Fortunately, his companion had seen enough war movies to understand. Before Frank moved too far away, he whispered. “I’m gonna call EMS.”
Frank nodded. He’d heard the sound below before. It was the groan of a seriously injured man. He pointed up, telling Matthew to go to the hallway. Whatever lay below, an 18 year old kid didn’t need to see it.
Matthew turned obediently and went up, making the 911 call as he did. Frank descended rapidly. The groans were more distinct. The smell of blood filled the stairway. His gut clenched when he spotted the crumpled form.
“Help is on the way,” he said calmly, assessing the area before he approached. “Don’t try to move.”
He knelt by the man. It took a moment to realize it was Ralph Penwarren. Dressed in a bathrobe, pajamas and slippers, he looked like he should be lying in bed, not on his back at the wrong end of a four story fall.
“EMS is on its way, Mr. A.,” Matthew called from above. He started down the stairs.
“Don’t come down! Go meet the ambulance. Send them to this entrance. I’ll open it up.”
“I can help.” He took another step.
“Dammit, Matthew! Do what I tell you!” He paused, his voice softening. “You don’t want to see this, kid. And call Charlie. Tell him we found Penwarren.”
“Yes—yes, sir.” Matthew trotted up the steps, his voice fading as he made the call.
Frank couldn’t do anything for the injured Penwarren. He had enough medical training to know not to touch or move a man with multiple breaks, possible back and neck trauma and a head injury. How Penwarren had actually survived a four story fall amazed him. There wasn’t a lot of blood, he noticed as he looked around. Chances were good Penwarren had massive internal injuries.
The ambulance backed up to the door. Frank opened it, disabling the alarm. Two people hopped out, approaching rapidly.
“What have we got, Frank?” It was his paramedic pal, Trent Cody.
“A guest took a header from up top. We found him ten minutes ago. I haven’t touched him. I know just enough to be dangerous.”
“He’s alive?” Kendra, Trent’s partner, asked.
“He was when I found him. I just stayed here and talked to him.”
“Got a weak pulse and he’s still breathing,” Trent said after a quick assessment.
Frank stayed out of the way while they worked. He saw the other searchers gathered on the lawn and he went to talk to them.
“Is it really him?” Charlie asked. “How the hell did he get by us?”
“Who was guarding him?” Frank asked.
Charlie looked at the group. “I dunno. He should be here.”
“He wasn’t with us when we split up,” Matthew said.
“New objective,” Frank commanded. “Find Vince. Start with Penwarren’s floor. Check his room. Wear medical gloves. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to.”
“Why all the CSI crap, boss?” Charlie demanded.
Frank nailed him with a glare. “Because I don’t think Vince just walked away from his post. And I don’t think Penwarren got to the bottom of the stairwell cause he’s clumsy.”
“Shouldn’t we call the cops?” One of the others wanted to know.
“Right now, this is in-house. If we don’t find Vince—or we find another problem, we call. Otherwise, not yet.”
“Yes, sir.” They saluted and left.
Frank shook his head in wonder. Even as a civilian, he was organizing missions and giving orders. He went back in the building, shivering.
“Well, he’s alive,” Trent told him. “We’re taking him to the hospital. Any family?”
“His mom’s a resident. I’ll tell her. Have them call me with any news. Mabel just had surgery. I’ll make any decisions after conferring with her.”
“You got it.”
They loaded the crumpled, still form of Ralph Penwarren into the ambulance. It pulled away, lights flashing, siren silent.
Frank closed the doors and reset the alarm. He locked the doors to the staircase and prayed there wouldn’t be a fire. He had a feeling something bad had gone down and the police were going to want that scene preserved as much as possible. Afterward, he headed to the front office to call Marka. She picked up, breathless.
“I saw the ambulance.”
“We found Penwarren.”
“He’s alive, barely. The guy watching him is missing. The men are looking for him. I have to talk to Mabel. Is my phone charged? I plugged it in your kitchen.”
“Yes. In fact, it’s rung a few times. I didn’t answer. Nice tune, by the way.” His phone played Jimi Hendrix’ Voodoo Child.
© Dellani Oakes