Can You Spare a Quarter
Fight For Life
Graham's legs turned to jelly and he fell to his knees as he looked down at Jamie's crumpled body laying just outside the door. Jamie had managed to limp and drag himself there with the last of his strength but now was laying motionless on the ground. There was fresh blood on Jamie's swollen face where he had been beaten and his nose was bent to one side. Graham reached down and tried to lift Jamie up but pulled his hands back in horror as he suddenly realized that Jamie's shirt and jeans were covered in blood as well. Clutched tightly in Jamie's left hand was his old ragged backpack that he carried everywhere. For Graham it felt as if time had frozen but in only a second or two he found his voice.
"Call an ambulance!" shouted Graham but even as he was saying it Frank was already running for the telephone.
Graham frantically felt along Jamie's throat for a pulse and eventually found it although it was very weak. Jamie's breath was faint and shallow and Graham looked up at Frank helplessly who had just returned from calling for help.
"What can we do?" asked Graham shakily as he tried to brush the blood-encrusted hair away from Jamie's forehead.
"I don't know exactly," replied Frank uneasily. "But let's move him inside out of the cold. Leaving him laying on the ground out here won't help him any."
Frank moved next to Graham and together they carefully took hold of Jamie, lifted him gently through the doorway, and laid him on the floor just inside the door. They both knelt down on opposite sides of Jamie and Cindy crept up close to Jamie and began to lick at a bloody hand that lay limply at his side.
"Jamie, can you hear me?" said Graham gently while bending his head down towards Jamie's.
Jamie stirred slightly and said weakly, "I'm sorry ..."
"You've nothing to be sorry for," said Frank gently. "We're getting help for you."
"He ... he caught me," said Jamie barely above a whisper.
"Who caught you Jamie?" asked Graham. "Who did this to you?"
"Couldn't get away ..." said Jamie struggling, his hand reaching out and falling on top of Frank's. "My backpack ... notebook inside ... don't let him win ..."
"Your backpack is here Jamie," said Frank opening the backpack, looking inside, and finding a notebook wrapped in a T-shirt with fresh blood stains on it. "I found your notebook."
"Get him ..." said Jamie his fingernails suddenly digging into the back of Frank's hand in a violent spasm of pain.
Frank glanced inside the notebook and saw a page filled with names and dates in Jamie's roughly printed script. He understood then why Jamie had gone back, made a decision, and said, "I'll take care of this for you Jamie."
"Couldn't get away from him. My f..." said Jamie as he finally fainted trying to get out the last words.
Silence lay heavy as Graham and Frank looked down at Jamie. Frank spoke first, "Did you make out what he said at the end there?"
"I'm not sure," replied a shaken Graham. "Did it sound like the word 'father' to you?"
"That's what I thought I heard too," said Frank bitterly.
"I'll lay odds that's who did this," said Graham angrily.
"He's going to regret this day," said Frank darkly. Glancing down at Jamie's backpack Frank spotted an address tag and turned it over to look at it. Seeing that Graham was concentrating on Jamie, Frank yanked the tag off with a quick jerk and pocketed it.
"I'll go out and lead them in," said Frank getting up as he heard the distant wail of an approaching siren.
Less than a minute later Graham looked up to the banging of feet as the ambulance crew led by Frank burst through the door. Frank moved Graham and Cindy back so the paramedics could work and they began to assess Jamie's condition professionally.
"What happened here?" demanded one of them with suspicion in his voice.
"The boy dragged himself here after being beaten," said Frank seeing Graham was not able to speak. "We were waiting here for him to return when we heard something at the door. When we opened it we found him like this. We just moved him inside out of the cold."
"Did you call the police?" asked the paramedic obviously unconvinced.
"At the same time that I called for an ambulance," replied Frank hearing a second siren rapidly approaching. "That's probably them now."
The paramedics worked rapidly trying to stabilize Jamie and prepare him for transport. At the same time Graham and Frank quickly tried to explain what they knew to the police who had rushed into the small apartment in response to Frank's urgent telephone call. Fortunately one of the patrolmen recognized Matty's name when Frank mentioned it and showed him the guardianship papers that Graham had received earlier in the day.
"Please I have to go with you," said Graham as the paramedics made ready take Jamie out to the ambulance.
"We don't normally allow that," said the paramedic on the left as they both lifted Jamie onto the stretcher.
"But he needs to have someone with him that he knows and trusts," pleaded Graham.
Seeing a nod from one of the patrolmen the paramedic relented and said, "All right but keep out of the way and don't interfere. If he gets into trouble on the way I might have to do some things that will upset you."
