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“Help.”  Meg’s voice was strained.  I rushed out in time to see her, Vivica and Greg come around the side of the house.  David’s limp body was carried between them.  Blood trickled from him, leaving a trail.  His face was dangerously close to the ground as the group struggled to get him to safety.  

“Here,” I said, motioning to the picnic table.  Rose and the girls joined me as we lifted David up to the table top.  

“What happened,” said Rose, her voice a whisper.  I shook my head as the others began to talk.  

“Get water and rags,” I said to no one in particular.  The group stood gaping at me.  “Now!”  The girls rushed through the kitchen door.  I slid my finger into a slit in David’s shirt.  Four identical slashes crossed his back, each slick with red.  With all my might, I pulled at the fabric as I gripped the edge with my free hand.  The material gave way, opening up his skin for my observation.  

“We found him this way,” said Greg.  “He was on the beach, laying on the rocks.  We heard a scream and ran back to find him.”  I glanced at David’s body, he was still breathing.  

Jane offered a large pitcher to me.  Sophie behind her, arms filled with towels and rags.  I took the pitcher.  I tested the temperature before pouring it over David’s back.  Pink swirls danced across his flesh pulling away debris.  I could see a few larger rocks but lost them as the blood pooled again.

I took the largest towel from Sophie and pressed it to David.  “Rose,” I said.  She turned her attention to my face.  “I need you and Greg to press on this.”  I took her hands and laid them against the towel.  Her hands left bloody prints but I did not allow her to lift them.  I nodded to Greg who joined her.  

“Jane, I need you to go up to my room and get the satellite phone on my desk.  It’s in a black leather case about this size.”  I showed her with my hands the approximate size of the bag.  I prayed it was enough for her to know what to get.  “Go, now.”  

I took a deep breath.  This was all my fault and I was going to fix it.  “Sophie, the Plantain.  In the sink, bring me the colander with the leaves.”

She rushed in.  “Okay, we are going to chew the leaves and press them into the wounds.  I know it sounds gross but just help me.  I should have enough to cover everything.”  I turned to Meg and Vivica.  They were holding each other.  Meg’s eyes were moist and red.  Vivica’s face was expressionless.  I didn’t have time to figure them out.

I grabbed a handful of leaves as Sophie handed me the bowl.  I passed it along to Meg who had moved to be closer to me.  As I stuffed them in my mouth, I said, “Sophie go find Edward.  He needs to know what is going on.”  She nodded and returned to the house.  I chewed the leaves into a large mass of mush.  I spit it into my hand as Rose pulled back the now red towel.  Pressing the leaves into the wound, I sent some of my own energy to help with the healing.  In my current state, I would not be able to heal his wound.  Then again, I would not be able to explain to those around how I did it even if I could.

Meg offered me her wad of chewed leaves as Jane came out of the house.  I looked to Rose, hoping she would take over.  She closed her eyes and exposed more of the skin under the towel but did not offer to take over.  “Just lay it on top of the wound and chew more.”  I took the bag from Jane and retrieved the phone.  The number was pre-programmed so I hit the button and put it to my ear.  I did my best to press the leaves into the wound.  The blood made slick work but I was hoping for the best.  

“Lanie, what’s wrong?”  Raef’s voice came through static as if it came across time.  

“There’s been an accident.  I need immediate retrieval.  There’s extensive bleeding so I don’t have time to explain.”

“Is it one of the G’s,” he asked.  I could hear the sound of typing followed by an alarm.

“No,” I replied.  

“We are deploying a chopper.  ETA 20 minutes.  Can you manage until then?”

“Yes.”  I hung the phone up without saying goodbye.  I had to keep David alive for twenty minutes before he would get medical attention.  The chopper would come with the necessary means to save him if I could get him through this.

“Jane, I need you to out to the front door and watch for the helicopter.  They will land in the front yard.  As you go, block the doors so they remain open.  I need for them to be able to run through the house and to here as fast as possible.”  She nodded.

