Alex spent the next several minutes groaning on the floor as she tried to slowly blink the pain away.
EMTs came in quickly. She saw the masked man and woman kneel on the floor beside her, asking questions her brain couldn’t seem to make answers to. Though she did manage a strangled “yes” when asked if she could hear them.
Pike arrived a couple of minutes later. He took over from Duckie, placing handcuffs on her attacker as Ryan helped the medics lift Alex onto their gurney. She was wheeled out the back door and smoothly loaded into the ambulance.
“Miss Chen, can you follow my finger?” the female EMT asked as she held it up.
Alex tried, but it was hard to track, since her vision was still swimming.
The EMT produced a light from her pocket, shining it in her eyes. The bright light made Alex groan in pain, as she squinted and looked away.
“She’s got symptoms of a concussion,” the medic deduced as she put the light away.
“Is she going to be okay?” Ryan asked, standing just outside the ambulance.
“Might need a CT scan to tell for sure. Doctor Wyneman needs to see her first, though.” The woman put her fingers in Alex’s hands. “Can you squeeze, Alex? As hard as you can?”
She tried, but her strength seemed to fail her. it was a half-hearted effort at best.
“All right, we’re gonna bring her to the Urgent Care.” The medic nodded as she sat back down on the bench seat. “The doc’ll do an exam, and see if-”
The back door of the bar exploded open, a red-and-white blur streaking towards them. Steph bodily checked into Ryan but didn’t slow down as she bounded into the back of the ambulance, making the whole vehicle rock on its springs.
“Alex!” Steph grabbed her arm, eyes wide with concern as she panted under her mask. “Babe, are you okay?”
“… loud,” Alex mumbled with a wince. “How… how warm is it?”
“How warm is it?”
“What do you mean, how warm is it?” Steph glanced at the medic. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Who are you?”
“Her girlfriend. What’s wrong with her?”
“She has a concussion.” The EMT pointed out the door. “I’m afraid you need to get out. We’re under COVID protocols, which means that only family can ride in the ambulance.”
“I’ll take you in my truck,” Ryan told her.
“The Urgent Care is on COVID protocols, too. They’ll only let in family members.”
“Her entire family’s dead,” Steph snapped. “I’m all she’s got, and I have her medical power of attorney. I’m riding with her, and you didn’t bring enough people to stop me.”
The EMT wilted under the brunette’s glare. “… fine,” she allowed. “Please sit down. We need to leave.”
“Is your vision still blurry?”
Alex nodded as she reclined in the ER’s hospital bed. “Yea.”
“Are you nauseous?”
“She asked four times in the last thirty minutes how warm it was,” Steph added from her seat beside the bed.
Alex looked at her. “I did?”
“Yea, you… do you seriously not remember?”
Doctor Wyneman hummed as he produced a light from his pocket and shined it in her eyes. Just like she had with the EMT, Alex grimaced and tried to look away.
“Yep.” He put it away. “Blurred vision, nausea, headache, confusion, short-term memory loss, and light sensitivity. You have all the major symptoms of a concussion. What happened, exactly?”
Alex sighed as she leaned back into the pillow. “One of the miners at the bar threw a mug full of beer at my head.”
“That’ll do it.” He nodded. “Can you tell me what you had for breakfast this morning?”
“What day is it today?”
“Where were you born?”
“Who won the Super Bowl this year?”
“Um…” Alex hesitated. “The… red guys?”
“The Chiefs,” Steph corrected.
He seemed pleased with her answers. “I think you’ll be fine. Normally we would keep you overnight, but with the COVID situation we’re not admitting anyone unless we have to.” He looked at Steph. “You live with her, right?”
“Would you be able to keep a close eye on her for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours?”
She nodded. “I can set my station on a recording for a couple of days.”
“Then let’s do that.” He picked up a tablet from the table beside him and began tapping on it. “I’m going to order something for your headache, and we’re gonna keep an eye on you here for a couple of hours. Just try and relax.”
With that, he left, closing the curtain behind him. Steph exhaled in relief as she reached out and took Alex’s hand. “Sounds like you’ll be okay.”
“If he says so.” Alex grimaced. “My head still hurts like a motherfucker.”
“What happened, exactly?” Steph looked at her. “All I got when Jessie called was that there was a bar fight, and you got hit in the head.”
Alex sighed miserably. “… I fucked up.”
“What do you mean?”
“One of those miners was a racist prick. Calling me a chink, accusing me of bringing COVID to Haven Springs, and blaming me for one of the other miners being in the hospital.”
Steph bristled, but stayed silent.
“I got mad when he did,” Alex continued. “I should’ve walked away. I let his anger affect me, and I couldn’t stop myself from getting into it with him. I basically insulted his manhood while calling him a redneck asshole.”
“That’s not your fault.” Steph squeezed Alex’s hand. “You said mean things. He got violent. That’s on him, not you.”
“I still should’ve left it alone. Or had Ryan handle it. I know better than to stay near someone that mad, but it’s been so long that I let myself get heated.”
