Inside Drops of Crimson

In This Issue

 

Double Shock - Sandy Daley

 “We have time for a couple more questions,” Mitch told the teens as they sat in the high school gym for Career Day.

He enjoyed talking with the teens, but keeping the attention of high school kids could be as difficult as with grade schoolers.

A boy raised his hand and stood.  His jeans hung low on his hips.  Only hope kept those jeans from falling to his ankles, Mitch thought.

“You brought anyone back from the dead?”

“A couple.”   Mitch couldn’t hide the grin tugging at his lips.

Mitch didn’t consider himself a ‘Trauma Junky’, but there was nothing more exhilarating than bringing a person back from the edge of death.  The grateful faces of patients and their families came in at a distant second.

Rick, Mitch’s senior partner, smiled.  “Mitch holds the record in our house for snatching the most people from Death’s grip.”

A girl in the third row with bangs sweeping over to cover her left eye, asked, “What goes through your mind when you can’t save one?”

 Mitch answered, “I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have that experience.”

The girl gave Mitch a puzzled look.

“What my partner is not saying,” Rick told the teen, “is that, besides holding the record of saving forty-three lives, he hasn’t ever lost a person.  But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t experienced death.  Many times when the call comes in, the patient has already died, and the caller is in shock or too hysterical to even check for a pulse.”

Mitch said, “We’d like to thank you for inviting us to Career Day and…”

“If you know someone is evil, would you still do everything in your power to save him, Mitch?”  A curt voice from the back asked.

Something about the way she said his name unnerved Mitch.  It took a second to find the girl.  She stood at an angle in the last row, alone.  Long black hair flowed past her waist.  She turned to face Mitch straight on.

He was accustomed to seeing torn, bleeding bodies, but wasn’t prepared for this young girl.  The left side of her face was a patchwork of grafted skin.  Her left arm ended with missing fingers and the remaining fused together in a claw shape.  Few of the kids looked around for the speaker and when they found her, they quickly averted their gaze to something else, anything else.  Mitch sympathized with those kids; he wanted to avert his eyes from her.  Instead, he looked directly at her.

“We don’t judge.”

“Even if you knew the man you were about to save killed just for the pleasure of seeing Death in action?  Could you really tell us you’d do everything in your power to save the monster?”

Mitch recognized her need for someone to be on her side.  From the looks of the other kids, her friends abandoned her when she needed them the most.

“We don’t judge.  We don’t play God.  We don’t decide who deserves to live and die.  We have a job to do and we do it.”  Regardless of what we see, Mitch thought bitterly, remembering the young little boy and girl with bruises on their arms.  Mitch knew their father caused those bruises.  And the only thing he could do was report it to Social Services.

Mitch saw his fair share of the ugly side of humanity but he refused to allow it to jade him.  When the day did come, he would quit being a paramedic.

The scarred girl stared at Mitch for a second before saying, “Maybe you should, a lot of innocent lives could be saved.”

Any comment from Mitch would have inflamed the conversation further and he didn’t intend to exasperate the girl more.

Smoother than any politician, Rick guided the conversation into a safer direction and told the kids if they had more questions about becoming paramedics or wanted to read some of the paramedics stories they could contact them through their website.

 

***

Mitch placed the last of the equipment in the back of the ambulance and shut the doors.  He walked to the passenger side since his partner insisted on always driving.  The man had control issues.

After shutting the door and sliding the seatbelt into place, Mitch braced his feet apart within the footwell; it was the only way to ride with Rick.

“We just got a call,” Rick said, “from frequent flier, Sheehy.  He’s having another heart attack.”

Mitch said to his partner, “It’s the fourth of the month; his social security check must’ve arrived.  You wanna bet the old man bought a six-pack and a large pizza?”  One day his indigestion really was going to be a heart attack, Mitch thought.

“It’s the only way to get his family to visit him,” Rick said while he punched the accelerator and flipped on the siren.

Mitch speculated.  “You’d think with eight grown kids and a dozen grandchildren, he’d have enough company.”

“Be good to your kids, they pick your resting home,” Rick said.  “At least that is what the wife continually tells me.”

Mitch spoiled his nieces and nephews so in his golden years, people that loved him would care for him, he hoped.

A walkway bisected the front yard of Mr. Sheehy’s white ranch house, and led to a deep blue door.  A 1978 white Cadillac blocked the side door and almost the entire length of the house; guarantee all visitors came to the front. 

Mr. Sheehy answered the door wearing a white undershirt tucked into a pair of wrinkled tan slacks.  His left hand rested on his chest.

“I could be dead by now.”  He took a deep shuttering breath but his hand remained on his chest.

Mitch glanced at his watch.  “You called less than four minutes ago.”

