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Never Say Die

Chapter One

Zoey Morgan had once heard the cynical adage, "Any day you don't wake up in a chalk outline is a good day." Oh, yeah? she thought now. What if that was precisely where you awoke? What kind of a day was it then?

Obviously, your last.

Though the jury was actually still out on whether Zoey would die that day. They hadn't drawn the final ring around her yet. But they were about to leave her for dead.

"Breathe, baby, breathe," one of the paramedics muttered.

She was breathing. Couldn't he tell? The measured beats of the CPR rolled through her body like waves, cresting at points along her nervous system in sensations too raw to be anything less than real. Her chest felt sore from the pounding, though it reassured her when it began again. It meant they hadn't given up.

"She's gone, Bob," the other EMT said.

"Not yet, Garry," Bob argued, before pinching Zoey's nose and breathing along with her.

Damn right--not yet. This had to be some kind of mistake--isn't that the cliché people use when they can't comprehend what's happening to them? One minute Zoey was running down the street; the next, she was ready for a body bag.

Bob pressed his hand to her carotid. "Come on, honey, beat for daddy."

"She's DRT, bud," Garry said.

She'd been around enough medics to know DRT meant, dead right there. Fear clutched her throat when Bob's sigh of surrender dissolved into silence. Deadly silence. How funny that she knew the fear so well. She'd spent so long denying any familiarity with weakness, Zoey convinced herself she wouldn't recognize it again, yet she and fear were instantly one.

What was happening here? This wasn't some after-death experience she was having. No light at the end of the tunnel. Though Zoey couldn't open her eyes, all her other senses registered with startling clarity. She felt every throbbing muscle in her body, even if she didn't recall what had happened to make them feel so battered. She heard the traffic sounds in the street, the hushed whispers in the crowd that had gathered around where she lay on the pavement. She knew damn well this was the here and the very now.
An atheist in danger of being buried in her foxhole called out to her Maker. Please, God...if you're there...don't let me die. Not this far from the finish line.

However simple the entreaty sounded, it was hard for her to form. Appeals didn't come easily to Zoey. Especially when the last time she needed help this badly, no one heard her cries.
She waited. Nothing. Disappointment washed over her, though not surprise.

Then footsteps approached. "I'm Detective Luis Peña, San Diego PD Homicide," a man said. "And this is Dale Terry. We were passing and thought we'd see if you needed any help."

Garry laughed. "This girl needs your help more than she needs ours now."

Funny man.

Someone gasped. "Lou, look--it's her!"

"Carajo! You're right, Dale," Lou sputtered. "It is her."

"You know this woman?" Bob asked.

"We don't exactly--" Lou began.

But his partner cut him off. "She's not dead, is she?" that Dale-guy demanded. "She can't be dead."
"There's no one who can't be dead," Garry said with a sardonic chuckle.
Dale must have grabbed him. Zoey felt Garry's body yanked across her own. "Listen, pal, you don't know who you're talking about," he insisted. "This woman's body will still be going strong when yours and mine are dust."
Finally, someone who believed in her. Remind me someday to have this guy's baby, shake his hand--something, Zoey thought. Thanks to him she might actually have a someday.

"Look, I'm sorry you had to find her like this," Garry said, rushing the words together. "But trust me, she's ready for a tag."

It still came down to her. Summoning every bit of her indomitable will, Zoey threw it all into one effort to attract their attention.

"Did you see that?" Dale asked. "She moved her foot."

"Hey, man, they twitch," Garry said.

"I'm telling you, she moved," Dale said, stronger now.

"Detective," Garry began, "maybe your friend--"

"I saw it, too," Detective-Lou said, though even Zoey could hear in his voice that he hadn't.

"Look, I'll settle this," Garry snapped. "I'll stick a catheter in an artery, then you'll see. When they're dead, nothing pumps. Get it?" Garry threw all his anger into shoving the needle in. That bruise would prove she was still alive--if they didn't embalm her first.

Silence again. This time less deadly.

"Shit, Bob! She's got a pulse," Garry shouted. "She's alive!"

Relief was a drug. She'd be addicted for life.

Garry shouted for everyone to clear the area and prepped Zoey for transport to the hospital. With her job was done, Zoey allowed her mind to drift. The cops who happened to pass just when she needed them--was that chance? Or had someone finally heard and answered her prayer? And though she felt churlish and ungrateful, she couldn't help but wonder, Why now, and not then?

What did it matter? She was alive. Sucking down the oxygen that flowed through the mask they slipped over her face, Zoey thought that nothing would ever worry her so much again.

Except what she overheard when they pushed her gurney into the ambulance.

"Detective, I saw the car that hit her," some quivering old-lady voice said. "You'll never guess who was driving it."

"Someone you know, ma'am?" Lou asked.

"Someone everyone knows. And it wasn't an accident, either. I'd swear he was trying to kill her."