"Don't worry I won't cause any problems," replied Graham.
"Let's move it then," said the lead paramedic as they ran out of the door pushing Jamie along on the stretcher ahead of them.
"Give me the key to the place Graham," said Frank he followed Graham and the paramedics out. "I'll wrap up things here, take care of Cindy, and then meet you at the hospital afterwards."
Graham threw the keys to Frank and got into the ambulance after Jamie had been loaded. Frank watched the ambulance leave its sirens blaring and then answered a few more questions for the police.
"Do you know who might have done this?" asked one of the patrolmen.
"I know Jamie's father has beat him in the past. I would be willing to bet that this is probably another sample of his handiwork," replied Frank.
"Did you say 'Jamie'?" asked the older of the two patrolmen.
"Yes, his name is Jamie," repeated Frank. "Do you know him?"
"I didn't recognize him at first with all the blood," said the patrolman that had recognized Jamie's name. "But I've seen him around before. We've had suspicions that there's been something going on with that family for a while but we've never been able to get anything solid on them. Every time we've had them downtown for a talk the parents have been the picture of sweet innocence, telling us about how the boy is a problem and won't stop running away. And then the kid's got a record of petty stuff from while he's been on the run and so naturally it looks like he's the problem. You know how it goes."
"Perhaps instead of talking with the parents downtown you should go and see them at their place this time," suggested Frank. "You might find something that would help make a case."
"Jamie's injuries mean that we have solid cause for suspicion this time and that makes a big difference," replied the patrolman. "We're going to go over to the hospital now and get more details on Jamie's injuries and what happened to him. We'll also write up a report and get the duty sergeant to request an investigation be initiated. Once that gets going they'll pay a visit to the parents and get to the bottom of this. I sure hope Jamie's going to make it he didn't look very good."
"How long is all that going to take?" asked Frank. "By the time you get reports written up they could be long gone."
"Writing a report doesn't take as long as you think," said the patrolman. "I'll have it done on the computer in the car by the time we hit the hospital and it's all transmitted electronically now. You're going to see uniforms coming out of the woodwork less than an hour after I press the button."
"I'll see you at the hospital then," said Frank. "I need to close up here and do a couple of things and then I'll be there. Thanks for all your help."
"We'll see you shortly," said the patrolmen and they walked out the door.
Frank went over to the bookcase at the side of the living area and pulled out Graham's address book. After quickly looking in it Frank picked up the telephone and dialed.
"Dave, is that you?" asked Frank.
"Yes, what's up?" came Dave's voice over the telephone.
"Something's happened to Jamie," said Frank. "Looks like his father caught him and he's been beaten up pretty bad. The ambulance just took him to the hospital."
"Oh no!" gasped Dave. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Yes," replied Frank. "I need you to come out to Graham's place and meet me - fast. Cindy is here with me and I need you to take her back to the island for me. We're not going to be able to handle having her here now with all this happening."
"No problem at all. I'm actually just at the mall near you so I can be there in just a few minutes," said Dave.
"Make it as fast as you can," said Frank. "I don't have a lot of time. When you get back to the island Jason will look after Cindy until we get back."
"Alright Frank," said Dave. "I'm running for the car now and I'll be there as quick as I can."
Frank put down the telephone. He paused for a moment and then picked it up again and dialed.
"Kathy?" said Frank.
"What's wrong Frank? Something's happened, I can tell from your voice," came Kathy's voice anxiously over the telephone.
"It's Jamie," said Frank slowly. "His father caught him and ... well the ambulance just left for the hospital."
"Is he going to be OK?" asked Kathy in a scared voice. "What happened?"
"He looked really bad, there was blood everywhere," replied Frank. "I think you'd better say something to Jason. Jamie didn't look good at all."
"Oh no," said Kathy softly. "On top of everything else that's happened to him ... that poor, poor boy."
"I'm not going to leave until I know what happened," said Frank determinedly. "Then I'm going to the hospital and I'll stay there with Graham. I've called Dave and he's coming here to pick up Cindy and bring her back to the island. Tell Jason so he can pick her up when Dave flies in and take care of her while we're away."
"Frank ..." began Kathy with a note of warning in her voice. "Don't you do anything you're going to regret."
"It'll be OK," said Frank. "I'm just going to see what I can find out."
"Please be careful," said Kathy hearing something unsettling in Frank's tone of voice. "Jason and I need you too."
"Don't worry," said Frank. "I'm coming back but not until Jamie is able to come back too. I have to go now. Tell Jason I love him and I love you too."
