Elixir (Covenant #3.5) A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire #1)

As a registered nurse, I’ve assisted physicians at scores of deliveries, but the rawness of emotion and the blood and the goo have never appealed to me, and then there is still the vision, deep in my psyche, of that first deformed child. . . . I’d rather set a broken arm, assist with a hysterectomy, or clean a ragged wound.

To get ready for my job-hunting expedition, I settle on a brown skirt, a yellow middy, and brown flats. My town clothes are a little out of date, but of good quality, and I worry that I won’t look as desperate as I truly am. I also worry about the doctor, unsure what I will do with him if I do get a job, but decide I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. At the last minute I spiff him up too, with a shirt and a tie.Our trip into Liberty is uneventful until we cross the Hope River. Just before the bridge, a large newly constructed billboard confronts us.

JOBLESS MEN KEEP MOVING. WE CAN’T TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN. —LIBERTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. I read the sign out loud and cringe, wondering how people will respond to a jobless woman. As in most small towns, people get employment through family and friends, but we have no family and not many friends.The first stop I plan to make is the grocery store, which thankfully is still open. (So many of the stores are not.) As I cross the bridge, a sleek red Packard with a silver winged goddess on the hood comes up behind us and honks. Why such a hurry?On Main Street, I pull up to the curb and watch as a driver in black exits the Packard and opens the back door. A woman of about fifty, wearing a white coat and hat, gets out and waltzes into Ida May’s House of Beauty. She trails a fur stole, and it occurs to me she could be a movie star, but then why would she be in Liberty?

Okay, Dr. Blum. I have to go into the general store. You must stay here. Do not move from this seat! Do you understand? I slow my speech, pounding out each word, take his chin in one hand, and turn his face to mine. Do you understand? Don’t move! Of course he makes no response, and why do I think he would?The little bell on the glass door of Bittman’s Grocery rings when I open it, but there’s no one behind the counter and many of the long wooden shelves are bare. Hello! A man wearing a clean, worn brown apron steps out of the back carrying a case of canned pork and beans.

Good afternoon, Mr. Bittman, I say, and put on a bright face. Do you remember me, Becky Myers? I was the home health nurse in Union County a few years ago.

Yes, of course. My wife, Lilly, went to your baby classes with our first child, and you were friends with Mrs. Blum. I was sorry to hear of her death and . . . Here he hesitates. And the doctor’s infirmity. Mr. Linkous was in and told me what happened.I give up on Mrs. Ross for a minute. Here, Snake, I’ll get you a chair and you cut the rest of his trousers off. Be very gentle. I’ll take off his boots. Look at the leather soles! They’re almost burned through!

When I first see the brave captain’s legs, I let out a long sigh. From the top of his boots to the top of his knees his skin is black and peeling. His upper thighs have a mass of blisters and his hands too. His face isn’t so bad and neither is the back of his legs or his trunk.I share what I know with Snake. The first rule of thumb, when assessing burn injury is . . . if more than thirty percent of the body is covered in burns, the patient will lose too much fluid and go into shock, so our task is to try to keep that from happening. Wolfe moans and I give him a few drops of laudanum. If he makes it though the night, we must worry about infection. This will be a close one.

Hello! Hello! Mrs. Ross is on the shortwave radio again, cranking away. If only the wind would calm down, she might be able to make a connection. Can anyone hear me?! This is CCC Camp White Rock. Dammit! Pick up! We have a wildfire here and we need help!Snake and I look at each other, and though our situation is dire, we can’t help but smile. To my knowledge, no one has ever heard Mrs. Ross swear before.