The day has, frankly, been a wash. In more ways than one. It has been raining for hours, and the river has swollen, rising over its banks and tearing more fiercely through the valley as a result, but everything was fine -- until little Timmy MacTeague went out chasing a runaway puppy.
The puppy, being a puppy, escaped soggy but unscathed.
He's caught in the kayak netting under the southern bridge for now, but the netting is getting overloaded, and branches from fallen boughs are tangling with his clothes. About ten years old, he clings and cries and screams for help. But who will hear him?
Evelyn Clarke shouldn't be out in this weather. The rain is driving to the damp earth in sheets, creating a sound that's simultaneously peaceful and defeaning. Torrential. She's in jeans -- indigo wash, hip hugging, high-waisted. Makes her butt look good. Probably one of those pairs that is all stretchy all the way through. You can't see the high-waist though, because her torso is covered in a canary yellow raincoat. A raincoat with big, deep pockets, that looks entirely too baggy on her. Her hands are stuffed into the pocket, with wet ribbons of blonde hair peeking out beneath the hood that she has tugged up over her head.
Bridges and this town have an odd relationship with her. She's at this particular bridge, head tipped to the side, standing just off to the side of the road. She's not looking at the water, steadily rising with rainfall. No, she's looking at the bridge itself. Quiet. Pensive. Her hair and rain coat tossing in the wind. A few feet behind her, her white Subaru shines its headlamps out through the gray murk that surrounds her. She sighs.
But then! A sound. A cry. Her heart jumps.
"Hello?!" she calls out, voice attempting to pierce through the driving rain.
And just what //is/ Merle doing out in this weather and in this particular location? Well, other than being cranky and wet? This is Merle so she may never quite answer that question if asked. But still, she is out in this rain somewhere close enough to hear the cries of the kid and also of someone else calling out to him. Super hearing? Maybe. Just being very perceptive? Maybe that, too. She's used to being hyper alert in her line of work, which is and always has been a bounty hunter and never any other sort of Hunter, with or without the capital H.
She's waterlogged, hair plastered to her head by now and shoved back impatiently from her face. At least she's in nice heavy boots and skin tight jeans.
Hearing the voice, the little boy waits, then screams all the louder. "HEEEELLLP!" His sobs are barely audible above the rain and the roar of the swollen river tearing at the banks and support pylons. The netting he's caught in, designed to catch and hold kayaks without getting in the way of wildlife or most smaller branches, has plenty of holes a child his size could be pulled through, and from here, it's 3/4 of a mile of rough and rocky river before a 200' plunge, the roar of Tamarack Falls a distant thunder to the south.
The covered bridge itself has sturdy railings meant to stop cars, bicyclists and horseback riders from falling off the edge, so they go fairly high up, but they're also easy to climb, or to tie a rope to. So far, nobody else seems to be driving along the river road.
Evelyn Clarke hears that cry for help. It's a miracle, really. What was just a sob, so easily drowned out in such a torrential downpour, is no amplified into a full on scream. There's not even a moment of hesitation, either. Evelyn jumps and immediately begins to follow that cry to its source. It takes her down off the road, car still running, headlights casting a pale white light over shaking reeds of tall grass. It's a good thing she didn't wear flip-flops today. Adidas Sambas are good indoor soccer shoes, but they're not exactly great for traction. As she nears the bank of the river, her feet slip on wet grass and smooth rocks, but she continues forward.
"I'm here!" she calls out into the dark.
She's looking around, trying to find the source. She moves towards the bridge to where she heard that cry, but her eyes are on the river. Surging, rapid, white froth. Her heart is thumping loudly and quickly in her chest, but adrenaline is spiked high enough that the thought of tumbling into the water hasn't even crossed her mind. At least, not her forebrain.
"Where are you?!" she calls out.
Merle has rope, well a thin but sturdy twine anyway, but it's in her car. Which is the piece of rust parked about a mile and a half down the road. She was apparently trudging toward it, waterlogged as she already is. She must have walked a bit of a distance. She doesn't seem worn out, though. Of course, it's hard to see much of anything about her face with that large amount of black eye makeup just running down her face.
"The fuck's going on?" she calls over toward what looks like a girl near the water. "Oh for fuck's sake," she mumbles, eyes on the girl. Her pace increases. "What's wrong?" she calls out. "You alright?"
he little boy shrieks when a gust of wind jerks at one of the branches caught there in the netting with him, sharp edges tearing at his skin. "HEEEEELLLLP!!! Mommy heeeellp!" He tries to climb higher, but as Evelyn can see, now that she's getting closer, the little boy's foot seems to be caught on something, perhaps a branch, and he can't drag it out of the water. He has his elbow through one of the gaps in the ropes, his other hand reaching down to try and pull branches away.
In the distance, a puppy's frantic barking is briefly audible over the storm.
Evelyn Clarke's vision follows the surging water to the form of the boy, his foot caught, wind and rain roughly tugging a branch against his body. He's tangled up in a net, and he is in very real, very imminent danger. Her heart thumps in her chest, pupils dilating, fight or flight hindbrain rolling up and overriding all of those self-preservation instincts that keep people from flinging them off of cliffs, roofs, or in this case, keep them on the side of a river, safe and dry, to watch a kid drown.
Merle's voice catches her, but she's already on her way. Running. Running towards the river where the boy's all tangled up, trapped, and imperiled.
"He's trapped! Oh my god, oh my god," she calls back, stumbling a few times as she navigates the steep bank. She's traveling in a straight line towards the boy, water rushing in the same direction. She splashes into the river, water surging around her ankles and feet, causing her to slip and nearly lose her balance.
"We're coming!" she calls out.
Oh for the love of Faygo. Merle is quick to realize what is going on and she doesn't even falter in her sprint even if she's rolling her eyes a bit as she launches into the faster pace. "GET OUT OF THE WATER!" she bellows across the shortening distance.
Most people take a moment to assess a situation. Then they'd quickly strip off their boots and any heavier clothing that might hinder them in the water. They'd probably at least know what is happening before racing up and launching themselves into the water. Merle is not most people. She doesn't hesitate even long enough to yank off those heavy boots of hers. Well, there's one way to get the mud off them. She doesn't dive in, being a little more shallow and rocky right at the bridge, but she does wade in fast, boot-covered feet bracing against the motion of the water so it doesn't drag her away. A few steps in and several uttered words that the kid hopefully doesn't hear, and she's heading toward him. Before it gets deep enough, she has the brains to pull her cell phone out of her back pocket and throw it toward shore. It's a good thing it's old and durable. "Call 9-1-1 and if that's your car, go turn the heat on." In summer.
The little boy shrieks when another gust makes his hand slip, then squeezes his eyes shut, sobbing and shaking and shivering where he clings to the sturdy net. At least the netting itself is in good repair -- that's one thing to be said about small towns with social people who loooove gossip. Stuff gets fixed, or the complaints get real.
Lightning flashes, nearby, the sky briefly flickering in paler greys, and one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, *CRACKBOOM!!rumblerumblerumble*
Little Timmy screams in fear, frantically jerking at the foot caught on something under the surface, and coherent words are a thing of the past. He's about ten feet from the shore, just where the water has cut deep enough that a standing adult wouldn't be able to touch the bottom, but there's leverage enough to reach the branches, or to climb the netting.
Evelyn freezes for just a half second after that slip. It's enough. Merle is already charging ahead of her, headlong towards the child. Telling her to get out of the water, to call the police. She's telling her, in far less words, to do something -useful- instead of just becoming another stranded body to worry about. The motion's enough to send her sort of tumbling back, just a little, butt landing on the river bank with a loud squish, her denim jeans soaking immediately through to her butt.
But this isn't ego. This is life and death. It's the right call, and Evie knows it. "Okay!" she calls out, scrambling to her feet and moving towards where Merle tossed that phone. Still not thinking. She has a phone, up in her car. Details.
She snags that phone and starts to make her way up the slope on the side of the road to her car. Merle's phone is, as phones tend to be, locked. She shakes it. Pushes three buttons. C'mon, Evie. You can at -least- figure out how to dial 911.
But then, she's at her car door. A nice car. A white subaru that looks fast and cute simultaneously. She whips open her driver's side door and rolls her fingers across the dials that blast heat. It's then that she sees her phone resting upright in the cup-holder, holding it to her face to unlock it. 911 dialed. Phone ringing.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"There's a little boy trapped in the river!"
