A sudden squealing of brakes and a dull thud caused me to glance up. Nothing…. at least so far as I could see through the two dozen heads waiting to cross the intersection with me.
Engrossed in my phone again, I checked a news app, scrolling through the stories. More election drivel. I gave up and slipped the phone into a pocket. There were a few seconds of dysphoria after I looked up as my eyes took in the surroundings again and my brain processed where I stood.
The corner of Harrison and State Street.
The light changed.
I started to walk. People parted ways ahead of me, some going right and some going left. Some stopped and stared. I kept walking until I finally registered that something blocked my way. A dark figure lay sprawled in the intersection, his right leg bent weirdly.
Someone behind me screamed.
The man lay so terribly still on the asphalt. There was a bright pool of crimson growing around his mangled leg, a gory halo of sorts, offset further by the sliver of morning sunlight that crept between the skyscrapers to fall across the road exactly where he rested.
This was going to make me late for my shift. Again.
A man stood nearby with a 911 operator on speaker phone.
I could just keep walking. No one would know who I was…
Like I could do that.
I stepped forward and knelt by the body, checking for a pulse. It was thready. Instinct took over as I dropped my leather bag and worked to stabilize him. He was barely breathing. I ripped his gashed pants leg and found the artery in his leg that was severed, holding it tight with my fingers. He had a large gash over his left cheek that exposed the bone. His belly was rapidly distending, no doubt bleeding internally.
His eyes looked through me, unseeing.
Within minutes I could hear the sirens, though they were still far away. I looked down at my blood covered hands and then glanced up at the crowd of faces staring down at me. I saw shock, concern, hope…
But there was nothing more to be done. Not here in the middle of the street at least.
His eyes focused on me for a moment of lucidity, knowledge flickered across his face as he understood he was dying.
“Tell her….” The sounds came out barely audible as he formed the words around the blood bubbling over his lips. “Tell her it was the pearls in Paris.”
Wife? Girlfriend? Who?
“Sure, I’ll tell her,” I soothed. No further sounds came. His chest moved rapidly as his breathing quickened, getting more and more shallow as the belly expansion pressed against his diaphragm.
I hope they hurry. He needs a hospital STAT…
I checked his pockets with my free hand after wiping it on what remained of his suit coat and found a wallet and phone.
Why don’t I carry gloves?!?!!?
No photographs in the wallet. No one ever carried real pictures anymore, did they? His driver’s license. Joseph Spellman. A stack of business cards. Mr. Spellman was a computer consultant. I slid a business card into my pocket.
There was the hushed whisper of a voice behind me, “Did she just steal his money?!?!” I turned my head to make eye contact and glared at the elderly man who had spoken. He hung his head guiltily.
All of a sudden the area was crawling with police and EMTs. I stood and stepped back as they took over, stretching. My knees hurt from kneeling on the asphalt. I looked around for something to wipe my hands on, then noticed that my bag was gone.
A man in a black suit touched my arm and pulled me back. “Ma’am. Could you come with me please?” His voice demanded compliance, his face stern.
I needed to call the hospital to let them know I was going to be late.
“Wait. My bag…”
“I already have it.” He pulled on my arm again.
“Where are they taking him?” The man shrugged. I turned to an EMT standing at the background. “Where are you taking him?”
I nodded. My hospital. I could find out what happened to him later.
“Ma’am. You must come with me.”
“Do you have something I can use for my hands?”