"We love you," said Kathy. "Please come back to us soon."
After putting down the telephone Frank moved about Graham's place quickly and located an old pair of gloves and squeezed his large hands into them. He then picked up Jamie's backpack up off the floor, made sure the notebook that Jamie had retrieved was inside it, and then went outside with Cindy locking the door behind them.
Frank walked over to Graham's car, pulled out the street map that Graham kept in the glove compartment, and spread it out on the hood of the small car. Frank referred to the address tag in his hand and then checked the map again. The address was only a few blocks away. Dave drove up in his car while Frank was refolding the map to put it away.
"Any news Frank?" asked Dave as he jumped out of the car.
"No, the ambulance just left a few minutes ago," replied Frank. "Thanks for coming to pick up Cindy. I called Kathy and she's going to talk to Jason and tell him what's happened. He'll pick Cindy up from you when you get over to the island."
Dave noticed the folded map laying on the hood of the car and said, "You're not going to do what I think you're going to do, are you?"
"I can't let this ever happen again," said Frank avoiding Dave's eyes.
"You're not going to be able to live with yourself if you do it," warned Dave.
"It won't be anything that permanent," said Frank. "He's not worth it. But I'm going to make sure that Jamie is safe from now on."
"Sounds like the right thing to do to me," said Dave nodding agreement. "Need any help?"
Frank looked up at Dave with surprise and then replied, "No I can manage."
"OK," said Dave. "Later when you've taken care of things if you want to get it off your chest remember that I'm a good listener."
"Thanks," said Frank. "I'll probably need to do that."
"When it's all done and you're ready just let me know and we'll sit down over a few pints," said Dave as he opened his car door to let Cindy jump in.
Dave got back in the car, started the engine, and then drove off down the street and quickly disappeared. Once Dave had left with Cindy to take her back to the island Frank opened the door to Graham's car and climbed inside. After adjusting the driver's seat back so he could fit Frank started the engine and backed the car out onto the street. The tires squealed as Frank gunned the engine and a few minutes later he pulled over to the side of a street lined with rundown houses one block short of the address that was on the tag in his pocket. Frank parked the car and shut off the engine. This was not something that Frank was particularly looking forward to but it wounded him to know that after all the effort that everyone had made trying to help Jamie that it might be in vain. Frank knew that he would not sleep for several nights afterwards but he was determined that Jamie would never again have to worry. Frank got out of the car and moved to the sidewalk on the wrong side of the street and began to walk.
Frank approached the address that was on the address tag from Jamie's backpack from the opposite side of the street in case anyone in the house was watching so he would have an opportunity to look it over without appearing suspicious. It was an old decrepit bungalow that desperately needed a coat of paint. There were shingles missing on the roof and in a couple of places the eavestroughs were hanging loose. Carefully looking about Frank checked that no one was watching and then walked up to the end of the block. He crossed the street and then headed back down toward the house this time on the correct side of the street.
Just as he approached the house Frank saw a walkway that went down beside the house towards the back. Checking once again that he was not being observed Frank quietly slipped along the side of the house. Approaching an open window Frank peered in and saw what he guessed to be Jamie's bedroom. There was a small bed that was messed up, a couple of torn posters on the wall, and a few clothes strewn randomly about on the floor. Frank then noticed the dark stains on the bedclothes and the smears along the floor leading in the direction of the window. There were stains on the windowsill as well and Frank could see the outlines of small fingerprints in the now dried blood. Frank realized that the stains on the bed marked where Jamie had lain after being attacked and the others traced his escape route afterwards.
Frank pushed the partially open window up higher in the wooden frame slowly to avoid making any noise and then carefully climbed through the window into the bedroom. He tried to avoid disturbing the marks Jamie's fingers had made on the windowsill but he smudged one partially. Frank quickly looked about and saw Jamie's name on a few scraps of paper laying on an old TV tray which confirmed for him that this was Jamie's bedroom and the blood stains were silent witnesses to what had taken place here not long before. Moving quietly to the bedroom door Frank slowly turned the doorknob, pushed the door open slightly, and peered out. Loud snoring sounds could be heard coming from outside the bedroom. Frank pushed the door open further and saw the back of a man's head leaning off to one side of a reclining chair in the living room. An empty bottle lay on the floor just below an arm that dangled down over the side of the chair.
Frank crept quietly across the badly chipped hardwood floor and as he got closer to the man the smell of alcohol assaulted his nose. Realizing that the man would be out cold for a while Frank decided to do a quick survey of the rest of the house. It only took a couple of minutes in the main bedroom to discover what Frank was hoping he would not find but nevertheless felt certain that he would.