The operator is likely giving her a long list of things not to do. Asking a lot of questions. She'll answer to the best of her abilities. She's not -quite- sure where they are. They tell her not to crawl into the water. She looks through the windshield of her car at Merle's figure, slowly submerging deeper into that rapid water and swallows.
Merle keeps wading out, the water covering her knees, her thighs, her abdomen, up to the lower part of her chest. It's only then that she feels her ability to wake against the current waning. The cold heavy pull of the rapidly moving water slows her progress, but thankfully not by too much. And at this angle she's able to clearly see what's going on and can fairly well tell what the full scope of the problem is. "Hey kid, hang on tight!" Under the water, one foot loosens the grip it has on the rocks and sand underfoot and she stumbles slightly.
It's not pleasant, this water. It's tiny droplets of sharp ice pelting her skin and clothing. And her clothing is saturated and /should/ be dragging her down, and probably would if she wasn't so deceptively strong. Even so, lines show on her face as if she is silently admitting that this is not fun or comfortable in the slightest.
"Gonna get you out and sit you in a nice hot car, okay?" she calls out, the words fighting the roar of the moving water, her lips unpursed to speak and now showing signs of wavering as if she's trying not to look like she might be shivering. "I'm gonna try to get those branches, and if that doesn't work I'll be grabbing onto the net. So I need you to hang on very tight, okay? Can you do that for me?"
One ear remains a bit perked as if listening for Evelyn or even a distant wail of a siren.
The 9-1-1 operator keeps Evelyn on the line, and assures her that the local deputies and volunteer firefighters have been notified. As Tamarack Falls does not have a hospital, being too small for that, a helicopter is being prepped to fly up from Riverside Hospital down in Fort Brunsett, but it may take twenty minutes or more for it to get there in this weather.
Thankfully, the center of town is much, much closer.
The not so distant wail of a police siren, one of a whopping two police cars this town even has, seeing as it's only protected by deputies from the Fort Brunsett PD and volunteers, can be heard off to the west, getting closer, so Merle will have that cold comfort, at least! It takes a bit longer for Evelyn to hear it, no doubt, seeing as Evelyn also has the rain drumming on the roof of her car to contend with.
The little boy, clinging and sobbing, shivers as he stares at Merle. He doesn't seem entirely with it, eyes glazing over with shock and fear, but he belatedly jerks a tighter hold on the rope, choking out another strangled whimper, most of the sound swept away by the driving rain and wind.
The 911 dispatcher does their best to keep Evelyn on the line. They ask her to stay, to provide details, but her attention to them wanes significantly when she hears that people are on the way. They know the bridge, they know the road. What Evie doesn't know is that the dispatcher isn't digging for more information -- they're trying to keep her safe. Keep her from doing something rash. Something stupid. The 911 dispatcher doesn't realize this is a lost cause. That car's engine reves and the whole thing lurches forward towards where the road meets the bridge. She pulls off, just a little, pulling the car as close to the river as she can.
"C'mon, Evie Evie Evie," she says to herself, having tossed her phone onto the passenger's side seat where the dispatcher desperately tries to get her to respond. She's digging. Digging in the back seat. The annoying thing about packing up all of your shit on a whim and driving half a state away is that you live out of your car. In this case, it's a blessing in disguise. Unpacked bags, one of which just so happens to have things hyper-critical to the situation at hand: blankets, warm and dry.
She's also keeping her eyes on the river, where Merle wades deeper and deeper in the rushing rapids that would have easily washed poor Evelyn to a rather anti-climactic death 200 feet below. Or she'd have ended up in the net. Good thinking, Merle. But Evie's nervous. That water's deep, and it's fast.
She pushes her car door open, the lights turned out towards the bridge where Merle's making her approach. She scrambles down that bank, toes just on the edge of the water.
"They're coming!" she yells out, as loud as she can, "Just hold on!"
Merle's knees waver and it takes all her strength to fight against the water's pull. Her teeth are gritted as she struggles to keep her balance as long as she can. "Stay there," she says in a voice that is firm and somewhat loud even if it's not shouted like it was before. Everything moves in slow motion, like gravity is alternating with weighing her down and pulling her along. It's exhausting, but she has grit and determination. She's got narrow focus that momentarily only seems to include the branches, the net and the kid.
