The sun was high in the morning sky when Jerrod finally woke up. Trish was already up and around. He showered and dressed, and they walked across the street to McKenzie’s for breakfast. He loaded up with eggs, bacon and hash browns. Trish went with yogart and granola, which she mixed together. Jerrod was working on his second cup of coffee when Trish pointed out the window behind him.
“Look,” she said.
He craned his neck around to see what she was pointing at. A SWAT van was parked half a block away on the other side of the street. Heavily armed police were piling out the back and moving toward the motel. They were fast and efficient, and were in position in under five minutes. Four of them approached the room Jerrod and Trish were staying in, two from each side. Time slowed down while Jerrod watched the scene unfold like something out of a movie but in slow motion.
It was only when they kicked the door open and charged into the room yelling “Police! Put your hands where we can see them!” — at least, Jerrod assumed that’s what they were yelling; he couldn’t actually hear them from the restaurant — it was only when they had burst into the room that fear kicked in. He had left his backpack and most of his stuff in the room. When they discovered he and Trish were not there but his stuff was, they would know the two of them could not be very far away. They would start searching the immediate area, starting with McKenzie’s.
The two waitresses and most of the other customers stared out the wide window. Jerrod grabbed Trish’s wrist and dragged her into the men’s room, where he fished the device out of his coat pocket. His hands shook so badly that it nearly ended up in the toilet. He sat down on the toilet just to be safe, and put his elbows on his knees for support.
“What are you going to do?” Tricia asked. There was a tremor in her voice, but she was holding it together.
“I’m going to jump us out of here.”
“I don’t know yet.”
He didn’t pick a direction. He just started moving his doppelganger. He immediately picked up speed, and was moving blurrying fast in just a few seconds. He’d had some mind-altering experiences in his time, mostly drug induced, some combat induced. But this took it to a whole new level. His doppleganger zipped through walls, through cars, through trees, through people; sometimes arcing up into the sky until he pulled it back down to earth; going faster and faster. He had no idea where he was now. He just wanted to get as far away as they could.
Voices filtered through the men’s room door.
“They’re here,” said Trish, as though he might not have noticed.
He kept his finger on the button.
“Huurrryyyy!” Her voice was an octave higher than usual.
He stopped in the middle of a cow pasture, complete with a dozen or so contented-looking cows. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for him.
“Okay, got it,” he said.
“You’re pointing it at the ground,” she said.
She was right. The device was pointing toward the ground at about a ten percent incline. But his doppleganger was standing in a field. If he hit Jump, where would they end up? In a field? Or underground somewhere? He didn’t know.
A voice sounded from the other side of the door. “Mr. Max. This is Lieutenant Gerhard, Cheyenne Police Department. We don’t want anybody getting hurt. I’m sure you don’t either. Especially not the woman you have with you. Come out with your hands above your head.”
“Maybe we should surrender,” Trish said.
Jerrod said, “Sit in my lap.”
“Get in my goddamn lap!”
She straddled him and wrapped her arms around his neck. She giggled.
“What?” He said.
“I’ve never done it in the men’s room.”
Gerhard said, “Mr. Max, let’s do the right thing here.”
Jerrod hit Jump.
* * *
Jerrod, Trish and the toilet dropped a few inches to the ground with a jolt. The toilet teetered back and forth for a moment before settling into the soft earth. Jerrod found himself staring into the eyes a calf not three feet away. It grunted and backed away. A dozen or so cows turned to stare at them, big brown eyes blinking slowly. They were Guernseys. They didn’t seem especially bothered by the unexpected appearance of two humans and a toilet.
Trish climbed off his lap. “Eeew,” she said, looking down. One of her feet was in a cow pie.
“Oh crap,” he said, trying not to smile.
“Not funny,” she said. “I can’t believe you put us in the middle of a herd of cows.”
“Hey, I was in a hurry. At least I didn’t put us is at the bottom of the ocean, or in the middle of a mountain.”
She gaped at him, her big blue eyes bigger than usual. “That could have happened?”
“Well, yeah. I guess.” He hadn’t actually thought before now. “That’s why I was careful to find a place that was flat and out in the open.” That wasn’t true, of course. He had stopped, decided it looked good enough, and hit jump.
