Emergency Care
Emergency Care
Perfect Bound Softcover
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In Mexico, Hurricane Bertha flattened tobacco crops and coffee bean fields and demolished entire villages. Then suddenly she turned northward—a surprising act that had not been foreseen by meteorologists. After twelve hours, the winds that had reached 180 miles per hour would slow, and the storm would die. But before that, Bertha would terrorize the unsuspecting residents of a South Texas hospital and the bank robbers holding them hostage. It is a toss-up whether nurse Sidney Shelton is more afraid of the thugs or the hurricane. For hours the captors threaten and brutalize the hostages. Sidney wonders whether they will be dead or alive when the robbers leave. What can she do to protect her six-year-old son and friends from harm? God sends her unexpected help from a Mexican cop and a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder. This novel is recommended for book clubs that enjoy a good thriller and individuals who seek theological reflection. Discussion questions are at the end of the novel.

PROLOGUE Juan Vega steadied the steering wheel as the van sped through rain-filled potholes on the south side of San Antonio. Just another job. That’s what he kept telling himself as Jake Larson spouted his rules to the two new guys in the backseat. “Follow my lead. Watch the time. We need to be out of the bank in four minutes. And don’t shoot anybody.” Chucky Rhodes checked his magazine. “I’ve got ten rounds here.” Great. A hot head. Why couldn’t Jake put together a decent crew? “Are you listening to me?” Jake snapped at Chucky. “Keep it clean.” Juan caught Chucky’s smirk in the rearview mirror. Yep. A hot head. If so much time hadn’t gone into planning this joband if Jake hadn’t made up his mind to do it todayJuan might suggest they call it off. But they were here now. Juan parked the van outside the Southwest Bank and killed the engine. He left the windshield wipers going so they could see the armored car delivery. “They’re already here.” Jake leaned forward, straining to watch the guards returning to the truck. “Good. They’ve delivered the dough. Let’s wait.” Lightening slashed the sky as the armored car pulled away from the bank. The gang masked their faces. Jake reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a ski mask. In the backseat the two brothers donned Halloween masks. Mick, who wore a collection of gold chains around his neck and a blue tank top, exposing hard muscles, had chosen the mask of toothless baby. Chucky, six feet tall and built like a refrigerator, wore a mask of Tweety Bird. They looked so ridiculous Juan laughed. “What’s your problem?” Chucky asked. Juan felt around in his backpack then he remembered. “I forgot.” He stared at Jake. He felt his cheeks grow hot. “I left my ski mask on my bed.” “Is this your first job?” Mick snorted a laugh. Juan griped the steering wheel in anger. Jake ignored the jab. He tossed his ski mask into Juan’s lap. “Take this. I’ll wear my bandanna.” It was not unusual for Jake to wear western attire, but today his cowboy hat, boots and neckerchief caught Juan’s imagination. He’d look like a bank robber from the Old West. Jake pointed to Juan’s arms. “Better hide those tattoos. The cops might identify you.” The brothers jeered. Gritting his teeth, Juan struggled into a windbreaker. He pulled on the ski mask and seized his sawed-off shotgun. He faced Jake, awaiting his orders. Jake anchored his arms through the straps of a second backpack. He pulled his Stetson low over his face, tied the bandanna across his nose, and stepped into the rain. “Come on, guys. Let’s do it.” They scrambled out of the van and stormed the bank. Jake entered first and herded the four customers into the center of the lobby. Chucky took several steps inside, and then lingered near the stool where the guard was supposed to be. Juan rushed the two tellers. A blonde at one window fumbled under the counter, but she wasn’t quick enough. She froze as he stuck the barrel of his shotgun into her face. “Don’t push the silent alarm,” he said, biting off his words. She nodded, her dark eyes wide in her pale face. Peeling off his backpack, he slid it across the counter. His gaze shifted to the other teller. “Fill it up. Both of you.” “Where’s the guard?” Chucky bellowed from across the room. Juan turned in time to see the security guard burst in from a blind corner, waving his pistol in all directions, his eyes finally falling on Chucky. Before he could fire, Chucky shot him in the stomach. The guard fell to his knees, blinding pain on his face. His