Sophie returned alone.  “Get more rags,” I yelled at her as she came outside.  The only thing we could do now was to keep pressure on the wound.  Twenty minutes was a long time to wait.  I had to keep the group busy.  Sophie came back with another handful of rags.  I helped Rose place them on David’s back.  

“Vivica, Meg, go upstairs and see if you can pack up David’s things.  He won’t be coming back so it would be nice if he didn’t have to worry about how to get his stuff.”  They obeyed without a sound.  “Sophie, where are Edward and Thomas?”  She shrugged.  “Go find them and let them know what is going on.”  She turned and shuffled back into the house.  Where could they be?  They had to know something was wrong.  “Where’s Miranda?”  I looked to Rose.  She sighed.  She deflated and sat down on the bench.  Her bloody hands found their way into her lap.

“Thomas is with her.  I don’t know what’s wrong with that girl.  Sophie won’t bother them no matter how many times you send her up to get him.  She’s a good girl but she’s afraid of them.  She won’t say so but I can tell.  I’ve damned my girls.  Edward saved me.  I was uneducated and poor.  It should have been a good life.  Now what do I do?”

I motioned to Greg to take over pressing the rags into David’s wounds.  I walked around the table to Rose and helped her to stand.  “There’s nothing more to be done here.  Why don’t you go upstairs and shower.  Get yourself together and you can help your girls.  I won’t tell you not to worry.  I want you to know I am going to help you.  I am going to do what I can to fix this.  I know I may have made things worse but I will fix this.”  Jane smiled, a sad sweet smile.  Her eyes shone with uncried tears.  I wanted to wrap my arms around her and give her everything I had left.  I could see myself dissolving into bubbles and blowing away, perhaps to become sea foam.  That would do nothing towards keeping my promise.  If it’s the last thing I do, I will keep that promise.

I watched Jane walk away.  I turned my attention to Greg, we were alone.  “Don’t look at me,” he said.  “I’m not going away on some fool’s errand and I am not going to confess to make this easier on you.  You and I both know what happened here.  Someone attacked him.  I was with Vivica and Meg scanning the shoreline.  You know this whole business plan idea was the dumbest one anyone came up with.  I know why I agreed to this but I have yet to figure out why we were invited.  I keep thinking that maybe ole Edward was hoping for some new blood.”

I couldn’t argue with him, I knew in my heart something was funny here.  I hadn’t been brought because I was good at my job.  I had been brought here for Thomas.  All he had to do was to get me to fall in love with him.  I shook my head.  I couldn’t fall into the trap of conspiracy, we needed the truth.

“Okay, tell me what you remember.  When was the last time you saw David?”

“Breakfast, well after all the hoopla.  I watched the two of you walk off.  Since food was a bust, I suggested that Vivica and Meg walk with me.  I didn’t expect there to be any real work but I thought the idea of walking the shoreline would be appealing.  The southern shoreline is rocky and not easily accessible.  Most of the area is small cliffs that end in all those rocks.  Not exactly the kind of beach that encourages swimming but I thought if we looked for an area that might be more accessible then maybe it would inspire some more ideas.”  He looked down at David.  “I don’t care how you spin it but aside from people like you and me, no one is going to vacation here.  While the council could make this work, Edward’s approach to all of this is bizarre.  He hasn’t exactly said it but I get the impression he doesn’t want our kind to be his big clients.  To be honest, I think there’s something going on between him and Vivica.  It’s creepy.  She so has daddy issues.”  He shuddered.  

Off in the distance, I could hear the helicopter approaching.  “Time to look alive.”

The arrival of the team was a flurry of activity that left me breathless when it was over.  The squad leader said nothing except to ask if I was Adelaine Schenk.  When I nodded in response, he handed me a thick clipboard with paperwork to fill out.  I put in the information I could and signed the paper, returning it to the uniformed man.  David was strapped onto a gurney with such speed and precision, I wondered what species they were.  I followed them through the house.  Vivica and Meg appeared on the stairs with David’s suitcases.  “Wait,” I yelled.  The leader turned to me.  I motioned to the girls and the luggage.  Two men separated from the group to retrieve the cases.  A moment later, the helicopter was departing.  The silence fell with great weight on the group.