Temporary Balm

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Home invasion terror usurped by the very real possibility of accidental manslaughter, Alex's hands flew over Lee like agitated birds, seeking everything and finding nothing. She didn't know where to touch or for how long. She didn't know if the woman was even alive, and that thought had her nearly vomiting. It was a solid thirty seconds of undiluted panic before Alex's chaotic mind finally found traction beyond the looping "Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit," and kicked into gear.

Her first instinct was to grab the cordless phone and dial 911, but the moment that thought touched ground, she punted it off a cliff. One look at Lee, and the CIA would have a showdown with the FBI over her after killing Alex and silencing anyone else involved with her. Her second thought was to do what she should have done from the start and call Georgia...but then there was the very real probably she would shoot Lee out of terrified reflex.

Too many guns to contend with.


"Oh my God. Okay. Focus."

First things first, Alex needed to make sure Lee was even alive for the decisions that came next. Carefully lowering her friend's hood, she audibly gasped at the vicious extent of the damage caused by her homemade burglary deterrent. Blood matted the left side of Lee's head like someone popped a red-dyed water balloon against her skull, most of the blood leaking from a gash longer than Alex's index finger.

Gently moving Lee's head to the side, she sought and found the pulse point just above her collarbone and nested two fingers against it. Paused. Tuned every sense onto that one task which ended in an exhale close to a sob when a steady rhythm fluttered against her fingertips.

Alive. Unconscious but alive.

Relief was a cold breeze on a muggy day, blissful but brief. Out of her depth and over her head, Alex had no idea where to turn until sudden inspiration bloomed warm and bright like the flashbulb of a camera. Scrambling for the phone, she clumsily dialed the familiar number on her second try.

"We're closed," a gruff voice picked up after five agonizing rings. "Call back tomorrow after eleven."

"No, wait!" Alex panicked, fingers going white around the receiver. "I'm sorry. Please, I...I just need to place an order. It's Miss Bailey. I've done business with Chang's for years. It was a late night at the office. Please."

"Food's been put up for the night," the speaker rumbled, clearly ready to be done with the conversation.

"I'll pay double."

Silence from the other line. Alex could practically feel the gears turning as the seconds slipped by.

"I'm not firing up the stove for a small order," the head cook finally said, his drawl making it sound like he was chewing on something sticky.

"Double my usual order and throw in an order of tom yum goong and spring rolls."

"Usually I'd say you're shit out of luck, but the ovens are still warm. I'll take the order, but only this once! Don't make this a habit."

Alex was nodding despite knowing he couldn't see her. "Of course! Oh, could you send the runner you sent with my last order?"


Was that the man Alex was thinking of? God, she hoped so. "Jerry, yes. I forgot to tip him."

"Yeah, sure. Be there in thirty minutes."

Alex hung up and allowed herself another withering exhale before launching into the next phase of her coagulating plan. First, Lee needed to get off the floor. The couch was the best alternative to dragging her down the hall and risk exacerbating her injuries. Circling round to stand with her feet on either side of Lee's head, Alex slipped her hands into the hinges of the woman's armpits and lifted with her legs.

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