The radio crackles at 0815, a hollow voice alerting officers to attend a firearms complaint at a nearby house. Clicking on the lights and siren, I wheel my unmarked black SUV around, heading at speed to the rural town of 900 souls.
Upon arriving, my ears ring with fired shots volleyed from outside the one-level residence towards our vehicles. I crawl below the gunfire to comfort a woman shot by the suspect. My eyes scan her injuries that my first-aid trauma trained brain recognizes as a significant threat to her life.
A lull in the shooting enables the emergency response personnel to provide medical intervention. I overhear the update stating that the suspect has driven away in the direction of a multi-lane highway. Members of our team deploy a spike belt while pursuit vehicles make chase, almost leading the suspect towards this barrier.
With the suspect car running on rims, he changes direction, crossing the median, driving at speed northbound in the southbound lanes. Suddenly, this vehicle spins sideways, stopping along the shoulder. We surround him, penning the suspect in place.
Throwing open my door, I pull out my service handgun, crouching to advance on the suspect. The air sizzles unceasing, two to three minutes, filled with the cacophony of gunshots. Underneath this barrage, I creep closer to the suspect. Steeling myself, I am, my intention to injure the suspect.
As my eyes observe him dropping face-down on the pavement, my right arm shatters, blood pulses from my wound, forcing me to my knees. The silence strangles my senses, the pain all-encompassing.
"Constable Hurst. Leila, you're okay now. Here we go, let's get you up and we'll go to the ambulance."
As if a puppet without strings, my feet move while my colleagues shepherd me along. I feel as if I am watching myself, impassive while my weapon gets secured, when my uniform is removed and bagged. I lie on a gurney, strapped down, intravenously administered pain meds. My lids close, my breathing shallow, my mind anesthetized.
I open my eyelids that seem full of sand, so dry and blurry. Such heaviness pushes down on my body like being encased in cement. Pinging permeates my ears.
"Ah, you're awake. I'm Jack Torres, one of the post-surgery nurses. The doctor will be in to take a peek shortly. Would you like a little drink?"
I bob my head in a tiny nod giving my silent permission. My parched mouth and tongue welcome this cooling water.
"Take it slowly. Not too much or you might choke. Your throat will be a bit sore after the intubation."
As my eyes close, I escape to my dreams.
"Ms Hurst. Ms Hurst. Ms. Hurst. Ms Hurst."
A reedy voice enters my mind, calling me name again and again.
With a sign, I open my eyes. A male masked face peers down at me.
"Hello there. I'm Dr. Kerr, the anesthetist. We're going to transport you to your room. Dr. Hayden, the surgeon, will follow up from now on."
I awake as my body transfers with assistance from the gurney to a bed. With my head nestled on cozy pillows, my eyes survey the bare branches basking in the sunshine streaming through the large window by my bedside. Along the window sill sits a coterie of potted plants, floral arrangements and bobbing balloons held by stuffed animals. Tears sting my eyes.
"My, you're looking so much better."
I turn, smiling, hearing my boss's baritone voice.
"Sir, so nice of you to come check on me."
"Leila, have you heard from the doctors?"
"Just a Dr. Kerr who was the anesthetist. Dr. Hayden who was the surgeon is supposed to talk with me today sometime."
"I see you got our flowers."
"Yes, I'm so touched by the thoughtfulness."
"Well, I wanted to tell you that internal affairs will be coming to interview you following the fatal shooting of the suspect. I'll arrange for a union rep to attend this meeting."
My heart hammers in my chest, fear and dread spreading throughout my body.
"You have done nothing wrong. Leila, this is just procedural. You need to focus on getting better. We need you back at work."
Do I WANT to return to work?
Maybe, this is a sign,
that this is a good time for a change.
A change I've contemplated for so long.
"Ms. Hurst, I'm Dr. Hayden, the surgeon. I want to talk with you about your follow up."
I watch as his mouth moves, his words muffled, muted, without meaning after I hear of probable, possible nerve injury.
Oh my God, my hand!
A warm hand taps my left shoulder, drawing me back to the present moment.
"Ms. Hurst, do you have any questions?"
"Will I lose the use of my hand?"
"We're monitoring the healing, keeping an eye on your vascular health. A combination of therapies will maximize your healing."
Such coldness permeates my limbs, as a slick sweat spreads top to bottom. My body shakes with my sorrow.
What am I to do?
Maybe I won't be able to do my job!
Images, sounds, scents populate my sleep, the dreams mimicking life, making them so alive with colours and noises that my mind is wholly engaged. I see a younger me seated on a stool, with a charcoal pencil in my hand, completely focused on capturing a bare limbed tree. My earlier face is full of joy, attention, and hopefulness. Next frame, I'm seated in my apartment, noticing the framed artwork I have created over the years. I see myself flipping through my art portfolio grown deep after so many courses and pieces of artwork. Light dances with pleasure around my form.
When I awake, I am clothed in calmness, in certainty. This lightness permeates my mind and body, making the internal affairs grilling palatable; making the therapies bearable; making my decision confident.
Weeks later, leaving the hospital, leaving the police, leaving the past, I smile towards the future, towards the hope, towards the images to be interpreted, reinterpreted in pastels, in charcoal, in watercolours, in oils.