“He was still the one who started it. Quit blaming yourself.”
Alex bit her lip, not replying. Then she frowned. “… did you tell the EMT that you have my medical power of attorney?”
“Because they wouldn’t let go with you in otherwise.” Steph shrugged nonchalantly. “Not like I’m gonna need it anyway, you’re awake.”
“Are you not worried about getting in trouble when they find out that you’re full of shit?”
“Bigger problems to worry about. Though we should totally talk about getting them for each other later.”
After a few seconds, they heard footsteps approaching. “Alex? Are you in there?”
She picked up her head. “Pike?”
“Can I open the curtain?”
Steph stood up and pulled it aside for him, revealing the sheriff standing with both thumbs in his belt loops and a worried look in his eyes. “You feeling okay?”
“Not really.” Alex winced as her head throbbed again. “Head’s still killing me.”
“I can imagine. Ryan gave me a copy of the security footage; you got hit pretty hard.” He patted the phone in his pocket. “What’d the doctor say?”
“She’s got a concussion,” Steph answered. “They’re gonna send her home in a few hours, but they said I need to keep an eye on her for a couple of days.”
“Good.” He paused. “I mean, not that it happened, but that it’s not serious. Enough to admit you, anyway. You get what I’m saying, right?”
Alex smirked. “Yea.”
“Ok.” He stepped closer to the bed. “I also got statements from Ryan, Duckie, and a couple of the miners, so I know what happened. I’m assuming that you want to press charges?”
“Yes,” Steph said immediately.
Pike gave her a look. “I was asking Alex, not you.”
“I also know that she doesn’t decide to press charges, the prosecutor does.”
“That’s true. But her willingness to make a statement and testify will be a factor for the district attorney’s decision.” Pike looked back at her. “It’s up to you. Bear in mind that this guy picked the fight and assaulted you without provocation. And he was still calling you ‘that chink bitch’ when I stuck him in a cell.”
Alex inhaled slowly, then exhaled through her nose as she nodded. “Yea. Okay.”
“Glad to hear it.” He nodded. “I’ll find you in a few days. There’s no rush, and I doubt you’ll have to testify. The security footage pretty much secures a conviction, so he’ll probably plead out.”
Steph glanced at the phone in his pocket. “Can I see it? The security footage?”
Pike pulled out the phone, tapped it a few times, and held it towards them. It felt surreal for Alex as she watched, listening to herself exchange barbs with the miner before he threw the mug at her head. A shiver went up her spine as she watched herself collapse.
Though she was surprised at the speed of which the others reacted. Duckie was across the bar in a flash, and she watched him grab the miner, throw him over his hip, and lock the guy’s arms in a couple of seconds.
“Shit,” Steph remarked. “Note to self, don’t fuck with Duckie.”
Pike smirked. “You didn’t know he’s got a black belt in Judo?”
Alex raised her eyebrows. “Does he really?”
“He told me last year that he was a runner-up for the state championships when he was younger.” Pike put his phone away. “Anyway, like I said, I’ll find you in a few days for your statement. Rest up and feel better, okay?”
She nodded. “Thanks.”
With that, he left, closing the curtain behind him.
Steph waited a few minutes before shooting Alex a coy look.
“… what?” Alex asked uncertainly.
“More American pussy than you ever will?”
She sighed. “I was really mad.”
“I cannot believe that my girlfriend objectifies me like that.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Jessie: You feeling better?
Alex: Not really.
Jessie: Can I bring you something? Does your head still hurt?
Alex: It’s not that. Steph woke me up four or five times last night, so I’m exhausted.
Alex: Part of the instructions from the doctor. To make sure I can reawaken normally.
Jessie: Bummer. Sorry.
Alex: It is what it is. Just watching TV on the couch right now.
Jessie: Ted asked me to let you know that we fired the redneck.
Jessie: “Racism and xenophobia do not have any place at SubTerra Industries. We are a proud equal opportunity employer, and Mister Kublinski’s actions do not reflect our company values of diversity and inclusivity. As such, we have released him from the remainder of his work contract and fired him for cause.”
Alex: That doesn’t sound like Ted.
Jessie: Don’t let the Carhartt and beard fool you. He speaks Corporate fluently.
Riley: I just heard what happened! Is Alex okay??
Steph: She will be. Just taking a couple of days off to relax.
Steph: Are the other miners talking about it?
Riley: Yea. The guy was on Team C. And was apparently an asshole before he went to the Black Lantern.
Steph: What a shock. The miners aren’t blaming Alex, are they?
Riley: No. Seems to be a mix of ‘sucks to be him’, ‘don’t drop the soap’, and ‘play stupid games, win stupid prizes’.
Steph: Good. Are you doing okay?
Riley: Better. They were right, I’m getting used to it. Feel less like crap when I go home.
Riley: Nana still hates that I work her though.
Steph: We need to get you back on a night off that doesn’t interfere with Ladies Night.
Riley: Nothing would make me happier.