Slow going, for sure. But soon enough she makes it to the point where the current helps her along as she lifts up enough to allow it to drag her along. Her hands go out and tangle onto the branches, one getting a much firmer grip than the other. She corrects it quickly. Her fingers are both red and white from the cold and the grip she has on the branches. Her arms might look somewhat thin, but the sheer wire of muscle underneath the skin shows through as she puuuulls herself upward a bit so she can eyeball the situation and move one hand to another branch, then the other. It's almost like the way a mountain climber moves from handhold to handhold.
Arm over arm she repositions herself. It's been an hour or a month or a minute, she has no sense of time anymore.And before anyone probably realizes it, she's got a firm grasp of the net with one hand and she yanks hard on it to make sure it's still secure enough to take weight. It seems to. So she keeps one hand on the branch, another on the webbing of the net. "Now don't let go but look over at me," she calls to the kid.
There's no slackening of the rain, and Evelyn had better hope the window control panel doesn't mind getting a little wet, because keeping a car door open right now is bound to be hell on electronics. The 9-1-1 operator can still be heard squawking through the phone, trying to get her attention.
The bank itself is saturated to the point that without such a healthy growth of grasses, it would likely already be being swept away. Thank you, intermeshed root systems! Thank you, riverside erosion protection planners! It squelches soggily beneath Evelyn's already soaked shoes, chilling her feet. The flashing of police lights comes into view around the corner to the north, Bridge and Cross, and turns toward the direction of the incident after a moment at the T, no doubt seeing Evie's headlights.
Meanwhile, little Timmy, staring at Merle, doesn't seem to understand right away, then nods, slowly at first, then faster, tear-streaked face pale and scratched as he clings to the netting and tries to tug his foot again. "M-m-my foot's s-s-stuck," he stammers, shivering visibly enough to be seen even above the occasional jerk and tug of currents in the water on the net.
If Merle is following branches with her hands, the one caught on Timmy's sneaker is a smaller piece of a larger branch. The reason he hasn't been able to dislodge it, or break it, is that the pieces caught in his little waterlogged double rabbit-ear of shoelace-tying pride are all new growth, flexible, and he just hasn't had the leverage to snap them free from the larger branch they've grown on. Merle's strong enough, and large enough, that she could break them without much effort. If she can keep her grip on the net...
There isn't much Evelyn can do, aside from stand on the river bank and try to be of help -- any help. She swallows, looking up-river, the wind grabbing at her hood and ripping it down around her shoulders. Her wet blonde hair whips in the air, and she takes a few more steps towards the river-bank. Her door is ajar -- not flung completely open, but left open enough that the locking latch rests against the door, unengaged and open. Ready to swing open when Merle carries poor Timmy across the water to safety.
The lights from the police cars above flash and flicker, but she's too focused on the rescue-effort. She sees the dilemma -- the stuck foot, the need to pull it free, and the need to cling to the net at the very same time. She swallows, glancing up and over her shoulder at her car once more. The only "handy" thing she has in there is a tire iron, a set of allen wrenches, and a nutter-butter. None of those seem particularly helpful in a moment like this.
"Hang on, hang on, hang on," she says to herself, voice drowned out in the pouring rain.
"See, I'm right here, kid," Merle continues, keeping her eyes on his even as one hand lets go of it's grip long enough to follow along under the edge of the water, seeking out where exactly it is he's caught. Seeing a flash of what might be the problem is a good start, but it takes more than that to pull this off. "You just stay right there for a minute, alright? Promise me? I wish I was half as brave as you are." Oh man. Merle isn't terrible with kids. Her reputation is going to be shit after this if word gets out. Too bad she couldn't get him out and then take off before anyone knew better.
Her hand dips into the icy chill again and fingertips stretch and feel as she moves the hand along until-- AHA! A FOOT! "Wow, your friends are going to be so impressed you held on so good," she says to him in that offhanded way that you talk to kids while you're busy. Her face scrunches into a wince as she twists and moves the sucker branch that's grow just enough to be a nuisance right now. Being supple means it's not easy, so it takes actual hand strength as well as the ability to feel and move in ice cold water to get him free. "Pull your leg up, make sure it's not still caught on anything." And louder in case Evie is near enough to hear: "FIND ME SOMETHING TO DRY HIM WITH!" Wow she sure is optimistic that this is going to go off without a hitch.
