Valentina had dozed off, and some movie she'd never sen before was on the television when the phone woke her up. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the sky outside her room was starting to brighten. She also didn’t remember putting her shoes on, but forgot that little mystery when she saw that the phone was sending through a priority call from her son. She switched over to the incoming call and heard Stevie scream down the line.
'Mama! Oh God, where have you been?'
'Relax, baby. I was sleeping. What’s going on?'
'It’s Dave! It’s Dave! He’s been shot and I don’t know what to do!'
'He’s been shot in the head and the side! Somebody came out of nowhere and shot him in the head and then ran off, and there is blood everywhere!'
Panic grew within Val's chest, but she swallowed it back and tried to focus. 'Is he breathing? Is Dave breathing?'
'Yes! But there is so much blood, it's gone everywhere! I think I'm going to be sick.'
Val didn’t need to put her boots on and was already heading out the door. 'The blood isn't the important thing. Not right now. People always bleed from the head. Just keep him breathing.'
'I'll try, Ma. I haven't ever dealt with anything like this before.'
'Nobody ever has, until they have to.' Val had her second phone out and had already put out an emergency text calling for medical help. 'Stay strong, my son. Stay strong.'
N'buli shoved Reverend Hello in the back of the LOVE catch-wagon, which drove off into the dark night. The good Revered was off to Rehab Island, and if they were lucky, they might be able to keep him from the pulpit for a while. N'buli was alone on the street of the small Australian town, until the Reverend’s congregation slowly filed out of the church and stood in front of him.
'Well?' said an old woman in her slippers. 'What was all that about then?'
N'buli turned on the tactical charm. 'Look, he was saying a lot of good stuff, but he was just saying that so you wouldn't see the bad stuff he was saying. There is a light in all of us, but it's not necessarily tied down to any one theology, and you've got to find your own way, because nobody can take you there. You have to do it yourself.'
'What the hell does that all mean?' grumbled a middle-aged man in oil-stained overalls.
N'buli's phone began ringing. He managed a shrug as he reached inside his jacket pocket for it. 'Don’t just follow people because they say you should, do your own thing. Excuse me. Hello?'
He listened to the voice on the other end of the line. By the time the conversation had ended, he was already running for the transport and mentally calculating how long it would take him to get to Sydney.
The crowd he left behind stood in the street for a few more minutes, before slowly dispersing and heading off home.
It took her only minutes to get there, but Valentina got to the car just as the medics arrived. LOVE maintained a medical facility in every major city on the planet, and any operation had a rapid response team ready to cover any eventuality.
Val had been to some of the worst war zones on the planet and had seen some of the most horrible things men could do to each other, but those victims weren't her youngest son and her best friend.
Stevie was still sitting in the passenger seat of the car, with his laptop still open on his lap. But he was leaning over and holding Dave's head in his hand, trying to staunch the flow of blood coming from the side of the head.
Val's youngest son looked pale and shaken, and he meekly let the medics pull Dave away. They laid him down on the ground and began to work. Val stood back, scanning the area for the gunman, but there was no sign of him. She leaned in the car, avoiding the blood which had been splashed around the interior.
'Stevie? Are you okay?'
He looked up at her, the tears streaming down his face pushing through the blood on his skin. He took a moment to reply and spoke in a small, cracked voice. 'I'm all right, Ma. I'm all right.'
Stevie shook his head. 'I don't know. We were just sitting here talking shit, and this guy comes up and shoots us. He took off down the street, but I didn’t see anything. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.'
'Don’t worry,' said Valentina. 'Are you sure you’re all right?'
Stevie leaned his head back against the car seat in his blood-wet clothes and closed his eyes. 'I’m fine.'
Valentina turned back to Dave. The medics already had the gurney ready, and swiftly transferred Dave into the back of an ambulance. One of the medics – a Japanese girl that Valentina had never met before – came over to talk.
'We’ve got him stabilised, and he should be okay, but we’ve got to get him to a medical facility right away, okay?'
'What are you telling me for? Go!'
The medic nodded and raced into the ambulance. LOVE maintained a special ward in a local hospital, and they paid for the best medical personnel to staff them. If they said he was going to be okay, he would be okay.
'Did you hear that Stevie?'
Stevie didn’t reply.
There was no movement inside the car.