Chapter Twenty-One

Ralph used his telekinesis power reflexively again, sending out waves of thought directing all the bomb fragments to avoid hitting Maxwell. The shrapnel responded, darting off in zig-zags away from his partner. Ralph was naturally protected and his body and cape sufficiently kept his wife from harm. As Bill flew backwards his body was untouched, although the force of the blast and the additional shock to his weakened system caused him to black out.

The three fell nearly thirty feet into the water, the depth of it absorbing the splashy blow of their fall. Bricks, boxes, broken work tables, and bits of the house struck the lake seconds later, raining down beside them in the water. Ralph, covering Pam, got himself straightened out and launched them both upwards, so they popped out of the lake and crashed inelegantly but unharmed on the grassy woods at the side of the house, coughing out water.

"Are you okay?" Ralph asked his wife.

"I'm fine. I'm fine. Go get Bill!" she urged.

Ralph turned dripping wet and looked at the lake. Bill wasn't to be seen on the surface. Anywhere.

"Bill!" he called out. "BILL!" He was about to dive back into the water, to scour the whole bottom if necessary, when a holograph appeared. It came out of the blue, like the very first time he wore the suit and was lashed to the gurney, and without holding onto something of Bill's he saw his newly assigned partner taken hostage. Holographs had appeared randomly like that a few times since, but Ralph hadn't grasped the technique to have it occur at will. He didn't know why it happened that moment, just when he needed it most, but he was sincerely grateful. He stood stock still, while Pam, not knowing what he was doing, was yelling at him to get going. Through the round shimmering vision, Ralph saw exactly where Bill was in the lake, immobilized under the remains of the destroyed house, unconscious, drowning.

He had protected Bill from being torn and maimed in the home, but not from all the rubble slamming into the lake.

He ran to the water's edge. Pieces of wood floated on top, caught in the ripples of the passing boats. Ralph dove in, swimming down in the now murky lake, the dirt bottom disturbed by the sudden entrance of sinking bricks and metal.

Ralph knew instinctively where to go and twenty-five feet below he pushed aside the blanket of debris over his friend and grabbed his arms. They came back to the surface, Ralph kicking his feet like the flutter of a hummingbird's wings, quickly cutting them both through the water to dry land.

Bill was limp and not breathing. Ralph carried him back up to Pam and laid him on his stomach. As Pam stood by, her hand covering her mouth, he lifted up Bill's torso and did a Heimlich maneuver. Great gulps of brown water erupted out of Bill's lungs. Ralph repeated that a few times, until no more water spewed out, and then turned Bill over onto his back. There were no new injuries visible on him, but he still wasn't breathing.

Ralph assumed a position to the side of Bill. "No, Bill, no!" he cried, imploring his wife, "Pam, help me here!" That brought Pam out of her horrified passivity to join in.

Ralph assumed the position to pump Bill's heart as Pam puffed twice on Bill's mouth, forcing air into his lungs. They began the five pumps-two breaths routine they had been taught in a fire station CPR course.

"Bill, come on, come on, breathe, breathe!" Ralph demanded, pressing down on his chest, hating his unresponsive body. They kept it up for a minute, tuning out the whole world, the sky, the birds, their own wetness, Culdero driving away behind them.

Don't you do it, Ralph silently commanded his friend. Don't you die on me. Don't you dare. Not now. Not like this. Not by saving my life and Pam's. Not because of my stupid error. You damn Fed, with your scenarios and your barging in at any time, and your gung-ho attitude, don't you die on me. Please, don't do it. Don't leave me here, alone, with this suit, without your guidance, without your friendship.

"Bill, breathe!" Pam chimed in frantically.

It was never clear exactly how things went down in the next few seconds, and it was all too uncomfortable for the three of them to discuss it later and wholly figure it out. So, it remained forever an ill-defined event.

Ralph continued pressing Bill's chest; Pam blew breaths into his mouth. But Bill was still not recovering. Suddenly, Ralph's internal tension exploded inside like a roaring volcano, and just after Pam finished her second breath, he compressed Bill's chest extra forcefully and, with his whole mind focused on the word, he screamed, "BREATHE!"

Bill suddenly inhaled a huge lungful of air. Turning his face he coughed out some more fluid, the water dribbling down his chin, and began uncoordinated respirations. Struggling initial gasps and sputters, however, soon leveled out to normal inhalations and exhalations. He was breathing. On his own. Ralph and Pam stopped their CPR, stared at Bill and then at each other.

"Ralph, you didn't…?" Pam couldn't finish the question.

"No, no, it was the CPR…that last thrust…"

Yes, surely Bill was breathing because of the success of the CPR. That was it. Not because he had been dead, and Ralph's telekinesis powers had ordered him back into his body…ordered him to start breathing again…

"Yeah, the CPR," Pam confirmed.

A stale memory of a brass chandelier haunted Ralph and he lifted up Bill's eyelid to confirm his pupil was still brown. It was. "Good," he said.

"Ugh…d'ya mind?" Bill asked, slurring his words.

"Sorry." Ralph released the eyelid, and both flickered half open on their own.

"Why're you two…all wet?"

"The bomb blew us into the lake."

"Chest hurts."

"We had to do CPR on you."

Bill coughed, his eyes closing again, though his breathing was regular. "Did you get Culdero?"

"No."

"Get him, Kid…don't like him…," and Bill drifted away.

People from around the lake were beginning to show up and police sirens were heard in the distance. "Pam, take care of Bill. I'm going after Culdero."

He flew into the remnant of the upper story of the house, picked up some strands of wire, and holographed in on Culdero driving away down the road. He flew out of the house, and within minutes had found Culdero's sedan. He landed on the hood, swung his legs around to the ground, and stopped the car's forward progress using the friction of his boots against the road. Then he strode to the driver's side, yanked off the door and flung it to the side of the road, pulled Culdero out, and tossed him against a tree. He got a great deal of pleasure hearing the coconut noise of his head striking the thick trunk, and immense satisfaction seeing him tumble unconscious to the earth. Ralph stood with his hands on his hips realizing he was safe, his wife was safe, Bill was safe and Culdero was soon to be arrested.

Once again, they had saved the day. As a team. A heckuva fine team.