"Andy, how are you doin'? Do we need to get you a cab or something?"
"I'm great! What's next?"
This was the response they had all feared.
The winter sun was low on El Salvador as Brady began snapping photos to complement Aggie's new manuscript already in progress. "I think the alley we hid in is right up there," she said as they walked.
The pain medicine Brady received at the hospital worked well, but it caused a slight disruption in his focus. He lacked the creative vision he normally enjoyed, and his sling made him clumsy as he attempted to photograph the alley that had been their temporary haven earlier that day. Aggie sympathized with him, but her own vision for the new article was clear, and they had been through too much to give up on such a story.
But perhaps it could wait another day. "Ya know, Brady, we have time. You wanna go back to the hotel and rest for tonight? I can work on the story, and we can get pictures tomorrow. These streets aren't going anywhere."
A mere four hours after the first shots were fired, Brady and Aggie walked out of the downtown hospital looking for dinner and drink.
"So now what?" he asked, recognizing that his wish to return home would have little bearing on Aggie's decision as Senior Writer.
Smiling at her injured teammate, she said, "Well, are you feeling up to taking some pictures? That gang battle will make a great story."
It was five forty-five when Brian poked his head into Dave's office. Dave was still hard at work.
"So, Boss." He paused, wishing he had planned his question better. "Do you think we'll get our Santa Tecla story for March, or do we plan on somethin' else?" This was the first time in the magazine's eight years that a member of the Bold Traveler team had been shot. As trained as he was, Dave was not sure how to lead them through this. He felt that downplaying the situation was probably wise, for his team and for his own peace of mind.
"I think it'll depend on Aggie. I wouldn't be surprised if she still comes through with somethin'. It might be Santa Tecla, it might be somethin' else, but she'll come through."
Shocked, Emily invited him to sit. "Can they come home?" she asked.
"Yeah, in fact, Dave is trying to get them home earlier than Tuesday. The local authorities have been cooperative but a little slow. But they got Brady to a hospital and patched him up. The cops are actually kind of helpful down there."
"Thank God they're ok. Poor Brady."
"We should throw a party when they get back," Paul suggested.
Aggie didn't respond. She felt angry that Brady didn't feel the way she did about it. She gestured to the cop in the room with them. "El teléfono?" The man looked at her for a second and then slowly left the room. Aggie and Brady looked at each other.
"I normally would've called Dave by now. He likes to know we're ok."
"Don't you have a cell phone card or somethin'?"
"Yeah, but my battery died."
For a moment they had nothing to say. Then Brady said, "Aggie, it's gonna be ok."
She hadn't realized how much she needed to hear that.
"If not for us, he wouldn't've been shot." They were sitting in a small room in the police precinct, waiting for an English speaker to translate their conversation with the sergeant on duty. Aggie was unsuccessfully fighting tears. She had seen violence before, but no one had suffered violence on her behalf until now. The images replayed continuously in her mind. She wanted to be held badly. She wanted to find the man who'd helped them, to thank him.
Brady had never seen her like this. He wasn't sure what to do. "I feel the same way, Aggs, but he was in a gun battle. Chances are he would've been shot regardless."
Immediately two officers from the squad car nearest them advanced on the gang members and seized the one already suffering from the bullet wound in his leg. Other policemen pointed their weapons at his friends, whose guns were already on the ground. Aggie watched in horror as the man who had saved their lives was kicked and handcuffed. "Stop!" she called out, not really expecting them to listen. The man was part of a violent drug gang; as far as the police and most other people were concerned, he deserved no mercy. They lifted him up, and he caught Aggie's eye as they carried him to the car. He and his eight friends were taken into custody while Aggie and Brady found cover in case shooting should start again.
As Jason made his way to his desk, feeling worse than before, Michelle was having her own conversation about the trip with "Black" Andy, the magazine's layout director who was her boyfriend of two months. They had worked together since joining the company two years prior and had finally decided to try for a romance, but their disparate backgrounds had been the cause of some tense feelings already.
"Syria, huh? That should be fun."
"I actually think it will be. Finally I'll get to see something I've only been able to hear about before."
"Angry, violent people? Well, if that's your thing."