The Georgia Weather Bureau's prophecy
of fifty-mile-per-hour winds had been fulfilled and surpassed,
much to Matthew Cade's chagrin. As chief of the
small Cape Refuge police force, Cade could do little about
the ravages of the storm as it beat across the island toward
Savannah. But the safety of the residents was always his
Though it was two in the afternoon, the sky looked
as dark as nightfall.
Lightning bolted overhead in a panoramic display of
white-hot fingers, grounding on the island and splaying
across the angry Atlantic. The thunder cracked in rapid
crashes, and rain slatted down at an angle that made
umbrellas useless and flooded some of the streets.
Cade strained to see through the windshield of his
squad car. The rain pounding on his roof and his wipers
slashing across his windshield made it difficult for him
to hear the radio crackling on his dashboard. He turned
Fender benders had been reported at three locations on Cape
Refuge, and a power line was down near the condos lining the
If everyone would just stay inside, maybe they could avoid
any more problems. But that never happened. On days like this,
residents insisted on driving through the storm at the same speeds
they used on dry, sunny days. Tornado watchers stood out on their
front porches, watching the sky for funnel clouds. And the most
reckless among the residents would brave the lightning and drag
their surfboards out to the waves, hoping to catch a thrill in the
Cade and his police force were left to clean up the messes
and head off new disasters.
The dispatcher's voice crackled across the radio, and he
picked up the mike. "Go ahead, Sal."
"Chief, there's another power line down on a road over at
the dock. Somebody's going to get hurt unless you detour that
Cade sighed. "All right, I'm on my way."
He set the mike back in its holder and turned on his blue
lights. Making a U-turn, he headed back around the southern tip
of the island, then northbound toward the dock. He couldn't have
residents driving over live power lines. He hoped the power company
would hurry up and get its trucks out here.
The wipers swiped across his windshield, but the rain
pounded too hard to give him much visibility. He strained to see.
Most cars pulled to the side of the road to let him pass. He
turned on his siren to alert the others, but three or four kept their
course in the lane in front of him.
"Get out of the way!" he yelled, pulling so close to the car
in front of him that he knew one touch of its brakes would put
him in the front seat with the driver.
Fortunately, the man pulled over. The other cars ahead of
him still hadn't heard or seen him, so he moved up behind the next
one, his siren still blaring. A block ahead, Cade saw a man standing
on the opposite side of the road, seemingly oblivious to the
rain pounding down on him. Passing traffic sprayed walls of water
up over him, but he just stood there, watching the traffic pass.
The car in front of Cade still didn't move, so he punched his
horn. The southbound lane with traffic coming toward him had
cleared as drivers pulled off to the shoulder of Ocean Boulevard.
He pulled around the car in front of him into the southbound lane
and gently accelerated.
The man on the side of the road still stood there, drenched
and undaunted. Cade knew that, as he passed, his tires in the
water would spray him. Why didn't the man move?
He kept his siren blaring and pushed his horn again as he
drove northbound in the southbound lane. He pulled even with
the car that had refused to move out of the way and looked across
at the driver. The driver looked back, panic evident on his face-a
teenager, probably a new driver with no idea how to react. The
kid slammed on his brakes.
Cade stepped on his accelerator and turned his eyes ahead
again-just in time to see the pedestrian step out in front of him.
Cade yelled and slammed on his brakes. His car slid straight
toward the man
Thunder cracked at the same instant as the impact. The man
flew up over the hood and smashed into Cade's windshield, shattering
it . then, as if he'd bounced, he flew out in front of the car
and landed in a heap in the middle of the road. Cade couldn't
move for a few seconds, then fumbled for the door handle and
managed to get out. The rain flooded over him, and the wind
almost knocked him back into the car. He rushed toward the man.
Oh, dear God, what have I done?
He heard yelling and doors slamming as other drivers got
out and splashed toward him.
Reaching the man first, Cade knelt in three inches of water.
The victim's eyes fluttered open, and his lips moved without
sound. Cade grabbed the radio on his shoulder. "Sal, I need an
ambulance just half a mile north of the Pier!" He yelled the words
to make sure he was heard. "I need it right now! I just ran over a
"Right away, Chief."
Cade touched the man's head, careful not to move it. Warm
blood soaked his hand, but the pelting rain quickly washed it
"Can you hear me, buddy?"
