Okay, this is a rough draft, but here’s the first little bit.

CHAPTER ONE

Hell, did I really want to spend the next twenty years as an architect? A thought I should have had about four years and a couple of hundred thousand dollars ago. Not that I didn’t love the work, but some of the people were less than desirable. Of course I guessed that could be said about anywhere you worked. The large glass door closed behind me as I stepped from the building our office occupied on the third floor, into the warm autumn afternoon.

“Why is that woman naked, Mommy?” The child’s question broke me from my self-pitting reverie. Instinctually, I turned to see where he pointed.

“She’s bleeding! Someone help her!” the woman bellowed.

A slender woman, possibly five-ten stumbled out into the intersection of E 7th Street and Brazos. Her waist length, mahogany colored hair was matted with what appeared to be blood.

The woman with the child yelled, “Someone please help her!”

Everyone stared. Including me.

A black Mercedes E Class nearly hit her. I ran into traffic and caught her before she fell in front of the car.

“Are you an angel?” she asked before she went limp in my arms.

Without thinking, I stopped a cab and climbed in beside an angry looking man. “We need to get to Brackenridge Hospital. Hurry! It’s an emergency!”

“This is my cab. I’m heading to the airport. I can’t miss my flight.”

I wanted to hit the man. “And she will die if she doesn’t get to the ER immediately. So screw the airport and take us to the hospital! NOW!”

The cabbie headed down E 7th to Red River and followed it to Hospital Drive. The hospital was less than a mile away, but with traffic it seemed to take forever. I ripped my shirt and pressed part of it with my fist into the bloody hole in her abdomen, hoping to stop some of the bleeding.

“Please don’t die,” I whispered through lips pursed on her forehead. “My name’s Laif. Just hold on. Don’t die. God, please don’t let her die.” I wasn’t sure why I had such strong emotions for this woman I didn’t know. Maybe because I was holding her. Maybe because I truly cared for people. But as her green eyes flickered open and she stared at me, I knew it was so much more than a general concern. I knew her. I didn’t know how or from where, but I knew her.

She smiled up at me. “I found you,” she said in a soft voice, and her eyes closed again.

“What do you mean?” I asked. She didn’t respond. She started choking. I patted her back and she sputtered blood from her mouth. “Please hurry!” I screamed at the driver.

“We’re there,” he said as we pulled into the ambulance bay. I jumped out with her and yelled for help. An attendant, smoking about thirty feet from the door, dropped his cigarette and came sprinting. Within seconds, hospital staff had her on a gurney and was running. When they passed through to the double doors of the ER, the nurse held me back.

“I’m sorry, you can’t go in there. We’ll do everything we can for her. What’s her name?” she asked.

“Her name?”

Her brow creased. “You don’t know her name?”

“No. She just collapsed and I brought her here. I don’t know her name, but please help her. Please don’t let her die,” I said, tears rolled down my cheeks. I already felt the loss of her closeness.

The nurse smiled. “We’ll do everything we can. What is your name?”

“Laif,” I said. “Laif Craig. My mother works here.”

“Mr. Craig, I’ll come find you and let you know how she’s doing. Okay? Just wait over there.” She pointed to the waiting area. “And I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.”

I nodded and turned to the chairs. The cabbie had followed me in for his fare. I handed him a twenty and sat down. Clasping my hands together, I started to pray. Dear Father in Heaven, please spare her. Please don’t take her from me now.

My cell started to vibrate. I opened it and saw the number. Paulina Winthrop. Not someone I wanted to deal with now. I let it go to voice mail and called my mom’s cell.

“Hello, my darling son. How’s it going?” My mom’s cheerful voice usually inspired a smile. Not now.

“Are you at the hospital?” I know I sounded more panicky than I had wanted to, but I didn’t really know how to control what I was feeling.

“What’s happened Laif? Where are you? Are you hurt?”

“It’s not me. I’m in the ER. Mom, can you come down here?”

“Already on my way. Now talk. Who’s hurt?”

“I don’t know who she is,” I whispered.

“Who who is honey? You’re not making sense.”

I explained what had happened and by the time I caught her up, she closed her phone and stood in front of me. I got up and walked to her, throwing my arms around her neck like a scared little boy, because that’s just what I was.

“I don’t get why I feel this way. I don’t know her, but…” I looked in my mom’s black Spanish eyes. “I have to know her. I don’t know how to explain it, but I have to Mom.”

She smiled. “I think I get it.”

“Mr. Craig?”

I turned. The nurse looked grim. “No.” I shook my head.

“She’s lost a lot of blood and has major internal damage. They’re taking her up to surgery. You can follow me and I’ll show you where to wait, if you’d like.”

“I’ll show him, Jannie,” Mom said and took me by the hand. Mom was one of the head nurses in ICU. It was a blessing that she would be one of the nurses taking care of this girl. “Come on, honey. I know they’ll do whatever they can.”

We sat in that waiting room for a long time. After maybe an hour, my dad showed up with dinner.

“I can’t get him to go to the cafeteria,” I heard Mom say. “I’m worried about him, Regan. I’ve never seen him like this before. Not even when Fisher was in that accident. I don’t know what to do for him.”

“And he’s never met her before?” Dad asked, glancing over at me.

I buried my face in my hands, elbows resting on my knees. How could I get them to understand when I didn’t understand it myself? I felt like someone had taken away a part of me. The best part. I knew that regardless of what happened in that operating room, my life would never be the same. I just had to pray that God wasn’t so cruel as to give me this girl for only a short time and then take her away before I knew her. “Please don’t do that to me.”