In the closet of the master bedroom were box after box of DVDs, as well as a collection of CDs, all of them labelled in black felt pen in the same crude handwriting. Frank did not want to look but he knew he had to in order to be certain. Moving over to the computer that sat on one side of the bedroom Frank popped in one of the CDs and quickly had a list of files displayed on the screen - they were all image files. A few seconds more work with the computer confirmed Frank's feared expectations - the pictures were of Jamie. The face in the pictures was not smiling in the couple of images that Frank checked but there was no doubt as to the identity of the boy that they showed.
Returning the CD to where he had found it Frank pulled out one of the DVDs at random and inserted it into the player located next to the desk that the computer was resting on. Turning the sound down to zero and then switching on the TV attached to the player Frank pressed fast forward for a minute and then hit the play button. Frank felt his stomach begin to heave the moment the DVD began to play on the screen and he quickly stopped the player. Removing the disc from the player Frank returned it back to where he had found it in the closet.
Standing up Frank walked to the doorway in the bedroom that led back to the sleeping figure in the living room and then paused for a moment. All that Frank could see as he contemplated what he was about to do was Jamie lying beaten and bleeding on the floor of Graham's apartment. While it was wrong by conventional standards of measurement Frank also knew that this was something that needed to be done, that the time had now come for a balancing of the books where Jamie's life was concerned. His eyes dark with anger, Frank pushed the bedroom door open and began moving towards the living room.
When the ambulance arrived at the emergency entrance to Children's Hospital the paramedics pushed Graham aside in order to get Jamie's stretcher into the building quickly. Once they were through the doors of the hospital the already alerted and waiting trauma team took over from the paramedics and began to quickly determine the extent of Jamie's injuries. One glace at Jamie's ghostly pallor and his blood soaked clothes was all they needed and he was rushed through the swinging doors of the arrivals area and into one of the available trauma bays. Graham attempted to follow along behind but found his path quickly cut off by a polite but firm nurse wearing a tag that was engraved with the name Melody Schrader.
"I'm sorry sir but you will have to wait out here," said Melody in a serious tone pointing towards the chairs in the waiting room.
"But I need to be in there," pleased Graham. "He'll be afraid if there isn't someone that he recognizes with him."
"The doctors will do everything needed for the boy," replied Melody calmly as she escorted Graham over to the waiting room and then went back through the doors into the trauma ward. One look at the boy lying on the stretcher had told Melody that he was in no condition to be scared or anything else. The quantity of blood on Jamie's clothes and her experience told her that this could easily be over within a matter of a couple of minutes.
The logical side of Graham knew that Melody was right and that there was not anything he could do, nevertheless Graham could not sit still. He got up and began to pace back and forth just outside the doors to the trauma ward and as a result could overhear the urgent orders coming from within.
"His blood pressure is 60/palp ... It's the blood loss. Hang four units of O-negative on the rapid infuser and get a central line going. Type and cross-match for six, he's going to be needing a lot more from the looks of this."
"Where the hell is all the blood coming from? It's everywhere!"
"Respiratory arrest! Intubate and bag him until you get the oxygen going - 20 litres!"
"Look down here it's just pouring out of him. Get another four units on the infuser now!"
"Pack it off and get me an OR! He's got to go in NOW or we're going to lose him."
"What about the arm?"
"It looks like a clean break. We'll worry about it later."
"We'd better do a head series."
"I said later! We've got to get that haemorrhaging stopped or the only X-rays he's going to need will be for the autopsy report."
"Look at his back. Are those ... some of them look fresh ..."
Graham peeked through the glass on the swinging doors of the trauma ward and saw one of Jamie's arms dangling over the side of the stretcher at a odd angle. Blood was running down his fingers and a small red pool was forming on the floor below. Graham finally could not take it any longer and moved away from the doors back towards the waiting room. Graham heard the entrance doorway to the emergency department slide open and looked up to see the patrolmen that had arrived at his place coming through the doorway.
The patrolmen began to ask Graham questions and disturbing as the questioning was it was almost a relief for Graham compared to what he had just seen and heard coming from the trauma ward. As predicted more police began to arrive quickly, some in uniform and others while not in uniform might as well have been since their bearing fooled no one. One of the newly arrived police officers, who was wearing sergeant's stripes, went up and talked to the admitting nurse but received a firm headshake to his request to enter the trauma ward. He then looked through the glass in the middle of the doors. A few moments later he stepped away shaking his head and stood motionless breathing heavily. After a moment the sergeant began issuing orders to organize the police to begin the investigation into what had happened to Jamie.
