Chapter One: The Girl in the Sedan

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Alternating beams of blue and red from the parked police car shaded the night between the uneven glow of smashed headlights. Rubber boot soles crunched across scattered glass as the officer paced, doing his best not to look too closely at the viscous, dark puddle slowly dripping down and growing beneath the driver's-side door of the blue sedan. The car was an absolute wreck; the front crumpled like an accordion, the hood and forward left tire scattered across the road along with indeterminate fragments of car that the sedan had shed in its violent spiral. The front of the eighteen-wheeler looked only marginally better, but that driver was seated on the curb, a hunched figure with hands clasped in front of a bowed head. In the flickering light it was impossible to tell if those hands shook, but the man's shoulders certainly did as he sobbed deeply.

The girl in the sedan was as much a mess as her car. 

In the eerie quiet of the scene, punctuated by the truck driver's sobs and the static of the sedan's radio, an uneven, bubbling rasp was the only signal that the girl was still alive. Girl – or woman. The officer couldn't tell with her long dark hair matted with blood like a mask across her face, and her body stretched and sprawled across both front seats despite the safety belt that still clung uselessly to her legs. He had taken one look at the odd angles of her body and knew that if he touched her he would likely just do more damage. 

Instead he waited, each drop of blood pooling on the asphalt driving his guilt deeper into his chest.

A sharp, mechanical wail cut through the silence, growing steadily louder. The officer paused his pacing to watch as the ambulance shuddered to a stop and the driver's door opened. A tall, lanky man emerged, hanging off the side of the truck for a moment as he measured the scene as best he could in the floodlights. He let out a low whistle.

"Quite tha' debris field ya got here," the paramedic said, his eyes still surveying the road. His mouth was covered with a surgical mask up to the bottom rim of his glasses, and a hat pulled low blocked any hair from escaping out. The police officer paused, not recognizing the full-sleeve uniform coverall the paramedic was wearing and unable to distinguish any details about the man's face. His eyes searched the side of the van but he didn't recognize the logo. A new company, he guessed. 

"Well now, that's what happens in a head-on collision like this," he said, watching as the second paramedic emerged. This one was shorter and wider than the first by at least half a foot in either direction. "Hell, we're all lucky the truck only clipped the sedan's engine or there'd be no need for y'all at all," he finished.

"You call for the driver of the sedan, then?" The second paramedic asked as he spotted and dismissed the hunched figure of the truck driver with the same cold glance. Without waiting for the officer to respond, the paramedic moved with a light step over to the sedan and peered in through the ruined front door. Then, under his breath, "Shiieet."

The warm night air grew hotter as the officer flushed with shame at the condition of the woman he could do nothing for. 

"I gave the details to the response team," the officer said to the pair's backsides as they both crouched before the ragged opening in the car. Then, like a switch had been flicked, the team burst into movement. The tall paramedic sprinted back to the ambulance to unload the stretcher while the short one hustled around the side of the sedan so that he could stabilize the woman's head and neck. In what felt like seconds they had her out of the car and moving to the ambulance. 

The officer, feeling his uselessness in this moment, scraped his boot against the coarse glass that littered the asphalt as he moved out of their way. As they passed his eyes dropped to her face, which was still smeared with blood but now clear of hair. She was young, but definitely not the girl he'd first supposed from her slight frame. Maybe twenties at most. His throat clenched as she was whisked by, and he looked away, eyes landing on the now-vacant sedan. He squinted when he read the time on the large digital dashboard display.

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