Yusif Habib walked toward his boss' room at Mount View Hospital. It took the Sheriff's Department over three hours to find him and tell him about the gunfight and explosion. The 911 office in the Sheriff's Department had his cell number, but the explosion caused the ramshackle old inn next to the courthouse which housed the Sheriff's Department and the offices of the clerks of the various courts to catch fire. It burned to the ground long before the volunteer fire department got itself together. Thankfully, the building had been mostly empty and everyone got out, but the 911 office went up in flames with it. Of course, getting in contact with Yusif was not a high priority either.
Paula finally called him about nine-thirty, ten minutes after Rare Dare, the movie his date had chosen, started. He was at a theater in Bristol and dropped his date off at her place before he drove back. He did it in less than ninety minutes and it was something of a miracle that he did not wreck his car driving the curved roads of Southwest Virginia at night at the speeds to which he pushed his little Hyundai. Mount View Hospital was immediately next to the exit from 23E on the first Mount View exit so Yusif pulled into the hospital immediately without going into town. He could see lights flashing further up the road, but he was going to check on Brad first. He knew that Mount View Hospital was really just a glorified clinic and there were only two types of patients who stayed the night - those who had no real problems and those for whom nothing could be done. Anyone else was sent on to one of the big hospitals in Tennessee. He was going to make sure into which category Brad fell.
As he approached the door he heard Brad's voice raised in irritation. "Dammit, Maggs, give my phone back!"
A female voice replied tartly. "Don't you Maggs me, Nickel. All you were doing was annoying any deputy dumb enough to answer his cell. You are supposed to be resting. I'll let you know if anybody calls about anything important."
Well, that was a good sign. If Brad's wife was picking on him then his injuries could not be too serious. The two of them kvetched at each other constantly, usually because Maggie was pushing Brad to do something he ought to and he was resisting. When she really wanted to get his goat she started calling him "Nickel." Of course, everyone in Bartlette County called Brad "Nickel", but Maggie was the only one who did it to his face - usually with a fierce grin on hers while she did so. Brad hated the nickname which came from his years on the high school football team. He played football because his father made him and Coach Huggins had screamed at him over and over again "Dollerby you ain't worth a plugged nickel!" By his junior year everyone at Yared High called him Nickel. In his senior year, the local newspaper was running weekly sports stories about "Nickel" Dollerby which culminated in a front page headline when the Yared High Black Cats won the district championship over the Pound Wildcats and Brad ran for three touchdowns: "Nickel Worth More Than Pound!" Brad had been mortified and he still hated the nickname.
Walking through the door, Yusif saw Brad sitting up in bed with a bandage covering his right ear and Maggie sitting in the chair next to it. Brad saw him first. "Yusif, would you tell this insufferable woman that I need my phone?"
"Umm, no thanks boss. I learned a long time ago not to get in between a man and his wife. Nothing good can come from it."
Brad waved his hand and Maggie turned to Yusif. She was thin as a rail and had flaming orange hair. She pointed at her husband. "He gets no phone before eight tomorrow morning and I don't want to hear that you gave him your phone either. No damage to the courthouse and this idiot still manages to get himself hurt and when I come tearing up the four lane to get here I found out that all that really happened was that he got his bell rung and had to have a scratch in his ear stitched up." She turned back to Brad. "Now that Lurch is here, I am going to go get some coffee. He can keep you company for an hour or so while I call everyone and make sure they know you are safe." As she started to walk out of the room she stopped and looked up at him. "Al-telephone mamnooa. Tafemni?"
Yusif stared at her blankly for a second. "Uh, no telephone?" She nodded sharply and walked out of the room. Yusif walked over to the bed. "Y'all have known me for over ten years, since our first year of law school, and she still doesn't believe I don't speak Arabic."
Brad adjusted himself in the bed, pushing a button to make it incline further. "Hell, Yusif, the reason she made us track you down at that mixer was that she saw your name on the list of new students and wanted to practice our language skills. I'm pretty sure she's never forgiven someone named Yusif Habib for not speaking Arabic."
Yusif chuckled. "I grew up in Winchester, Kentucky. The only person who spoke Arabic in my house was my Giddey and he died when I was eleven. Now, if you ever need a translater of Kentuckyese, I'm your man."