The gathering crowd of police was beginning to interfere with passage through the corridors and finally the duty nurse picked up the telephone and made a short call. A couple of minutes later Melody came out of the trauma ward and walked up to the police sergeant.
"You're going to have to move somewhere else," said Melody to the sergeant. "You're clogging the hallway and we can't move patients with all of you in the way like this."
"Excuse me?" said the sergeant towering over Melody by at least a foot and obviously trying to impress her.
Not intimidated in the least Melody pressed on, "You know the rules as well as I do so don't try any of that stuff on me. Now all of you get into the waiting room right this minute. As soon as we have any information for you about the patient we will let you know."
Hearing the commotion Graham paused and looked up from answering questions and smiled. He was taking an instant liking to Melody and how she was handling the police. Physically it was a total mismatch but in just under a minute powered solely by the authority of her white nurse's uniform she had the corridor cleared. The job completed, Melody then went back through the doors into the trauma ward.
Graham got up and began to pace while continuing to field questions from the police officers. The fact that he did not have many answers did not slow the police down. The questions were asked repeatedly with slight changes in wording and all designed to trip Graham up and find out if he knew more than he was saying or to see if his story would start to vary. From time to time Graham glanced over towards the doors of the trauma ward and saw nurses running in and out almost constantly. Sometimes it was extra equipment being rushed into the room and other times it was a nurse running out with a vial for analysis. The level of activity however was not decreasing and everyone was moving at a dead run. That alone said everything - Jamie was still hanging on and fighting but nevertheless Graham's fears only grew.
A couple of minutes later the doors to the trauma ward burst open and Melody ran all the way to the end of the corridor to call the elevator. A few seconds later the stretcher bearing Jamie came out of the trauma ward with doctors running alongside and followed rapidly along right behind her. Jamie lay on the stretcher his lower body covered by a blue sheet that showed bloody stains in several places. His upper body was uncovered but was also bloodied and dark-coloured bruising could be seen in multiple locations. Jamie's face was almost completely obscured by a ventilator with two hoses leading away from it and both arms had intravenous lines leading into them connected to plastic bags hanging overhead filled with blood. A monitor hooked up to Jamie was sitting between his partially spread legs and beeped very slowly.
As the stretcher with Jamie went past the chatter amongst the police died down and one of the older officers closed his eyes and looked away. The questioning ceased and a silence hung over the entire room. Graham tried to follow after the stretcher but was immediately intercepted by a doctor that had come out of the trauma ward just behind the stretcher.
"You're the boy's father?" asked the doctor as he gently took Graham by the arm and led him back into the waiting room.
"I'm Graham Martin," replied Graham. "Just this morning I was made Jamie's guardian."
"Do you understand what has happened to Jamie?" asked the doctor kindly as he encouraged Graham to sit down next to him.
"Not precisely," said Graham slowly. "But I think I can guess at least some of it."
"There is no nice way to tell you what I need to," began the doctor as two of the police investigators took out their notepads, stood nearby, and began to take notes rapidly. "The only way to do this is to just come right out and tell you. Jamie has been raped and beaten and very severely so. That however is not the worst of it. The bruising, the broken arm, the nose, at least one of his ribs ... everything that you can see - none of it is life threatening even though it looks bad. If there is time we can fix those things and he'll heal."
"What do you mean by 'if there's time'?" asked Graham picking up on the significant undercurrent in the doctor's tone.
"Jamie is suffering from massive internal hemorrhaging," continued the doctor. "It looks like his colon has been torn open, most likely by a foreign object having been used on him. With damage like that frankly it's a miracle he even made it to the hospital. We started blood transfusions right away but almost immediately it just began to flow out again. His blood pressure is very low and his pulse is extremely weak. He's now being rushed up to an operating room to try and repair the damage in order to stop the blood loss."
"Is he going to ..." said Graham unable to complete the sentence.
"I'm sorry to have to say this but I think that if there is anyone that should be notified you need to get in touch with them right away," replied the doctor. "His chances of survival are not good at all."
Graham's face turned even paler and his shoulders slumped. The sergeant, who had arrived to take charge of the investigation and had been standing nearby listening, handed Graham a glass of water.
After a moment Graham managed to collect himself and asked weakly, "There's no chance at all?"
"There is always a chance," said the doctor kindly. "For Jamie to have made it this far is amazing. However I'm not going to deceive you about the danger. Nevertheless some people can fight back against incredible odds. I hope as you do that he will make it but I want to be honest with you about how things stand. It's always much worse if we tell you a happy story and then later have to give you bad news."
"I don't have to like hearing it but I appreciate the honesty doctor," said Graham.
"It isn't any fun having to tell you all this," replied the doctor sadly. "But I think the worst part is seeing a youngster who has been brutalized like that. Does anyone know who did it?"
"I'm pretty sure it was his father," said Graham angrily.
The doctor shook his head, sighed, looked up at the sergeant, and said, "We have some evidence that your people will be wanting to have analyzed. You're not going to have any trouble doing a comparison against a suspect when you find them."
"Are you sure?" asked Graham looking up.
"Oh yes. The evidence that we collected will be conclusive even if Jamie is unable to testify," said the doctor. "We'll organize everything related to that with the police. I have to go now to help out in the OR but I promise you that I or the emergency surgeon will let you know immediately when there is any news to give you."
"Thank you very much doctor," said Graham as the doctor shook his hand and left running quickly for the same elevator that Jamie had gone into only a few minutes before.
Graham slumped back into the chair and cradled his head in his hands. The police continued to mill about and converse quietly but gave Graham a respite from their questioning. They too had heard the doctor's bleak prognosis and knew what it meant. After a few minutes Graham got up and went up to the patrolman that had first arrived at his place.
"Excuse me ... Constable Murphy," said Graham reading off the name tag on the patrolman's uniform.
"Logan," replied the patrolman. "Call me Logan."
"Logan," began Graham again. "I think we need to notify the Department of Child Welfare. The lady to get in touch with is Matty ... Madeline Thompson I mean."
"We already have," said Logan kindly. "She should be here any time now."
Graham went and sat back down. He tried drinking from the glass of water that was sitting next to him but choked on it sending water spraying in all directions. No one laughed. Most of the men had sons or daughters of their own and many were considering how well they would be handling the situation if it had been them instead of Graham.
Graham tried looking through an ancient issue of National Geographic that was laying on a side table. He also tried a Time magazine from two years ago but he was only turning the pages and not actually reading them. The minutes stretched like hours and Graham kept looking up at the doors to the elevator but they remained closed. Graham felt certain that at any moment the doctor was going to reappear with the news that would destroy him.
Graham heard running footsteps and his stomach lurched as he looked up to see someone running towards him. He breathed a sigh of relief and stood up - it was Matty.
"Have you heard anything?" she asked breathlessly as she skidded to a halt and then gave Graham a supportive hug just before they both sat down.
"Not a thing since they took him up for surgery," replied Graham. "It's been almost two hours."
"Waiting is always the worst part isn't it?" said Matty. "I've had to come down here far too often in my job and it never gets any easier."
"It's killing me," said Graham. "If only I had insisted that he not go off by himself. If I could've somehow talked him out of it."
"You can't blame yourself," said Matty gently. "This isn't your fault at all. There'll be plenty of time later to deal with whoever did this. All that matters right now is Jamie."
Just then the elevator door opened and a doctor still wearing his green scrubs walked out and looked around for a moment before walking towards Graham. Graham's stomach twisted itself into knots and he tried to read the doctor's face to determine what the news was. The doctor however kept his face clear of all signs and Graham was unable to guess what the news was going to be.
"You're Jamie's guardian?" asked the doctor.
"Yes," said Graham anxiously. "Is he ...?"
"He's alive," replied the doctor with a tired sigh. "I didn't think he'd make it through the surgery but somehow he did. His heart stopped twice and we revived him both times. As far as the injuries are concerned his lower rectal area was torn open badly. It took over an hour to do the repairs that were needed. If he hangs in there and stabilizes we will need to go back in later and tidy things up but for now we've just tried to deal with the worst of it. He also has extensive bruising over his abdominal area and head, a fracture of the left arm, broken nose, two broken ribs, and a hairline fracture of the skull. The latter of those injuries while very graphic sounding are not life threatening. The major concerns we have right now are shock, the massive loss of blood, and especially peritonitis. The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours are going to be critical. He's in the intensive care unit now and under constant watch."
The doctor's words detailing the injuries each impacted upon Graham like body blows. He looked up into the face of the doctor wanting to see some hope but found none.
"Do you think he'll make it?" asked Graham fearfully.
"I would like to remain optimistic," replied the doctor carefully. "However, the injuries are so severe and the blood loss so great that the chances are not in his favour at the moment."
"Can I see him?" asked Graham.
"Not just yet," replied the doctor. "In a few hours if he remains stable we can maybe let you in for just a minute but absolutely no more than that."
