Happy Thanksgiving! I’m taking time off from the blog to enjoy the holiday and National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share the first chapter of my 2018 NaNoWriMo attempt, “Welcome to Betelgeuse,” in installments. This is Part 5, the conclusion of the first chapter. Thanks for reading; feel free to comment below.
Continued from Part 4.
The young state trooper hurried back to his motorcycle, where the flashing light stood out against the darkness of the roadway. Unlike him, the girl had had no lights to signal attention of passers-by. Good thing she was wearing her white helmet and riding outfit. She and her crumpled silver scooter were piled in the ditch like so much snow plowed off the highway. Had this happened a few weeks later, she wouldn’t be seen until too late.
“Headquarters? Morrow here. We need an ambulance out on the old highway, near marker 49. You’ll see the lights. MVA, single rider of a motor scooter, foreign plates. Victim is female in her twenties, unconscious, with apparent serious injury to her right leg. Yes, I’ll wait.”
Lieutenant Morrow had his doubts about the bag-and-drag world of ambulances. Volunteers, especially in the rural areas, had little training beyond basic first aid. That was nothing compared to the ambulances themselves — Cadillac station wagon models that doubled as hearses in the smaller towns. Sometimes there was little difference.
Still, Betelgeuse Hospital was just a mile away. Doc was still on duty; they’d spoken just 15 minutes ago, when Morrow had brought coffee from the American Cafe before his rounds. He knew Doc would stay, just in case, when he heard the sirens and saw the ambulance head out the old highway.
The radio crackled again. It was Captain Stonor.
“Morrow, is that you?”
“Yes, sir.” He couldn’t tell if Stonor was angry or relieved.
“The girl — is she … She wasn’t supposed to get hurt! She’s not even supposed to be here!”
“Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir. She’s alive but unconscious. Not responsive. I think the helmet saved her.”
“That’s for the Doc to determine. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She was going to head out of town two weeks ago, when we were done with her, and head south. She’d be far away from here by now, in Washington’s jurisdiction. They were supposed to pick her up there. They have much better facilities for internationals like her. What happened, lieutenant?”
“Can’t say, sir. At least I don’t know why she didn’t follow the plan. As for tonight, it looks like she hit a pothole and a patch of ice and skidded off into a ditch. Good thing there weren’t any trees or telephone poles around.”
“Of course there aren’t any telephone lines, you nitwit!”
Morrow swallowed hard. He was still getting used to that part.
“Captain, I have to go. The ambulance is here.”
“All right, but I want a full report on my desk in the morning!”
Morrow crouched alongside the stretcher as the ambulance attendants splinted the woman’s leg. Still unconscious, she inhaled sharply in pain as they lifted her into the back of the ambulance.
The lieutenant leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Damn it, Viv. I told you to watch out for potholes.”
End of Chapter 1. The rest of “Welcome to Betelgeuse” is not quite ready for prime time.
Does anyone recognize the characters? They’re abandoned from a little-known adventure story by a popular author of the 1950s and ’60s. (The book’s title lives on in a very different movie treatment and a pop song of the 1970s.) Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks!