The shot came as sudden as it was deafening. One moment, Jake was struggling to breathe against the arm around his throat which was compressing his airway, the next, there was explosion of sound seemingly right next to his head. The sharp pain in his ears barely had a chance to register when he was abruptly jerked backward at the same time. In his weakened state, he lost what little balance he still had and tumbled to the floor of the ambulance along with Calvin, the latter's arm still firmly wrapped around Jake's throat.
For a moment, the whole scene seemed to freeze around Leslie, almost like it was a video recording and someone had suddenly hit the pause button. It could only have lasted for a fraction of a second, but to Leslie, it seemed like an eternity passed before life resumed its course.
Jake and Calvin both dropped, landing behind the gurney and out of her line of sight. Everyone else whirled around, all eyes on her now. Although she could normally secure a gun in her sleep, Leslie's hands were shaking so hard all of a sudden that she barely managed to engage the gun's safety before dropping it to the ground. Sapped of what little strength she had left, Leslie fell to her knees as the tremors took over her entire body. She was dimly aware of people shouting but everything just blended together into a rush of meaningless noise.
Her eyes remained glued to the ambulance as she watched and waited for any signs of life. Nothing moved. She watched helplessly as Mal and the two officers rushed toward the vehicle when she was startled by hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she found herself staring at Rose. Leslie opened her mouth to speak, but no words would form. It was as if her mind had gone blank the moment she'd fired that shot. She didn't resist when Rose slipped out of her coat and gently draped the garment around her shoulders before wrapping an arm around her and helping her to her feet. Hobbling on one leg with Rose supporting the majority of her weight, Leslie followed the other woman's lead, her body seemingly moving of its own accord.
Jake couldn't breathe, couldn't move. His heart was hammering violently away in his chest. Pain, searing at first, started to fade into the background of his awareness while dark spots began encroaching on his rapidly dimming vision. He was on the verge of passing out when, suddenly, the weight pressing down on his throat was lifted.
Jake sucked in greedy breaths of air, ignoring the reawakening pain as he gave into his body's demands for oxygen. He was only peripherally aware of being pulled from the floor and steered back onto the gurney. Hands were moving over his body, searching swiftly for hidden injuries. Jake wanted to tell them that he was all right, but he didn't have the energy. Even just keeping his eyes open was becoming too strenuous a task and he allowed them to drift shut.
That was when a hard slap landed on his face. Jake's eyes immediately flew open. His father was leaning over him, his mouth moving without producing any sound. Jake stared at him in puzzlement. Mal's mouth stopped moving abruptly and he looked intently at Jake, a seldom-seen look of concern on his features.
Realizing that his father was probably expecting him to reply, Jake raised his arm to indicate his ears, in the hopes of making Mal understand what the problem was. The movement ended up being weak and uncoordinated and Jake missed his ear by several centimeters, touching his left temple instead. His fingers encountered a slick wetness and when he brought back his hand to look at it, his fingers were coated in blood.
When they reached the police car, Rose opened the rear door and manoeuvred Leslie to sit down on the seat. Even now, Leslie was shaking like a leaf. Shock, no doubt, Rose thought.
"Will you be all right for a second?" she asked, feeling silly even as she spoke the words. One look at Leslie's pale face and trembling body told her that the other woman definitely wasn't all right. But there was nothing she could do about that right now, so, after giving Leslie a reassuring pat on the knee that went unacknowledged, Rose turned back toward the ambulance.
Relief swept through her when she saw Jake moving, albeit heavily supported by Mal. Her relief turned to horror however when she caught sight of the left side of Jake's head. It was covered in blood, the red liquid running down the side of Jake's neck and rapidly staining his jacket. For a terrible moment, she wondered if it was possible that Leslie had missed and hit Jake by mistake or if Calvin had managed to pull the trigger after all, but she immediately quashed those thoughts. Worrying wasn't going to help anyone, least of all Leslie and Jake.
So, she turned around instead, crouching in front of Leslie who was still exactly where Rose had left her, staring vacantly into space. Taking care not to startle Leslie, she took the other woman's icy hands into her own.
"Leslie?" she asked softly. At first, it didn't look like Leslie was even aware of her presence, after a minute or so, her eyes came to rest on Rose's face.
"Jake?" Leslie asked shakily, her voice so soft that Rose nearly missed it.
"He's been injured, but he's still alive," Rose told her, finding herself unable to conceal the truth from Leslie.
Leslie nodded slowly. Her pale face was rigid like a mask and betrayed no emotion of any kind.
"Ma'am?" a voice spoke from behind her. Rose straightened herself and turned to face the newcomer. His uniform identified him as a police officer, but he wasn't one of the pair who had been involved in the earlier stand-off.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but you need to step back," he told Rose.
"She needs medical attention," Rose said, indicating Leslie.
The officer hesitated before replying, seemingly considering her request.
"Okay," he finally said to her before turning and shouting for a medic.
As a second ambulance had since arrived, it wasn't long before a paramedic appeared to check Leslie out. Once assured that Leslie was getting the help she needed, Rose went to look for Mal.
She didn't have to search long. Mal was leaning against his van, looking even more exhausted than Rose felt. As she approached, she could see that both his hands and the front of his shirt were covered in blood - Jake's blood, no doubt. Rose quickened her stride, wanting, needing to be with her husband.
"How is he?" Rose asked quietly.