The doctor rose from the chair he had sat down in and Graham stood up and thanked him for helping Jamie. After shaking Graham's hand the doctor walked down the corridor towards the trauma ward and Graham slumped back down into his chair. Eventually after giving Graham a few minutes Matty suggested that they go over to the cafeteria and have a cup of tea.
Several cups of tea and a few hours later found Graham and Matty pushing the crumbs of a half-eaten muffin back and forth across a cafeteria table absentmindedly. Melody walked into the cafeteria, spotted Graham, and came over and sat down next to him.
"If you would like you can come and see Jamie for just a minute now," said Melody with a smile.
"How is he doing?" asked Graham.
"He's very weak and is still in critical condition but he's holding on," replied Melody trying to cheer up Graham. "He must be a very determined young man. Most people wouldn't have gotten this far."
"He's strong deep down inside where it counts," said Graham with conviction.
Melody led Graham and Matty to the intensive care unit that was located several floors up in the hospital. In the observation room Melody assisted Graham as he donned a gown and mask before being allowed inside the restricted area. Matty waited outside and watched through the glass as Graham and Melody went inside.
Graham followed Melody past a number of beds, each of them an individual tragedy for some family, but he was not focusing clearly on the surroundings. Graham almost missed Jamie's bed because he did not recognize him underneath all the tubes, wires, and bandages that covered a significant portion of his slim frame.
"Has there been any change?" said Melody quietly to the nurse standing next to Jamie's bed watching him closely.
"None at all," replied the nurse evenly.
"You can stay for just a minute," said Melody as she backed off a couple of steps to give Graham a symbolic sense of privacy while remaining in fact only a few feet away. The nurse watching Jamie did not move at all and continued to check Jamie and the slowly beeping monitors on the wall above him regularly.
Graham approached the bed and looked down at Jamie. Jamie's eyes were closed and his face was swollen. There were IV tubes going into both arms supplying him with blood and other fluids, most of his face was still covered by a ventilator which was helping Jamie to breath, and there were bandages seemingly everywhere. Graham was not a doctor but even he could understand some of the numbers on the overhead monitors that beeped slowly and knew that Jamie was in bad shape. Graham collected himself and gently touched Jamie's hand.
"It's me Jamie," said Graham softly. "It's Graham. You're safe and the doctors have fixed you all up. You beat him. You made it."
Jamie did not move or react at all and the heart monitor display did not register the slightest change in its abnormally low readings. Graham knew that Jamie probably could not even hear him but despite that Graham hesitated only for a moment and then continued talking to Jamie.
"You're going to get better soon," said Graham. "When you're back on your feet we'll go back to the island and you'll be able to have fun with Jason again. You'll be able to go fishing and out for walks with Cindy. Now that we have the papers from the Department of Child Welfare you don't have to go back to your parents and can stay with me if you want. Everything is going to be fine, you'll see. You just need to be strong right now and hang on. Please Jamie, hang on."
Graham lips moved but he found he could not say anything more and looked up helplessly at the nurse watching Jamie and she tried to smile back at Graham but failed. There had not been a single visible reaction on Jamie's part to Graham's presence or his words. Melody moved back beside Graham and taking his hand led him out of ICU and back into the observation room.
"How is he?" asked Matty anxiously when Graham came through the doors.
"It's like he's completely lifeless," said Graham fighting back tears. "He didn't blink. He didn't move his hand. Absolutely nothing."
"That's to be expected at this point," explained Melody gently. "He's so weak right now that what seems like something very minor to you and I like moving a hand or just his fingers is completely beyond his ability. His body is totally concentrating on just staying alive. It's unlikely that we will see any reaction from Jamie for a number of hours still. My recommendation is that you go home, rest, and then come back in the morning."
"But I need to be here just in case he needs me," protested Graham.
"There's no chance at all of him coming around for some time yet," said Melody kindly but persuasively.
"I'm not leaving," said Graham defiantly. "I'm going to wait right here no matter how long it takes."
Seeing Graham's determination Melody led Graham and Matty back down to the waiting room. Graham's reaction was not unusual in a case like this and Melody understood. In order to retain her objectivity it was necessary to try and maintain a sense of detachment with each of the individual tragedies that passed through her department. Despite this however Melody knew that Jamie was going to be one patient that she was not going to be able to forget anytime soon. What she had seen in the trauma ward and then later the operating room was not something soon forgotten.
"I should get back to the office now," said Matty. "There are several reports that I need to file about this so we can get the right people involved. I need to coordinate the police investigation with the Attorney General's office and ours, make sure the doctor's statements are filed correctly, and of course check that everything is done up nicely in triplicate to keep the auditors happy."