She pulled her foot out of the cow pie and rubbed her shoe on the grass, which obviously wasn’t going to do the trick. She trotted past the cows, who had lost interested in them, and into a thicket of alders, where she sat on a damp stump, and took her shoe off. Jerrod followed her.
“Where are we?” she asked as she scraped dung off her shoe with a twig.
“About twenty miles from nowhere by the looks of things.”
Trish stopped scraping and looked around. “Well, it’s not Montana, that’s for sure.”
She was right. North of them, an unbroken line of hills stretched east to west. Another line of hills lay south of them. No sign of anything he would have called mountains
Jerrod shaded his eyes with his hand and looked up at the sky.
“It was late morning when we jumped,” he said. “But it’s well into the afternoon here. So we must have traveled several time zones east.”
“Really? What kind of range does it have?”
“I don’t know. But maybe that explains why it was pointing slightly downward. We jumped far enough that the Earth’s curvature became a significant factor.”
Trish’s forehead scrunched into a frown. “You mean we traveled through the Earth?”
“I guess. Through part of it anyway.”
A weathered barn that might have been red sometime in the distant past, with an attached silo, stood a hundred or so yards away, along with two low-set out buildings. There was probably a farm house on the other side of the barn. Farms were visible in the distance, but nothing else nearby. Two other herds stood a ways away, and it took Jerrod a few seconds to realize that there were three paddocks, each with its own herd of guernseys. Surrounding the entire dairy farm were crop fields still young in the ground. Corn, hay, and another he couldn’t identify from here. He inhaled the smell of cows, dung, grass, mud, plants.
“It doesn’t matter where we are,” he said. “We can jump anywhere we want anytime we want.”
At least he hoped they could. A disturbing thought popped into his head: What if the device was battery powered? What if the battery runs out when we most need to jump? What if it runs out in the middle of a jump? What if it has a finite number of jumps it can make? He decided to stop thinking about it because it was scaring the crap out of him and there wasn’t anything he could do about it anyway.
He sat on the stump beside her. “So here’s the thing. We need to find a place to lay low while we figure out what to do next.”
She looked up from her shoe-cleaning task. “Did you just say ‘lay low’?”
He shrugged. “Too much TV.”
She tilted her head to one side, ringlets of red hair cascading over her shoulder. “How exactly do you plan to do that, genius?”
Another good question. Trish went back to flipping cow dung off her shoe, but the twig she was using snapped in half, throwing dung on to his right cheek.
“Jeez Louise,” He said. They looked at each other and started laughing. She shook her head, which sent her hair flying. That and her laugh reminded him why he loved her.
They made their way around the barn. There was indeed a house on the other side. Jerrod stepped up on to the porch, which extended the length of the front of the old farmhouse. Two wicker chairs occupied one end. A well-trod welcome mat said “Welcome to the Emberson Home.” A pickup and two cars were parked in the driveway, which continued on past the house to where a mobile home sat, with another pickup parked out front. Chickens ran free in what passed for a front yard. Jerrod knocked on the aluminum screen door. Trish took hold of his hand.
Several seconds passed before a girl in her early teens opened the door and said through the screen, “Yes?”
“Uh,” Jerrod hadn’t thought about what he was going to say. “Are your parents home?”
She stepped back and yelled, “Mom? Someone’s at the door.” She disappeared into the house, leaving them staring through the screen. A few more seconds passed before a man came to the door. He looked to be in his forties, maybe early fifties. “Can I help you?”
“I hope so,” Jerrod said. “We’re lost and we need someone to take us to the nearest town.”
The man sized Jerrod up and then Trish, who was shivering from the chilly breeze. He looked past them. “Your car broke down?”
“Ah no,” Jerrod said. “We don’t have a car.”
“How’d you get here, then?”
“Well, it’s kind of complicated.”
“Try me,” he said, with an edge of suspicion.
A woman’s voice came from inside. “Paul, for goodness sake, invite them in. The girl’s freezing out there.”
He raised an eyebrow and a smirk crept into the left side of his mouth. “Guess you’d better come in.”
They entered the Embersons’ front room, the screen door banging shut behind them. Mr. Emberson was closing the heavy wood door when someone called out.