“Do what, Son?” my dad asked.

I looked up as tears ran down my face. “Take her.”

#

Someone shook my shoulder. “Excuse me. Are you the one who brought in the young woman with the gunshot wounds?”

“Yes, sir.” I stood up, towering over the grey haired doctor. “How is she?”

“Well, she’s still critical. The surgery was a success, but I’m afraid it will be touch and go for the next twenty four hours. She’s in ICU on the sixth floor.”

“Can I see her?”

“I’m afraid that only family are allowed in ICU. I’m truly sorry.” He patted my arm. “Why don’t you go home and get some sleep?”

I shook my head. “No. I’m not leaving her.”

He stared at me for a long time, stone faced. Finally he seemed to soften. “I’ll have a nurse set up a cot in her room. If anyone asks, you’re family.”

My heart fluttered uncontrollably. “Thank you.”

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he mumbled as he turned to walk away. I quickly followed, before he changed his mind.

From her room, I called my mom and dad and gave them a report. The hospital room was quiet at 3:43 a.m. I sat in a chair near her bed and took her hand. An IV ran from each hand; one with blood, one Electrolytes. Wires attached to her chest, hooked up to three different machines. She looked like someone’s evil science experiment.

“Hi,” I whispered to her. With my free hand, I traced my finger across her cheek. “Who are you? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to my heart, little girl? Of course not. Do you know that you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on?” I chuckled softly at myself. Talking to a comatose person was a first for me. “Well, you are. Even like this. Why do you have some kind of power over me?”

I didn’t remember falling asleep, but at five that morning a nurse woke me. “Has anything changed?” I asked.

“No. I’m just checking on her. Although we aren’t going to give her anymore blood, so that’s a good thing. Why don’t you lay in the cot? It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it’s got to be way better than that chair.”

“I’m good. Thanks.”

“Well, if you need anything, I’m Jill. Just push the nurse’s button and I’ll be here.” She smiled as she left.

I stared at the woman for a few more minutes and then went to the rest room. When I came back in the room, two uniformed officers stood at the foot of her bed.

“Who are you?” asked a black officer, who stood maybe six-six, six-seven-a good two or three inches taller than me. He looked tough, like an ex-tackle or lineman.

“Laif Craig. I brought her in.”

“How do you know the victim?”

“Don’t. But I couldn’t leave her.”

“When was the first time you had contact with Miss Minor?”

“Yesterday. I was leaving work and heard some people screaming, then she stepped into the street. She would have been hit, so I ran out and caught her. What’s her name? Do you know who she is?”

“Memphis,” said the other officer, a short pudge of a man. His pasty white skin didn’t look like it had seen the sun in years. He was at least a foot shorter than his partner, and they couldn’t be more opposite. “She was reported missing by her boyfriend. He gave us a picture and when we heard of this case we came to see if it’s her. It is.”

She has a boyfriend. That news turned my stomach. Would he show up here and I’d have to leave? Did he love her? Did she love him? I was going to be sick.

“Are you okay?”

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. No. I’m not okay. Why hadn’t the thought occurred to me that this beautiful woman would be attached? Had she clouded my judgment that much? All I thought about was how much I needed her now.

I sunk in the chair and took her hand as the doctor came in to talk to the officers. They stood in the corner of the room and whispered, but when the doctor said the word rape, I lifted my head. “She was raped?”

He looked at me and gave a simple nod, but continued talking to the officers.

Her warm hand twitched when my tears hit it. I wiped them off and buried my head in the side of the bed. How could someone hurt her? Her hand moved again and I looked back up. She opened her eyes and seemed to focus on me. A look of confusion crossed her face and then she smiled the most amazing crooked smile. “My angel,” she whispered.

The doctor and cops appeared at the side of the bed in an instant. “Miss Minor, can we ask you some questions?” the old pudge asked.

She continued to smile at me, not seeming to notice the others. “You saved me. Stay with me. Don’t leave.”

I shook my head. “I won’t leave you. I’ll never leave you.” And her eyes closed and she  slept again.

#

How could the boyfriend stay away? Certainly the police had told him where she was. Why hadn’t her family or friends showed up? It was now ten at night and no one had visited besides the two officers, who stood guard outside her door now. The thought then occurred to me, she was in danger. Someone had raped and shot her and left her for dead. Would they come back? Try to finish her off?

A cackle behind me gave me the answer. Two shadows I knew well crouched in the corner of the hospital room. “So the two Earth Walkers meet. How romantic.”

I jumped up and reached for the bag of white desert sand I kept on me at all times. The holy sand, blessed by the Navajo Medicine Man, Born Elk, was the only thing that could send the evil demons back to the underworld. Back to Satan himself.

“Do it and you’ll only be left with more questions,” Kyrell, the leader said.

“And you’re going to answer my questions?” They were two of Satan’s top commanders, but I had to listen.

“We will answer a question for you. You can figure out for yourself if it’s true.” Vels, the second answered. “Her boyfriend raped and shot her. She broke up with him and he attacked her. Can you figure out if he had help, or acted because he wanted to?” The shadowy laughter sickened me as the two slipped out the closed window.

Needing to protect Memphis, I took a handful of white sand and ran it across the window sill and then ran a trace on the floor of the door. After that, I called home. Dad would need to know what I had just found out. And we needed to know if it were true. Was Memphis Minor an Earth Walker? If so, what did that mean to me?

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