Catch the previous parts here.
The building site overlooked the cafe; right across the street forming a giant skeleton made up of steel, bricks and concrete. They had completed the framework for the first ten stories; another twenty-five were to be built till the year-end. The construction had started about six months back and was moving along at a steady pace. Once completed, it would be home to the city’s newest corporate center.
The mid-morning sun was at its worst, probably the hottest day recorded in quite some time. The work at the construction site had grounded to a halt; partially because of the heat, and mostly because of the bizarre accident that took place right across the street. The workmen gathered at the base of the building trying to fuel the gossip, each one having their own take on what might have happened. The driver fell asleep at the wheel, possibly drunk; or had swerved to avoid collision with an old lady crossing the street and hence rammed into the cafe wall; or a dozen other scenarios, each more fantastic than the next.
“Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost”, the paramedic asked Joe, looking at his frigid expression. “You need to get outta here”, Joe replied, still fazed. The paramedic looked at him in disgust, “So much for trying to help”, and started walking away. Joe wanted to get as far away from this place as possible, but his legs felt like jelly. Looks like they’d injected him with something to help with the pain, and it made him feel woozy. He could see the crowd staring at him, watching him closely. This man had survived the accident, or so it seemed, making him even more interesting. He decided to ignore them and sat down on the road, trying to give his feet some rest.
Joe pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. Casey Smith answered the phone with a huge yawn. Casey was Joe’s friend from high school, someone whom he was close to and rumored to be “seeing”. He couldn’t think of anyone else to call; he couldn’t think of anything else to do for that matter. She was a writer, and had spent the night trying to work on a piece for the local magazine. “You’d better be dying”, she said, trying to figure out the time. “Sorry if I woke you, and you were right about the dying part”, Joe replied. Casey sat up, piqued. “Huh?” she asked, still trying to piece together what this was all about. “Turn on the news”, Joe said.
Casey found the remote and turned on the news. She could see Joe sitting there, cell phone in hand talking to someone. The headline read, “Accident at Jacob Street. 1 dead, 1 injured”. She saw the bandage on Joe’s head, and softened instantly.
“I’m so sorry. Are you all right?” she asked apologetically.
“I’m okay. Could be better though”, Joe replied.
“Are you sure? Did you have someone take a look at you?” she asked, concerned.
“Yeah, looks like they gave me a pain-killer. Can’t feel my legs”, he joked.
She saw him break into a smile on the screen, and it calmed her down. She was secretly in love with him, and that smile was one of the reasons for it.
“Just wait there. I’ll come and get you in about fifteen”, she replied, trying to put on some clothes.
“Sure. Call me if you’re running late. Looks like I’ll be stuck here for a while”, he replied, signing off.
Joe felt at ease. He knew Casey was the only person he could depend on. And she took care of him. He wanted to be taken care of right now.
He looked around trying to find his laptop; he saw the bag a couple of feet away from where he was. He slowly walked over, picking it up and dusting it off. He came back to his original resting place and surveyed his surroundings; nothing much to do while he waited. The chaos was subsiding slowly, people realizing that they had lives to lead. The mangled remains of the car were being towed away for further analysis; its driver now in a body bag being placed in an ambulance. He felt uneasy, remembering the vision he had a few minutes back. He could see the paramedic smiling, right across the street, taking to his colleagues. His eyes moved toward the spot on the street where he’d seen the vision of a bloodied body; it was vacant now, only the shadow of the half constructed building falling on it. He scanned the area, hoping to catch something wrong with this picture. In about five seconds, he did.
His eyes were transfixed on the figure moving across the street. A blonde, dressed in a red blouse and matching red slacks. He remembered her from the dream, her eyes, her expression, her face. She walked to the spot underneath the building, bent down as if to fix something with her shoes, and walked past turning her eyes towards him. He was now looking into her eyes, the same naughty glint he’d seen in his dream apparent. In another five seconds, he saw the paramedic moving towards the same spot. He tried to scream; trying to warn the paramedic of his impending doom, but his voice seemed to be stuck in his throat. The paramedic reached the spot and hesitated, apparently having remembered something. One second was all it took.
No one saw the sledgehammer falling from the sky. Apparently one of the workmen had forgotten all about it; carelessly leaving it on the top floor when the accident happened. No one knew why it fell, but the impact on the paramedic’s skull was deafening. His head exploded in a river of blood; the man collapsed on the spot. Emergency crews rushed to his aid, but the man was declared dead on the spot.
Joe Russo collapsed onto the street, his heart thumping wildly. He burst into tears; he felt a connection to all the events that happened but couldn’t come to terms with what was going on. He felt a warm hand reach for his face to pull him closer; a hand he recognized to be Casey’s. He embraced her, crying wildly.
“Take me home”, he said, as the limp body of the paramedic was being carried over to the ambulance standing by.
To be continued…