"They think it's just a deep graze, but they won't know for sure until they get him to x-ray. At the moment, they are more worried about shock due to blood loss though," Mal's voice was toneless.
Rose nodded. Head wounds were known to bleed profusely and in Jake's weakened state, that could become dangerous very quickly. For several minutes, they stood in tense silence.
Rose watched as the once chaotic scene surrounding them was slowly returning to some semblance of order. Additional police officers had arrived and were in the process of securing the crime scene. In the distance, Rose spotted Leslie as she was being helped onto a gurney by a pair of paramedics. The police officer hovering nearby was the only reminder that Leslie was technically still a fugitive.
"You should go," she told Mal.
Mal opened his mouth, probably to voice a protest, but Rose cut him off. "I'll stay here and sort things out with the cops. Jake needs you now, so go."
Time lost all meaning for Leslie. Looking back on the events later, the best she could describe her experience of the hours following the shooting was by likening it to a sort of waking dream where everything was muted, as if she were under water. One moment, Rose was there telling her about Jake, then suddenly, she was replaced by a younger woman whom some still-working part of Leslie's brain recognized as a paramedic. She asked Leslie a series of questions, most of which didn't seem to make any sense at the time, took her pulse and blood pressure and examined the various injuries Leslie had sustained recently. She finished by shining a bright light into Leslie's eyes - checking for a head injury no doubt, Leslie's befuddled mind supplied before pronouncing that Leslie was to be taken to hospital for further treatment. Leslie couldn't bring herself to care one way or the other.
The ride to the hospital passed in a haze. At some point, the cuffs had been removed from her wrists, but she was dimly aware of a police officer hovering nearby even as she was being examined again at the hospital. One test appeared to blend into the next with doctors and other medical personnel coming and going seemingly at random. Some of them asked her questions which Leslie did her best to answer despite the blankness that had settled over her mind.
At some point, she must have either fallen asleep or else lost consciousness because the next thing she knew, she was awake, lying in a hospital bed and daylight was streaming in through the window. Although much of the preceding night remained a blurred memory, she immediately knew where she was. Shock, pain, exhaustion and whatever else had clouded her mind the previous night had all lifted and she felt reasonably clear-headed once more. With clarity, all the unanswered questions, the worries and anxieties however returned to her mind as well.
A quick inventory revealed that she was still a prisoner: her uninjured wrist was cuffed securely to the bed rail. It didn't really come as a surprise, but it served as an unwelcome reminder of the trouble she was in. Compared to her situation twenty-four hours ago however, she couldn't deny that things had improved. While she felt tired and not just a little sore, she doubted her injuries were severe enough to actually endanger her life. The doctors had probably explained the details to her the previous night, but even if they had, Leslie couldn't remember. She was just about to do a more thorough inventory of her various aches and injuries when the door of the room was opened a crack and a familiar bald head poked in.
Seeing that she was awake, Hood entered the room, quickly closing the door behind him.
"It sure is a nice mess you got yourself into there, Bennett," Hood commented as he walked over to the bed.
"Tell me something I don't know," Leslie answered wearily, wondering if this was a social call or if Hood was there on official business.
"All right," Hood said and nodded, pulling up a chair beside the bed. "You didn't hear this from me, but word is that all criminal charges against you are going to be dropped."
Hood gave her a moment to process the news, before continuing. "Still, internal affairs is all over this already and it looks like they are just getting warmed up."
Leslie nodded. She hadn't expected anything else. The internal investigation into her conduct could drag on for weeks if not months. Right now however, there were more pressing questions on her mind.
"Did I get him?" she asked, finding that her mouth had suddenly gone very dry.
To her colleague's credit, he immediately knew what she meant. "Yes, you nailed the crazy S.O.B. all right and not a moment too soon, from what I heard."
"What about-" she began, part of her afraid of what the answer might be.
"I ran into Malachy on the way here, seems like Jake is going to pull through, thanks to you. If you hadn't shot Calvin when you did, that bullet would have gone straight through Doyle's head. As it stands, it just grazed him. The two paramedics who got shot also..."
Leslie never heard the rest of the sentence. She felt like the ground had suddenly been pulled out from underneath her. She had shot Jake. The words didn't seem to make any sense and yet they plunged her into instant despair. After all she had been through, everything she had done, she had still not been able to keep Jake from coming to more harm. Tears sprang to her eyes, as much as a result of her failure to protect Jake as they were a release of pent-up emotions and fears.
She had completely forgotten that Hood was even there, until she felt someone shake her shoulder gently.
"Bennett, what's wrong? Do you need a doctor?"
Leslie looked up, seeing Hood watch her with what looked like concern. Embarrassed that she was crying in front of her colleague, she started wiping at her eyes with her free hand, an action rendered awkward by the fact that her arm was in a cast up to her elbow.
"I'm sorry," she said, still sniffling, "it's just, I never meant to shoot Jake..." she confessed.
Hood raised a hand, forestalling any further explanation on her part.
"You don't know?" he asked, eyebrows raised. "It wasn't your bullet that grazed Doyle. It was Calvin McAllister's. He must have fired his weapon just after you did. Your shot knocked him off balance, so his bullet ended up in the wall of the ambulance instead," he said, then paused for a few moments. "Listen, Bennett, you saved a lot of lives doing what you did, don't ever forget that."
Hood got back to his feet. "I need to get going. The guys from internal affairs could get here any second and I'm technically not supposed to be here."
Leslie nodded. "I understand. Thanks for coming anyway," she said gratefully.