The police car sloshes to a halt on the soggy road, and doors quickly open, then slam shut, a deputy and what looks like an assistant deputy squelchily approaching Evelyn, seeing as she is the only one within easy hearing distance.
"Ma'am!" the man yells, "step away from the bank!" He's a little tubby, but still in good shape, and while he talks with Evelyn, trying to get an idea of what has been going on, his brawnier colleague -- with an absolutely fanTASTic moustache -- wades out toward the edge of the river, keeping an eye on Merle and the boy. Upon seeing that the woman is working to free the kid, he cups his hands around his mouth and calls, "Ma'am, we're here to help! Hand him to me, if you can!" while pressing farther out, taking careful steps to be sure of his footing, until he can grab the edge of the netting for support against the current.
The branch was the only thing holding the foot, so once Merle has that free, all she has to worry about is seventy plus pounds of scrawny soggy ten year old.
Evelyn's head whips around when she hears the sound of car doors shutting, the sudden flashing of red and blue casting a surreal, dream-like lighting to it all. She lifts her head and shields her face from the driving rain with her hand. She squints, seeing the officers bodies silhouetted by her car lights as they make their way towards the bank. Truthfully, with all the adrenaline and endorphines rolling through her, she hasn't had a considerable amount of time to process it all. The officers' approach as if in slow motion, with the only sound that she can hear being the oppressive sound of rain driving to the earth below.
She doesn't even hear him yell at her. It's as if she's looking at herself from ten feet above. Looking down as the two men move, one of them past her, into the river. She follows him, blinking slowly, eyes lifting up to Merle and the kid, who seems to have been freed from the branch as they begin to make their way towards their side of the river.
"What?" she says out loud, turning her attention back towards the more bulbous officer in front of her. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Ma'am, step away from the bank. It's... it's slippery, you could fall," he says, and she takes a few tiny steps backwards.
Reality snaps back into place, and her hands start to tremble within her coat pockets.
"Okay good. So I'm going to need you to hold on super tight with one hand. And loop your arm around my neck. Don't worry, I've gotcha." Merle sort of has him. She's now got her fingers looped through the belt loops of his pants. Better than nothing, right? Because damn it's cold and her fingers are starting to feel almost numb from it. She lets her attention glance upward toward the bridge for a moment as she hears other voices. Shit. Cops. She didn't make it out fast enough. She hates this part. "Alright kiddo, one. Two. THREE!" And she uses that hold on his belt loops to yank him toward her.
It's not easy. It probably doesn't look entirely easy. But she manages to hold on rather well with one hand. Surprisingly strong for someone who is more heroin chic than heroine chic, right? She must have at least found a branch to brace her legs against to give her leverage. "We're coming out. I think what's her name has a coat or something and she heated up her car to warm him up," she yells upward, though it's clear her teeth are almost chattering at this point.
The little boy nods, and tries to do what Merle tells him, reaching for her neck to cling first with one arm, then with both, kangaroo style instead of piggyback style, and he wraps his legs around her waist for good measure, sniffling and shivering into her soaked clothes.
The officer with Evelyn, upon seeing that it looks like Merle has the boy, finally catches his first good look at Merle's FACE, and narrows his eyes before telling Evelyn, "You stay here, ma'am, just in case," and heading off toward the squad car at a quick trot. Looks like he's tossing something over the back seat.
The officer in the water waits until Merle is close, then grabs -her-, rather than the kid, using his own larger weight and size to help hoist the woman back onto the shallower, rocky bottom of the river's edge. "Ma'am, are you alright? Let's get you and the boy inside, and out of those wet things." He tries to get the boy's attention, and it takes a bit before Timmy stops staring at him and starts answering questions. What's his name, where are his parents, where does he live, does he hurt anywhere, etc. Timmy, mommy's sleeping, he lives in the blue house with the duck, and his elbow hurts.
The tubbier cop returns, and upon hearing about the house with the duck, gets out his radio to call back to the station and the secretary there, something about White Duck Cottage rentals, while the larger one works with Evelyn and Merle to get the boy bundled up in something warm.