They both smiled. It was a familiar bit of patter - a joke the three of them had been sharing since they met at the mixer for first year law students at the University of Kentucky. It was also a favored way of dissembling when they did not want address a difficult topic. As the conversation lulled, Yusif took a deep breath.
"What the heck happened, Brad?"
"Well, you have to understand that I didn't see any of it. I was in my office, prepping for the next day of trial, and there was gunfire and a massive BOOM." Brad waved his hands in the air emphasizing the point. "Maggie's right. There's no damage to the courthouse, but that didn't keep me from having a bookshelf fall down on me. The next thing I remember is waking up in this bed a couple hours later with a bandage on my head where they sewed a rip in my ear back together." Brad rolled his eyes. "First thing they did after I woke up was try to give me an oxy. I don't remember much, but I understand I cussed the nurse out and told her where she could shove her oxys, tabs, and percs. Damn doctors hand those pills out like they're candy. Then I passed out again and when I woke up Maggie was here. She let me make a couple calls and then, when I wasn't looking, she grabbed the phone. You showed up while we were discussing that."
"Have you been into town yet?" After Yusif shook his head, he went on. "Okay. As best I can tell sitting here, the deputies were walking the Pahls over to the holding cell in the Sheriff's Department. Lasley, Tolliver, and that priest from up north were walking with them. They were in the alley between the buildings when someone opened fire on them. The deputies returned fire and everybody ran back toward the courthouse door. The propane tank was at the end of the alley and as the deputies rushed everyone back to the courthouse it was between the them and their attackers. Don't know who shot it, but the tank let out a big cloud of propane gas which filled the alley and then blew. It was basically a fuel air explosion. The courthouse is made of granite pulled out of the Yared quarry. Other then blowing out windows and causing furniture to fall over, the explosion didn't affect the courthouse. The old inn didn't make it. The part facing the courthouse collapsed and it caught fire. They don't think anyone was in the building but the two women working dispatch in the 911 center and it was on the other side; they got out."
Brad paused and when he did not resume Yusif prompted him. "Who were the attackers? Was anyone hurt?"
"No idea who the shooters were. Everybody in the alley was medflighted to Tennessee. They're all in bad shape. Burns, bullet wounds, and concussive injuries. The door to the courthouse closed and locked behind them and the alley's door to the Sheriff's Department was twenty feet down the alley, in the direction of the shooters. They got back to the courthouse door, but they didn't get it unlocked in time."
"The only reason we know as much as we do is that Bo was trying to get the door unlocked and he got hit by four bullets right before the explosion. Three hit the back of his vest, but one hit him solid in the right arm. He got knocked down and fell in the middle of those trash cans they keep back there. Apparently, they absorbed most of the heat and explosion. He got bruises and a concussion, but was able to tell what happened before they sent him off to one of the Tennessee hospitals for surgery."
Brad motioned Yusif closer and lowered his voice. "You need to get over there. The last I heard, Major Harvey had broken into the empty store across from the courthouse and set it up as a headquarters. Get over there. Try to keep them from doing anything we, and they, will regret later. Don't be stupid about it though. I've seen what's going to happen here in Iraq. Before tonight the deputies knew they were the toughest, meanest, and most untouchable people in Bartlette County. Tonight, three of their people were are in a hospital and their headquarters is a pile of smoking rubble. These men are going to be scared and angry. That makes them dangerous. Try to keep a handle on things. The last thing we need is for the Sheriff's Department to go on a witch hunt, breaking down doors and rousting people because they've given the deputies trouble before and therefore they might be involved in this. We want to be able to prosecute the bastards who did this and if the deputies run wild they'll fuck it up."
Yusif nodded. He was unsure what good it would do to send him over. His working relationship with the deputies was good, but if they were going to go as wild as Brad feared there was no way they would listen to him. They would not listen to an outsider who moved into the county three years before to take the assistant Commonwealth Attorney position the way they would Brad, whose family had lived around the town of Yared for longer than anyone could remember. Still, he had to try.
As he turned to walk out, Brad must have seen his concern because he held up his hand in a halting motion. "Just hold the line until tomorrow morning. I'll be out of here as soon as I can and I'm coming straight over, no matter what Maggie says. Now, go do some good." As Brad smiled grimly, Yusif completed his turn and left the hospital room.
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