“Dad. Wait dad.”
He opened the door again. “Chrissy?”
A young woman in a checkered shirt and jeans bounded up the steps and yanked the screen door open. She looked like she was of Japanese extraction. “Dad,” she said. “Colt’s been hurt. You need to come right away.”
He grabbed a pair of boots sitting just inside the door. “How bad?”
“It’s bad. He was swapping out the front wheels on the big tractor when one of the jacks slipped, and then the other one, and it fell on him. His legs are pinned under it. He thinks they’re broken.”
“Mary,” he shouted. “Call 911.” He started out the door and then turned to Jerrod. “You, I might need your help.” He pointed at Trish. “Young lady, you watch for the ambulance and tell them we’re in the barn.”
Jerrod followed him and the woman, who he guessed was in her mid to late twenties. They ran into the barn, which was better lit than he had expected. Several bright bare bulbs illuminated the huge tractor and the man trapped under the collapsed front end.
“Son,” said the man. “Son, can you hear me?” He checked the young man’s pulse. “He’s still alive.”
Jerrod pointed to a pool of blood slowly spreading under his lower body. “He’s bleeding out. We need to get him out from under there and get it stopped.”
He turned to the woman. “Go to the house and get me a sheet, a knife and a strong stick I can use for a tourniquet. A broom handle would be good.”
When she just stood there staring, he grabbed her by the arm, looked her in the eye, and said “Do it now.” She made eye contact and nodded. Then she was running toward the house.
Emberson dragged a heavy metal bar over to the tractor and was trying to get it positioned under the axel. Jerrod walked a heavy wood chopping block over, and they soon had a lever and fulcrum.
Chrissy and Emberson’s wife, along with their teenage daughter, ran into the barn.
“O my God,” said the older woman. She pulled Chrissy to her side. “Paul, is he — he’s not dead is he?”
Emberson said, “He’s alive, but we need to get him out from under the tractor and stop the bleeding. You and Chrissy get ready to pull him out when we lift the tractor.”
He and Jerrod grabbed the upper end of the bar. Emberson looked at Jerrod and nodded. They pulled the bar downward. It didn’t move at first. They both put all their weight into it and with a groan the axel lifted a few inches. The two women dragged the mangled body out from under it, and the men let the tractor drop with a solid thud.
Emberson kneeled by the body. “Don’t die on me, son.” He looked around with a panicked look in his eyes. “Where’s the goddamn ambulance?”
Jerrod put a hand on his shoulder. “I have paramedic training, sir. Let me have a look.” The man looked years older than he had before. Tears streamed down his face. He nodded at Jerrod.
Jerrod said to Chrissy, “Cut the sheet into strips about six inches wide.” When she didn’t move, he looked more closely. She had a wedding band, and she was five or six months pregnant.
“Your husband?” he asked.
She nodded numbly.
“We’re gonna save him,” he said, “but I need your help. Can you do that for me?”
She nodded again. Then she handed a butcher knife to Emberson’s wife, and held the sheet out. The older woman started cutting the sheet into strips.
He did a touch exam of Colt’s hips and legs. The right hip and upper leg were crushed, but weren’t bleeding much. The left leg was a different story. It didn’t look broken, but blood was flowing freely from just above the knee.
“The femoral artery has been cut,” he said. He picked up the broom from where Chrissy had dropped it, and unceremoniously broke it in two over his knee.
“Mr. Emberson, could you grab some of those strips,” he said, pointing to the strips of sheet that were forming on the ground.
He wrapped one around Colt’s left leg above the exposed artery. He laid one piece of the broom handle on top of it and wrapped a second strip around it. Then he twisted the broom handle round and round until the bleeding slowed to an ooze.
He pointed to the teenager. “What’s your name?”
“Patty,” she said. She seemed to be holding up better than the adults.
“Well Patty, my name’s Jerrod. I’m guessing this is your brother?”
“I need you to come over here and hold this in place while I examine Colt’s other injuries. Can you do that for me?”
She didn’t say anything, but kneeled beside her brother and took hold of the broom pole.
Jerrod said to Emberson, “He’s gone into shock. Get some blankets.”