Evelyn's eyes snap to the rotund officer who looks up towards Merle, and then moves back to his squad car. Something's off about the interaction, but she can't piece it all together. As he scurries away, she instinctively moves towards the shoreline, where the rain continues to drive and that cold water continues to surge against the three bodies in the river. She's a safe enough distance away and on safe enough footing, but she's trembling. The adrenaline surging through her far more fit for a sudden rush rather than a sustained burst. Her lips chatter, though she's, for the most part, warm and dry beneath that canary yellow raincoat.
"My car," she remembers, turning around to look at it, "I have blankets, I'll go... I'll go get them."
She starts to climb up that bank, towards where she's left her car running. The door, still cracked, easily pulls open and she slips inside. It's hot in the car. Balmy, even. The hot air blows through the entire circulation system. She pulls open the bag containing the warmest looking things. Sweaters, a couple bras (that's no help!), and some blankets. If Merle and the officer had followed, she would lean over and pop open the back seat of her car, warm air rushing out. When the boy was delivered to that back seat, she would smile at him warmly and sweetly.
"You did such a good job, little man. You were very brave," she says, handing back two sweaters, gray joggers, and a blanket. "You can dry yourself off with one of my shirts. Listen to the officer though, okay? We need to get you nice and dry and warm, then back to your parents," she says.
She lifts her eyes to the back window, looking at the moustache-cop and Merle, and then to the fatter cop in the distance, talking into his radio.
The climb back to shore was much easier than going out, and with the boy carrying his own weight for the most part and her arms free when she needed them to keep hold until she could get proper footing under her in the water, Merle didn't really find much difficulty with the act. Other than the fact that she is chilled to the bone and now her clothes are soggy and heavy and stuck to her like a second skin. She may have noticed the cop's look. If she did notice it and didn't respond to it, maybe she is just /that/ used to it. Or maybe she didn't notice after all, but it's maybe hard to believe someone who is as alert as her with everything else misses something like that.
With the kid in the hands of the authorities, Merle finds herself at a loss. She still has the adrenaline zinging through her veins and her usual decision to start a fight with someone to burn it up is a rather bad idea considering her present company. Why can't she teleport to a dive bar filled with skinheads or something? They're always up for a brawl.
"Thanks," she says as she lifts her hands up to try and wring out her hair. Only her hands and elbows and shoulders are still cold so give her a moment of denial at being moved. When she does get them to lift, she realizes she's bleeding from a gash on her arm she didn't even feel. Thanks, cold water! She uses the inside of her wrist to wipe it away and assess the damage. "Kid should be alright, he didn't seem hurt. Just scratched up maybe and he's gonna be sore as hell from holding on. Brave lil brat." She reaches down to check that her car keys are still attached to that unfashionable wallet on a chain that clips to her belt loop, but it seemed to work this time. She didn't lose them. "I should get back." Yes While the cops are distracted. Good idea!
Yes. Totally a good idea to flee from the police. Toooootally. Pity they already know her by appearance, and by name.
The little boy curls up into a soggy, sobbing heap of shock and drippy limbs, but aside from trying to get the ladies and the boy up to the shared fire/police station to get them warmed up and wait for the helicopter/get in touch with Timmy's parents, the danger, thankfully, has passed.
Offices are always dangerous. Just ask the papers getting stabbed and bound by staples, or the poor little coffee stirrers being swizzled into boiling bean-water.
Ah, but Evelyn Clarke doesn't know it's a good idea for Merle to scram! As the moustached officer moves to join the chubby one, Evelyn looks towards Merle. She just assumes that the police are radio-ing the station to tell them that they rescued the kid, not calling for back-up or some other sort of nasty thing to do to the heroine of the day. No good deed goes unpunished, after all, and Evelyn Clarke's brow furrows at the notion of the woman leaving. She's standing on the same side of the car as Merle, having closed the door enough for it to keep most of the rain out to give the boy a chance to change and dry off. "Wait," she says, her voice quiet by comparison to the shouting from before.
