It was hard to contain his emotions at that thought but somehow he managed to get them under control. ‘Have you nearly finished here?’
‘Yes. She’s stable and ready to be moved. How about the other child?’
Mac shook his head, feeling tears welling behind his eyelids. He was at emotional overload and it would take very little to make him break down. ‘He didn’t make it.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ Reaching up, she touched his hand, just the lightest, briefest of contacts, but he felt the touch like a brand burning into his skin.
He turned away, terrified that he would do something crazy. He mustn’t beg her to stay with him, mustn’t try to coerce her. She had to want him as much as he wanted her, otherwise there was no point. She would only end up by leaving him and he couldn’t bear the thought of that happening... Although could it be any worse than what was happening right now? Could he feel any more devastated than he did at this very moment, knowing that he had lost her?
The questions thundered inside his head as he made his way from the train. He had intended to find the officer in charge and update him about what had happened to the boy. However, he’d only gone a couple of yards when he heard shouting behind him and spun round. His heart seemed to seize up as he watched the wrecked carriages start to slide down the embankment. There was a sickening screech of metal being ripped apart, the sound of glass shattering, and then silence.
Mac stood where he was, unable to move as fear turned his limbs to stone. Bella was trapped somewhere inside that tangle of broken glass and metal!
* * *
Bella had been about to stand up when she heard someone shouting and the next second she felt the carriage begin to move. Grabbing hold of a table, she clung on as it gathered momentum, jolting and bouncing its way down the embankment. Bits of broken glass and metal were being flung around and she gasped when a shard of metal cut into her neck. She could feel the warm stickiness of blood pouring from the cut but she was too afraid to let go of her handhold to check it out. Fortunately, Katie, the young girl she’d been treating, was wedged between a couple of overturned seats and they provided some protection for her. However, Bella could see the fear in her eyes and reacted instinctively.
‘It’s OK, sweetheart. The carriage has just slipped a little but it will stop in a moment.’
Reaching out, she squeezed Katie’s hand, praying that she wasn’t being overly optimistic. The bank was very steep at this point, falling away to the river at the bottom, and she didn’t want to imagine what would happen if it slid all the way down. When they suddenly came to a jarring halt, she was overwhelmed by relief. She gingerly straightened up, holding on to the table when she felt the carriage sway. She could see out of the window now and her heart sank when she realised that the carriages had come to rest against some scrubby-looking trees. It seemed unlikely that they could support their weight for very long.
‘We need to get you out of here.’ The fireman who had accompanied them onto the train appeared. His expression was grim as he glanced out of the window. ‘Those trees won’t be able to support this weight for much longer, so we’re going to have to move you and the girl straight away.’
‘I understand,’ Bella said quietly, doing her best to hide her concern for Katie’s sake. Crouching down, she concentrated on making sure that the supports she had placed around the girl’s hips and legs were securely fastened. Katie had a fractured pelvis plus fractures to both femurs and it was essential that the breaks were stabilised before they attempted to move her. Once Bella was sure that she had done all she could, she stood up. ‘Right, there’s nothing more I can do. Let’s get her out of here.’
The fire crew carefully eased the girl out from between the seats. They had a stretcher ready and they slid her onto it, passing it from hand to hand as they lifted her over all the debris. Bella followed them, biting her lip against the pain from the cut in her neck. It had stopped bleeding, thankfully, but it was definitely going to need stitching from what she could tell. They reached the door at last and the lead fireman turned to her.
‘We’ll get you out first. That way, you’ll be on hand if she needs anything.’ He lowered his voice. ‘It won’t be easy to get her out of here, so be prepared, Doc.’
Bella nodded, understanding how difficult it was going to be. Not only would the crew need to lift the stretcher up to reach the opening, they would have to raise it at an angle to get it through the gap. She could only pray that the pain relief she had given the girl would be sufficient. In other circumstances, she would have insisted on them waiting while she topped it up but that wasn’t an option right now. At any moment, the carriages could start to move again and the consequences of that happening didn’t bear thinking about. She allowed one of the crew to boost her up to reach the opening, gasping when she discovered that Mac was there waiting to help her down. He gripped tight hold of her hands and she could see the relief in his eyes.