"Thanks for coming," said Graham. "I really appreciate it a lot. It's good to know that someone does care."
"I always do," said Matty. "It's just too bad that sometimes things go this badly before we find out or can do something about it."
Graham shook Matty's hand and then watched her leave. Graham walked back to the waiting room and pinched a doughnut from a box that had materialized in the middle of a table that formerly had only been covered in old magazines. Graham could not remember seeing the box arrive but he smiled and mused wryly to himself that there was definitely some sort of deep-seated symbiosis between policemen and doughnuts. After eating it while pacing about Graham then walked over, stretched out on a sofa, and closed his eyes. He did not expect to be able to sleep but he was exhausted and the bright fluorescent lights were giving him a headache.
The police presence in the hospital had not decreased and in fact was now almost mounted as a guard around the waiting room. Some officers were writing up reports while others were on telephones or radios checking with colleagues in the field or back at headquarters. All of them made sure that Graham was given space and quiet in which to rest and all discussions were carried out at a respectful distance and volume in recognition of the stress that Graham was undergoing. Graham managed to doze fitfully for a while but then came instantly awake when he heard footsteps approaching and opened his eyes to find Frank standing in front of him.
"How is he?" asked Frank as he sat down heavily next to Graham.
"Just barely alive," replied Graham. "They let me see him for just a minute a while back."
"How bad is it?" asked Frank.
"Broken nose, broken arm, broken ribs, a skull fracture, cuts, bruises ..." began Graham.
"And ...?" asked Frank slowly.
Graham hesitated and then broke down saying, "The bastard tore him open inside!"
After a moment Graham continued describing the details to Frank but then suddenly noticed Franks hands. They were cut and swollen around the knuckles. Then Graham looked at Frank more closely and saw a large bruise forming on the side of his face.
"Where were you? What happened to you?" asked Graham quietly so the police would not hear.
"Can I see Jamie," asked Frank quickly changing the subject.
"I don't know," said Graham realizing that Frank did not want to discuss the subject. "I'll go and ask. I don't know if they'll let you or not."
"Tell them I'm his long lost uncle," said Frank with a poor attempt at humour.
Graham went up to the admissions desk and asked the duty nurse if he could speak to Melody again. Graham then went back and sat down again with Frank. About fifteen minutes later Melody came in and stood next to Frank.
"I hear that Jamie's uncle wants to see him," said Melody with a slight grin and a questioning stress on the word 'uncle'.
"Please if it's at all possible," said Frank standing up.
"We usually only allow immediate family," said Melody completely unfazed by Frank towering over her.
"I am immediate family," said Frank. "As close as Jamie has except for Graham. We live right next door to them and my son will never forgive me if I don't see Jamie. It's very important that I see him. And I have something that I must tell him."
"He's non-responsive right now," said Melody still unconvinced.
"I have to see him," pleaded Frank. "It will only take a minute."
"All right but only for a minute," said Melody finally giving way. "Jamie is being examined by one of the doctors right now but wait here and I'll come back and get you in about half an hour."
When Melody returned three-quarters of an hour later she led Frank from the waiting room to the elevator and once upstairs they went down the corridor to the intensive care unit. When they arrived in the observation area Frank quickly dressed in the required gown and mask. Melody then led Frank into the restricted area and down to Jamie's bed. A quick visual inspection told Melody that nothing had changed in the couple of hours since she and Graham had come to see Jamie earlier.
"Jamie's uncle," said Melody in reply to the unspoken question on the face of the nurse keeping watch over Jamie.
Melody saw the nurse's eyebrows rise and smiled back. Frank was not fooling either of them but they both understood. Melody moved to stand next to the other nurse and they both saw the large frame of Frank move very carefully alongside Jamie's bed. Frank placed his hand next to Jamie's and leaned over him.
"Jamie, it's Frank," said the large man with surprising tenderness. "I want you to know that you're safe now. He'll never be able to hurt you again. I've made certain of it. It's over for good now and it will never happen again. Rest and get strong and you'll soon be out of here and back on the island with all of us."
Frank raised his head back up and then quickly looked down as he felt something brush against his hand. The heart monitor machine suddenly beeped slightly faster and both nurses looked up and saw the digital display of Jamie's heart rate begin to rise. Then they followed Frank's sudden glance down and watched with astonishment as they saw Jamie's hand move ever so slowly and deliberately before finally coming to a rest on top of Frank's hand. Frank felt Jamie's fingers close on his hand with the strength of a feather and he looked up with amazement at Melody while tears rolled down his cheeks unashamedly.
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