The man tried to speak, but Cade couldn't hear him. Thunder
He touched the man's throat; his pulse was weak, erratic.
"Hang on! You're gonna be all right. Just hang on." He had
to stop the bleeding, so he pressed against the wound at the back
of the man's head. But there was so much blood . too much .
The man tried to rise up, and this time Cade heard his raspy
voice. "You have to . please . out of control ."
"Don't move!" What did one do for an open head wound?
He heard sirens blaring, voices calling. Someone opened an
umbrella over them in a feeble attempt to shelter the victim from
the storm, but the wind turned it inside out. Someone else threw
a raincoat over the man
Lightning flashed, thunder bolted
"Cade," someone said, "he just ran right out in front of
The blood was coming so fast. The man's pulse weakened.
Where was that ambulance?
"I saw him. It was like he was in a trance or something."
"Is he dead, Cade?"
The siren grew closer, and he prayed that people would stay
off the road and leave the ambulance a path. It stopped short, and
he heard feet running toward him. Paramedics knelt beside the
body, and Cade moved back. "Head injury," he yelled over the
storm. "He bounced off my windshield."
As the medics worked, Cade backed farther away, his mind
racing with the facts.
I've hit a man . an innocent man
He started to whisper rapid-fire prayers for a miracle. The
man couldn't die. That was all there was to it. Police cars were
meant to keep people from danger, not kill them.
"Call for a Medi-Vac, Cade!" one of the medics cried. "And
clear us a path. He's running out of time."
"The helicopter can't fly in this! You'll have to drive him."
He helped the paramedics get the man into the ambulance and
then directed traffic as the ambulance headed out.
He shook his head, trying to pull himself together. Somebody
had to be in charge here. But what did the chief of police do when
he was the one who had almost killed a man?
He turned and saw some of his uniformed officers coming
"J.J., detour traffic," he yelled. "Keep it off of this block until
we finish here. Jim, get over to the downed power lines out in
front of the dock and divert traffic there. Alex, you take pictures
and work the accident"
"But Cade, are you sure you don't want to work it?"
"I've got to get to the hospital and see if he's all right." His
voice broke. "Just write the report and treat me like any other
driver who hit a pedestrian. Call my cell phone if you have questions.
It should get a signal by the time I reach Savannah." He
walked back to his car and got in.
Through the shattered windshield, he saw Alex looking back
at him as if he wasn't sure what to do. Then he turned away and
began questioning witnesses.
Cade closed his eyes and lowered his head to the steering
wheel. That man could die.
Why had he stepped out into traffic? He must have seen
Cade coming. The squad car lights had been flashing and his siren
was on. Even people in cars with radios blaring and air conditioners
humming had heard him and gotten out of the way. How
could this man have stepped into the path of a speeding police
He felt as if a fist had punched a hole in his lungs. He found
it hard to breathe, and his head had begun to throb.
He reached for the keys hanging in the ignition, then realized
that he couldn't move this car until they'd finished working
the scene. Besides, he couldn't drive with a busted windshield.
He got out of the car and started walking through the rain.
"Where are you going, Chief?" Alex asked him.
"To find a ride back to the station so I can get my truck."
"I'll take you, Cade!" Melba Jefferson, a little round woman
who attended his church and made it her business to comfort
those in need, stood nearby, fighting her umbrella with a distraught
look on her face.
"Okay, Melba," he said. "Let's go."
She led him to her car parked on the side of the road. He got
into it, and she slid her round body into the driver's side. "Honey,
are you all right?"
He shook his head. "It's not about me, Melba. There's a man
She reached into the backseat and got a box of tissue.
"Sweetie, your hand's all bloody."
Cade looked at it. The man's blood had stained it, though
the rain had begun to wash it away. He pulled out several tissues
and wiped the rest of it off.
Melba pulled out onto the street, and Alex directed her so
that she could turn around and head back to the station. When
they were on their way, she stayed quiet, which Cade appreciated.
Clearly, Melba knew when words were appropriate and when
She drove him up to the station, pulled into the parking lot.
"I'll get some people praying, Cade," she said.
He nodded. "You do that. Thanks for the ride, Melba."
Cade jogged across the gravel parking lot to his truck,
jumped inside, and was pulling out onto the street before Melba
could get her car turned around.