"You're bleeding," she says, and then, with a touch more resolve, "And -freezing-. You should dry off too. I have some, mmm, I have some more back there. Let me... let me get it," she says. She peeks quickly and, seeing the boy safely wrapped up in a blanket, chattering but warming, she opens the back door of her car to start rummaging about for more warm stuff and maybe something to at least dab the blood out of Merle's cut.
She looks up at Timmy, who's probably doomed to play French horn and not get kissed until his senior year of High School with a name like that, with a smile. "You warming up? I think the officers are just finding out where your home is, sweetheart," she says, rummaging around through her clothes. Oops. Another bra. Quickly tucks that away and grabs a dark cable-knit sweater and some more sweatpants. These black. University of Vermont logo on the pocket. "You just sit tight," she says, shutting the door again before slipping into the front seat of her car. She leans over to open up the side-door and motions for Merle to climb inside.
"C'mon, you should get out of the rain."
"It's nothing," Merle says about the cut on her arm. "It looks worse than it is. I'll take care of it. Won't need any more than two stitches, if that, and I can do that no problem. And it wouldn't be the first time I've gotten blood in my car. Danger of the job." Cryptic. Is she some sort of serial killer or something? Oh. No. She's just a multi-state bounty hunter. "Thanks. For thinking so fast," she says to Evelyn. "Saved his life. Stupid kid. Maybe he learned his lesson." That last part is said quietly and a little sadly as she watches him for a moment. "Anyway," she says as she pulls herself out of that moment of funk she slid into, "My car is just up the road. I was out taking pictures of the scenery." In a storm. With no camera other than the phone she has totally forgotten throwing to Evie. "Hey! Thanks guys," she shouts to the cops. "You seem to have it from here. I'm just gonna--" she makes a thumb motion over her shoulder.
The officers finish their discussion, and start back toward the two women with another blanket. "Ma'am," Mr. Moustaches tips his hat toward Evelyn, then looks at Merle and does the same. "Ms. Dalton. If you both wouldn't mind coming with us up to the station, we've got the kid's parents on the way. They'd like to thank you for your help in person, and we'd like to take your statements while it's still fresh in mind."
The wind doesn't let up, but the rain is slowly beginning to lose some of its stinging intensity, and there hasn't been any more lightning since that last rumbling jolt.
The cops express their intent to get the kid into the squad car to drive back to the station, and have another blanket for him, too, warmed from the car.
Mr. Moustaches, the handsomer of the two, is the one talking to the ladies. A smart bet, works on Evie. She smiles up at him, lowering her hood, wind immediately catching that curly blonde hair and whipping it around. She's pretty, though. Strikingly so. Even drenched in rain, mascara streaking, shivering cold. She looks up at him with big brown eyes. She can sense Merle wants to go. Sense something's wrong, or afoot, or whatever other saying one says when things just arne't quite right.
"She got hurt, pulling him out of the branches," Evie says, fat-cop gathering the kid up out of her back seat and helping him over to the two squad cars just up the road. "I saw the whole thing. Why don't I just come by the station and give a statement? She should really get to cleaning out that cut," she says.
A glance is given over her shoulder to Merle. Ms. Dalton. Files that little tidbit away, and the fact that the police address her by name. Small town. Might not be anything.
She looks back to the officer and gives him a pretty smile. A pretty smile that might warm up Merle, were she any closer.
Merle groans softly. Of /course/ they know her. Of /course/ they want a statement. She opens her mouth, but it's cut off by Evie. "Yeah, I wouldn't want an infection, who knows what nastiness was in that water." Wait, something nastier than /Merle/? "Here's my statement. Heard her yell, saw the kid in the water, got him out. The end. You can tell his parents they're welcome. It's not a big deal. This one here did the important stuff. So unless you plan on slapping cuffs on me, I'm gonna go home, take a long hot shower, put half a fifth of vodka on my arm and the rest in my stomach and take a nap. It'll probably be fine when I wake up. I heal up fast. I've taken a bullet out of my leg before, I think I can handle a tiny scratch."
In the end, Evelyn's persuasion outweighs Merle's honesty, and the cops agree that 'Ms. Dalton' is free to go. After all, they don't have anything (yet) to charge her with to force her along.
That just means Merle gets to miss out on being hugged by strangers and told that if she ever needs anything, ANYthing, to let them know, because they'll be forever grateful for the life of their boy. A deed well done!