“Sure,” he said. He disappeared into a side room of the barn and reappeared with an arm full of blankets. They weren’t especially clean, probably horse blankets. But they would do. Together they covered Colt and tucked the blankets in where they could.
“What now?” asked Mrs. Emberson.
“We wait,” said Jerrod.
A few minutes latter, Emberson reached into his pocket and brought out a cell phone. Jerrod hadn’t heard it ring, so it must have been on vibrate.
“Yeah,” he said into the phone.
“I see.” He disconnected and put the phone back in his pocket. He looked at Jerrod blankly.
“What’s the matter?” Jerrod asked.
“A fuel tanker jackknifed at the bridge. The ambulance has to go the long way around. It’ll be at least another twenty minutes.”
They both looked at Colt, who had turned an unhealthy-looking shade of gray.
Jerrod said, “I’ll be right back.”
He left Emberson and his wife holding each other, and went out to find Trish. She was standing in the driveway watching for an ambulance.
“What’s happening?” She asked.
“Emberson’s son is in pretty bad shape. I put a tourniquet on his leg to keep him from bleeding out, but he’s lost a lost of blood. And he’s gone into shock.”
“I don’t hear any sirens,” she said. “Where are they?”
“Well, that’s the thing. The are at least twenty minutes away.” He paused. “I don’t think he’s going to last that long.”
She looked toward the barn and said nothing for several long seconds. When she spoke, her voice was flat. “You can get him to the hospital.”
“It means letting someone else know about the device.”
“Yes, it does.”
“And it might draw attention from the local authorities.”
He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t think of a way to use the device without everyone knowing he had it, and the last thing he wanted was to draw attention to them. But he couldn’t stand by and do nothing while Colt bled to death.
Trish turned and looked him in the eye for what seemed like a long time, and then smirked. “If Parker was here, he’d launch into a speech about Kant’s Categorical Imperative, or something like that, and figure that settled it.”
“Yeah,” Jerrod said. He looked out over the fields and pastures stretching off toward the hills. “Have you ever noticed how sometimes the tiniest choices turn out to be the biggest ones?”
They walked back to the barn. Jerrod took Emberson aside while Trish joined the women.
“Mr. Emberson,” he said. “I don’t think your son has twenty minutes.”
The older man nodded. Apparently he had reached the same conclusion.
Jerrod continued. “This is going to sound strange, but I can get him to the hospital faster. All I need to know is how to get there.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I don’t have time to explain, and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. If I’m going to do anything, I have to do it now. I just need to know how to get there.”
Emberson gave him verbal directions to the hospital, and went back in the barn.
Jerrod took the black box out of his jacket pocket, and began tracing a virtual journey to the hospital. It was fairly straightforward. He passed the accident at the bridge, made a few turns, and ended up in front of the emergency entrance.
He strode into the barn and knelt down beside Colt.
“I need a little room,” he said. Trish herded everyone back.
Jerrod adjusted the width and height of the energy field, checked the destination site to make sure nobody was occupying the space he and Colt were about to occupy, and hit Jump.
A woman with a boy in tow were coming out of the emergency room when Jerrod and Colt appeared on the walkway in front of them, along with some straw, part of a car jack, and a corner of a tractor. Her mouth popped open and she let out a shriek that drew the attention of the security guard on duty inside.
Jerrod stood up and shouted, “This man is seriously injured. He needs immediate medical attention.”
That got the guard moving faster. He took one look at the bloodied and crushed body, and yelled for help. A few seconds later, Colt was surrounded by medical personnel. Jerrod took advantage of the chaos to walk around the corner of the building, where he jumped himself back to the farm.
Trish was still trying to calm the Embersons down when he re-appeared. They stopped talking and stared at him as though he had just grown an extra head.
“He’s at the emergency room.”
Emberson blinked a few times, and took out his phone and made a call.
“This is Paul Emberson,” he said. “Did my son just arrive there. He’s badly injured and has a tourniquet on his leg.” There was a pause. “Uh huh. He is? Okay then. Thank you.”
He put the phone back in his pocket and said to Jerrod, “How did you do that?”
Jerrod said, “It’s kind of complicated.”
Emberson looked at him intently, as though trying to read his mind. Finally he nodded and said, “I imagine so.”