far as I know, turning people into scarecrows might be how they deal with criminals around here. So until you convince me you're not six different kinds of crazy, THIS stays with me." Dee tapped the knife. "And before you get any ideas. TREACH!"
The pit bull trotted away from the edge of the clearing and sat down next to her. He looked up at the man and licked his lips noisily.
The man gave a conciliatory nod and stepped back.
"Road is this way..." Dee pointed. "Hopefully we can find a farmhouse or something."
The man waited.
The man flashed what might have been a smile. Then he started toward the edge of the clearing.