By: V. J. Willis Jr.
For the time being, at least, you are probably going to notice a difference in writing style from the rest of The Jury Pool. So, let me try to explain what is going on at this point. I am Mike’s friend, Brad. When I got to my hotel, I checked my personal email. I am afraid that I am not very diligent about that account. Mike had left me an email about what he has been writing about. Attached to the email was a Word document with instructions NOT to open it except in an emergency. It didn’t take very long for the emergency to occur. In fact, I expect even Mike did not anticipate it would be this soon. The document explained that Mike had been writing The Jury Pool for quite some time. He detailed that it was a series of articles for which he is getting paid. He also explained that he has a daily deadline to meet. In order to meet those deadlines until he can take over again, he prevailed upon me to act as what he calls his “ghost writer”. I shall do my best. You will notice that I kept his byline. No doubt, I will likely cause him to get fired. I knew Mike was an “on again, off again” writer. I had read a few things he has done over the years. I will have to say that I think The Jury Pool is arguably one of his best.
Mary received a late night telephone call from an emergency department nurse, saying that Mike had been brought in by ambulance in critical condition. The nurse indicated that Mary’s contact information had been found on Mike’s cell phone. She immediately left for the hospital and phoned me along the way.
When I found Mary in the waiting area of the hospital, she was pacing the floor. Some authoritarian bureaucrat had refused to give Mary an update because she was not Mike’s next of kin. Even though she pointed out that she was his emergency contact, the stuffy idiot would not budge. I flashed my badge and ID at him, at which point he decided it was in the hospital’s and his best interest to cooperate. He quickly picked up his phone and made a call. The same nurse that had phoned Mary about Mike quickly came out. Mary recognized the nurse from her name tag.
“I’m afraid he’s in pretty bad shape, dear. He is in emergence surgery right now. It looks as though he was beaten by someone pretty badly. We took some x-rays right away. They indicated three broken ribs and some bleeding around the areas of the breaks. There is a good chance that one or both of his lungs may be punctured. There seems to be evidence of a couple of blows to the head with the likelihood of a concussion. We won’t know much for certain until he is out of surgery. I’ll escort you to the surgery waiting room. I’ll also provide you with a case number so that you can monitor his progress on the screen in the waiting room. A surgery nurse will call you with updates too.” As the nurse finished all this, I could see Mary getting weak in her knees. I quickly stepped close to her and steadied her as she started to fall.
Sometimes I feel being in a waiting room, worried about someone close to you, just might be harder than what the patient is experiencing. Maybe not, but who is to say. It was hard for me to stay seated. As an agent, and a man of action, I am more prone to look for solutions to the problem, rather than waiting for someone else to do something. I picked up my cell phone and called a contact with the Travis County Sherriff’s Department.
Javier and I had worked on several things over the years. If he didn’t know what had occurred, I was certain he could find out. A short conversation ended with a promise of a quick response. Less than ten minutes later, Javier called back on my cell. He had me on a conference with the deputy who had responded to the 911 call from a motorist who had happened upon the scene of Mike’s assault. The deputy detailed how, when he had arrived seconds before the EMTs, Mike was out cold and was bleeding slightly from the mouth, nose, and one side of his chest. The deputy felt a pulse and was trying to get a response from Mike just as the EMTs rushed to Mike’s side and took over. He stepped over to the man who had discovered Mike. The witness indicated that he had seen a dark sedan speeding away from the scene just as he drove up. He had little else to offer and had not been able to get the license plate number before the sedan had sped out of sight. Before he hung up, Javier assured me that he would see that Mike’s car was towed to Mike’s house as a favor to me.
Even though it was the same story I had heard dozens of times before, the lack of leads this time hit harder. I wanted so badly to have more to offer Mary than lame platitudes, but that is all I had for now. I knew how helpless I felt right now. I was sure Mary was experiencing that same emptiness too. Without thinking how cliché it sounded just then, I automatically said, “I can promise you that I will not rest until whoever did this pays dearly!” Mary looked at me, half comprehending my words. She leaned over against my side and laid her head on my shoulder. Despite the gravity of the situation, I felt a sense of making a difference and mattering to Mary. I got a whiff of her hair and wondered why it should matter at time like this, but it did.
It was three hours later before the video monitor in the waiting room flashed the number of Mike’s case, indicating that he was out of surgery and in the recovery room. Time dragged along for what seemed an eternity before the surgeon entered the waiting room with his report. Mary introduced herself while I removed my credentials to show to the doctor. “I’m afraid Mike is in critical condition. He will be moved to ICU shortly, where you will be able to see him for just a few minutes. Both of his lungs have been punctured. The left lung was punctured by a broken rib. The right lung was punctured twice by two broken ribs. The punctures have been repaired, and he’s breathing on his own. What is causing us the most concern is a blood clot we have discovered inside of his brain. We’re uncertain if it was a result of the assault or if it was preexisting. It is in an area that is inoperable. It is life threatening, and it will be quite some time before we know Mike’s prognosis. I wish I had better news. Quite frankly, we weren’t sure he would survive the surgery.
Mary and I reluctantly took a breath as the surgeon finished his report and turned away. I walked her back to a love seat and sat next to her. Neither of us knew what to say. The frustration and helplessness only deepened over the next hour. Finally, a nurse walked in to lead us to ICU. The sight of Mike took both of our breaths away. His nose was swollen to twice its size. There were bandages wrapped all around his chest. Bruises were already appearing on the right side of his face, arms and legs. There was the obligatory oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth. In all the years I had known Mike, I had never known him to be sick, let alone injured and in a hospital. He once told me that he had only been in the hospital twice; once for his tonsils at the age of eleven and once when he was fourteen to have his appendix removed.
Mike was so still, that if I had not seen his chest rising and falling shallowly, I could have mistaken him for dead. The ICU nurse walked up to us and explained that Mike was in a coma and that there was no certainty how long he would be out. She explained that ICU has a very strict policy about visitors. She handed us cards with the visiting hours, a phone number for status updates, and her name neatly printed on a line at the bottom of the card. She wrote our names and phone numbers on a white board near his bed. She explained, that, for all concerned, it would be best for us to go home for now. I could tell that the last place Mary wanted to be right now was home. She reluctantly agreed to leave. I suggested that we go to a nearby all-night diner for some coffee, where we could discuss a plan.
(We will find out more about Mike in The Jury Pool – Part 8 – I wouldn’t have done this, but I saw this is how Mike has been handling it, so . . .)