gun, still raised, returned fire, hitting his rival in the chest. Staggering, Chucky clutched the wound with his free hand. He cursed long and loud as blood streamed between his fingers. “Stupid! This didn’t have to happen. It’s your own fault.” He raised his gun again. Juan shrieked. “What are you doing? Boss said not to hurt nobody!” Ignoring the warning, Chucky put another bullet in the guard. Jake whirled, his gun pointed at Chucky. “Stop it. Stop shooting!” Chucky kicked the security guard’s gun away. The man stared up at his killer with mouth agape, then groaned and fell face down on the floor. Mick moved toward his wounded brother, but Jake pulled him back. “Watch the time. Do your job.” “But he might die.” Juan heard the words choke in Mick’s throat. Jake ignored him and fired a shot into the air. “Everyone get on the floor!” The bank patrons dropped to the tiles like dominos. Only an old lady by the front windows continued to stand, clutching a plastic Wal-Mart bag to her chest. Mick pointed his revolver at her. “Get down. What’re you, deaf?” “I can’t. My knees” Her lips quivered. “May I sit in a chair instead?” Mick hesitated and then turned for confirmation from Jake, who nodded with a grunt. The pause was brief. Pulling a set of dishtowels from her bag, the gray-haired woman said to Mick, “Your friend is bleeding a lot. You need to put pressure on the wound.” Mick snatched the towels from her outstretched hand and tossed one to Chucky. Slowly the elderly woman lowered herself into a chair. Chucky sank onto a nearby sofa, groaning, clutching the bloody towel against his chest. With his free hand he limply covered the people on the floor by balancing his gun on his leg. “Who’s the manager?” Jake yelled. A dark-skinned man approached him with hands raised. “I am. I need to check on my friend. Please.” He took a step toward the guard. “No. He’s dead.” Jake pointed his pistol in the man’s face. “Take me to the vault.” They walked past Juan and the two teller windows, through the gate, and disappeared around a corner. Juan shifted his focus back to the tellers. They had flattened themselves to the floor behind the counter, which irritated him. “No, stupid! Stand up and fill these bags like I told you.” Seizing the backpack again, he pulled out a large black garbage bag and forced it on the blonde. He tossed the backpack to the young man at the next window. “Fill’em. You got three minutes. Make it fast.” As the teller hit the release on his drawer, Juan stepped in front of his counter to watch closely. “No dye pack, you hear me? If I have paint explode in my face, I’m going to come back here and blow your head off. Got that?” “Yes, sir.” He stuffed a pile of fifties into the backpack and then a wad of hundreds. By the time the female emptied her drawer, Jake returned with the manager, who lugged a plump backpack through the gate. Mick, who had captured the cashier from the drive-through, joined them with a drawer of money, which he quickly dumped into the larger plastic bag. Checking his watch, Jake seized his knapsack from the manager. “Come on, guys. It’s been over three minutes. Move it!” The teller still stuffed money into Juan’s fabric bag. “Hurry up!” Juan slapped the back of his head to speed him up. “Thirty seconds left!” Mick shouted. As Juan ran ahead to start the van, Mick and Jake herded the prisoners into the vault. Juan stared at the moving windshield wipers. He’d never been part of a bungled robberyand he didn’t like it. As the others piled inside, dragging a heavy Chucky into the backseat, Juan reflected on what had happened. Everything had been planned carefully. They had waited for weeks for a holiday weekend, because they knew there would be a skeleton staff. Everything went as Jake plannedexcept someone died. “Texas has the death penalty,” Juan grumbled. He pulled the van onto the soggy street, going too fast in the steady rain. Jake chewed his lip. “How long will it take to get to Mexico?”

Linda Owen is a regular writer on faith, retirement, travel, and general interest subjects for a variety of newspapers and magazines, both secular and Christian. She received a master of divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology (SMU) and served briefly as the pastor of churches. Linda loves the Bible. She has written Bible study curriculum for the United Methodist Publishing House and often teaches a class at her church. For five years she edited an online Christian magazine. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. She lives with her husband, Ervin, in San Antonio, Texas.

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