Part 34 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
It was a surreal moment frozen in time. Snowflakes suspended motionless decorated the scene of the drama as it unfolded. There was the prolonged retort of a missile as it shattered the air. A viscous crimson shade was drawn and darkness began to fall. Somewhere, there was a woman's disembodied voice.
"Ben!" ... "You're letting them get away?" ... "Please help him!" ... "Dead? What do you mean dead?" ...Then there were no voices, only an utter silence. There was the perception of the passing of what seemed like an eternity when I felt myself being carried aloft.
"Susan!" I cried out. I could hear sounds but no images greeted my eyes. There was only a cold darkness. A sterile antiseptic aroma sickened me.
There was the sound of shuffling feet and hands were touching me, pressing on me, and preventing me from rising from where I lie. "Where am I?" I demanded to whomever was restraining me.
"Sir, take it easy. Relax, Mr. Jones," a gruff female voice responded. "You're in recovery at the Mass General Hospital." She patted my arm and whispered, "The doctor in charge is on his way."
Another female voice spoke, "I'll send someone for the police officer and Mr. Jones' wife. They just went down to the cafeteria."
Their words slowly began to register. My thoughts raced from word to another. Hospital? ... Mr. Jones? ... My wife?
"Ah, Mr. Jones," a male voice said, "I see you're awake. I'm Doctor Adams."
"I can hear you, doctor," I muttered, "but why can't I see? I'm not blind, am I?"
"It's only a temporary condition, Mr. Jones. You received minor flash burns from a discharged pistol. After we check a few vitals, I'll remove the bandages to take a close look at your eyes."
A nurse called from the doorway, "Excuse me, doctor. Mr. Jones' wife and the officer are outside. Should I tell them to have a seat?"
"No, send them in," he replied. "We can allow them a few minutes while we get everything ready."
"Ben!" Susan's voice was like music to my ears. Her lips brushed mine momentarily and she said, "Thank God you're okay. I've been so worried."
"What in the hell happened? How long have I been here?" I begged weakly.
"They brought you here three days ago, Ben," Susan replied squeezing my hand. "I'm elated to say that you look pretty good for a dead man."
Forty-eight more hours had passed before an orderly was pushing me in a wheel chair through the maze of hallways. "I'm not an invalid," I protested to the man behind me. "I'm perfectly capable of walking out of here by myself."
"Sorry, Mr. Jones," the young man said, "but it's hospital rules. I have to wheel you to the main entrance."
When the elevator doors slid open I was greeted by not only my "wife" Susan, but behind her stood Brock O'Day and my boss, Stu Jankowski. A warm kiss from Susan was followed by what seemed to be a series of frantic well wishes. I was troubled by their urgency as they hurriedly helped me into the back seat of a Cadillac sedan which I immediately recognized as belonging to Stu. Susan joined me in the back even as Stu started the engine.
"Jesus H," I snapped. "What's with all the subterfuge?"
Stu glanced into the rear view mirror and espoused, "In spite of Sergeant O'Day's efforts, word leaked out that you did not die in the ambulance while being transported to emergency." He turned right onto Cambridge Street and sped away from the hospital. "Thanks to your girlfriend's quick thinking that evening, you were admitted under a false identity."
I looked at Susan and shook my head, "That marriage didn't last too long, did it?" I placed a hand on her cheek and leaned closer to her, "Rosie was right. You are a keeper." What followed was a long but tender merger of our lips.
"I would tell you tell you two to get a room," Stu said interrupting our embrace, "but we don't have a lot of time. I have to get you out of town, Ben. A lot has happened since you ended up in Mass General."
Our passionate moment quelled, Susan rested her head on my shoulder and sighed, "A lot? That's putting it mildly, Ben. I'll try to fill you in as best I can." She then handed me a newspaper clipping.
It was uncomfortable to say the least to read about the details of my own death at the hands of two unidentified assailants. I nodded while I scanned the article. It came as no surprise to see Brock O'Day's name mentioned as the first officer on the scene. I looked up and said, "That's three times O'Day has come to our rescue just in the nick of time."
Susan addressed that fact, "He cut it a little too close this time if you ask me. Anyway, he was watching the whole thing when we were attacked. He was recording everything. He has their admissions to the attack on Michael and Michelle, them raping her, and that they were paid to do both jobs.
When he saw that one with the gun pointed at your head, he fired his gun just before that creep pulled the trigger. His shot hit the man's hand. Thankfully that made him miss you and his bullet hit the sidewalk next to your head."
"Whew!" I whistled. "I'll have to talk to Brock about his timing." I closed my eyes and replayed the incident in my mind's eye. "I remember hearing your voice. You were crying saying I was dead. I also heard something about them getting away. This article mentions unnamed assailants. They weren't captured?"
"No. O'Day said he was letting them go and that it was more important that you received medical attention," Susan replied. "Then he began whispering instructions to me. He said that the two men were hiding nearby and that he could see their reflections in a store window. He told me to play along and prompted me what to say and to scream it out loud."
I grinned at O'Day's resourcefulness. "Ah, that makes sense. He wanted them to think I was dead. He was hoping that the news of my death would ease the heat on us!"
"Under the circumstances," it was Stu who spoke, "he didn't have to chase them down. He had the gun and blood samples of the armed man. Sergeant O'Day speculated that the bullets from the gun would probably match those that killed his friend Jimmy. He said he'd also go out on a limb and guess that there also might be a match to the one that killed Susan's friend Billy. Don't forget, he also has that recording."
"True, but that recording wouldn't hold up in court," I countered.
"No. No it wouldn't," Stu responded as if anticipation of my statement. "But it will certainly have an impact during an interrogation down at the precinct, don't you think?"
I sat up and peered at the window next to me. Everything was a blur. "Say Stu, when did you tint your windows?"
"No, why do you ask?" he answered. "Oh. Susan the eye drops ... you have them don't you?"
She reached into her pocket and held a small bottle in front of me. "Honey, I picked up your prescription before we came to the hospital." She placed her hand on my thigh and elaborated, "The doctor said you will experience blurred vision and maybe some burning sensations for a day or two. These drops will help." With my head tilted back she applied a drop of the medicine into each eye.
After a few minutes my vision was restored and I looked again at the window. It took a moment or two before I recognized the landscape as it was flying by. "I-95 North. We're on our way to Hampton Beach, aren't we?"
"Yeah," Stu confirmed, "we're three exits from the turnoff now." He glanced at his wristwatch and said, "It's 10:30. I figured we could make a pit stop for a bite to eat in Seabrook." Through the rear view mirror our eyes met, "You up for it?"
"I know I am," Susan declared. "Ben, I think you should have a full stomach before we entertain our guest when he arrives."
"Guest? What guest?" I queried my suspicious nature was being rekindled.
"It's someone near and dear to your investigations, Ben," Stu added from the front. "You might say he's a principle player."
I sighed and said, "I'm tired. I feel like I've been shot at and missed and shit at at and hit! I'm just not up for twenty questions. Who is it?"
"For the record, Ben ... he requested this meeting," Susan said. I could see it in her face that she was not enthused about the meeting. "I was against it, but Sergeant O'Day said we really should meet with him."
"Given the facts, I had to agree," Stu stated.
My arms crossed against my chest I joked in a half-hearted swagger, "Guess who's coming to dinner!"
"So what do say, Ben. A full stomach before we meet with General Julius Albright Graves?"
(To be continued with part 35 on Friday, 3/27, in How Many Graves Can a Gravedigger Dig?)