To the right sat the kitchen table, layered with newspaper and an open box of pizza with two slices left.  Four unopened cans of beer from a six-pack sat next to the pizza box.

Both pulse and blood pressure were high, but not alarmingly for the man’s age, obesity, and lifestyle of excesses.

Mitch said, “Mr. Sheehy, it looks like you are going to take a trip to the hospital.” 

The old man sighed a heavy relief and dropped his hand from his chest.  He shuffled to one of the stained kitchen chairs and sat.  Rick already went to retrieve the stretcher.  There was no reason to ask if he could walk to the ambulance…he never could.

On their way, the old man’s eyes drifted shut and the corner of his mouth lifted in satisfaction when he heard the siren.  Mitch rode next to Mr. Sheehy and kept a vigilant eye on him.  Mitch took the man’s blood pressure and vital signs again before reaching the hospital.  The grayish skin tone worried Mitch, so he prepared an IV, connected a heart monitor and set an oxygen tube in place.  Rick’s eyes met with Mitch’s in the rearview mirror.  The ambulance rushed through the streets.

At the hospital, Mitch leaned against the opposite wall from the emergency as the medical staff took over Mr. Sheehy’s care.  The attending physician rolled his eyes as soon as he saw his patient.  The doctor mumbled ‘Frequent Flier’ before attending Mr. Sheehy.

Mitch became annoyed with the doctor’s attitude.  Mitch swallowed strong black coffee from a Styrofoam cup.  The caffeine injection boosted his depleted energy.  His twenty-four hour shift began thirteen hours ago, without a break for sleep or food.  He learned quickly to sleep and eat when he had the chance; it wasn’t unheard of going a full shift without either.

Mitch waited for his partner who was spending a few minutes with his wife.  She worked in the hospital as a physician’s assistant.  Their grueling hours didn’t leave them much time for each other, so they took what they could get.

He took another sip of the cooling dark brew, and he could still feel the jolt of energy coursing through his veins.  He closed his eyes in bliss.  When he opened them, the girl from the school stood before him.  Mitch was startled but managed not to show it.  She didn’t hide her scars from him.  Her intimidation tricks worked.  He looked away.

The attending doctor kept glancing at Mr. Sheehy with irritation while he spoke to a nurse.

“If the doctor releases Mr. Sheehy,” the girl said, “he’ll be dead tomorrow morning.”

The fact that the girl knew Mr. Sheehy didn’t surprise Mitch as much as her prediction.  He forgot about his discomfort and looked at her while she gazed at the activity around the emergency room.  She had an inner glow, but it was shadowed by her anger and something else.  It was as if she saw too much of real life, the ugly side of life.  Maybe she had, Mitch thought.

“You don’t know that.  The doctor will make sure his patient is fine before releasing him.”

“Yeah, right.  Mr. Sheehy comes in here every month complaining about chest pains.  Within hours he is released with instructions for a better diet.”  She looked at Mitch.  “Dr. Death won’t even give him an EKG.”

The girl was right, often patients fell through the cracks of the system, but he refused to give more ammunition for her attitude.

“The doctor will use his experience and knowledge to determine what is best for the patient.”

“And Mr. Sheehy will pay for it with his life, for the doctor’s experience and knowledge.”  She shook her head in disgust and walked away.

His radio came to life with the dispatcher’s raspy voice before Mitch could respond.  Renee had been with the company for five years and before that, he been a paramedic for three until she got married and had children.

Just as Renee came to the end of the description of the five-car pile up, Rick ran toward him, keys already in his hand.  Mitch tossed his cup of coffee in a trash bin. 

“Something’s up,” Mitch said. “They have almost the entire police force out there.”

“Hmm,” Rick mumbled.  His intense concentration was on the blockage of vehicles ahead. 

This was the least appealing aspect of the job, the unknown.  Clements Heights did not have the trouble an inner city, but it did have small pockets of trouble teens.

Mitch leaned forward, forgetting the tension when riding with Rick.  A mile ahead on the overpass sat at least six patrol cars at different angles blocking the entire road.  A jack-knifed semi took center stage at the highest peak of the overpass.  Smoke drifted up from several areas.  Two other ambulances and one fire truck were already on the scene.

Rick slowed to a crawl as he approached one of the police cars.  An officer pointed to the side of the road.  Rick parked and both of them jumped out and ran to the back to pull out necessary equipment.

Captain Ross from the police department met them.  “Follow me.  I’ll give you an escort to the patient.”  The Captain looked at Rick.  “I want Mitch to do the work.  His saves are well known, even on the force.  I want this animal alive so he can spend the rest of his days behind bars.”  The Captain stopped a few yards short of the patient.  He said mumbled, “ Death is too good for this monster.”

Mitch’s adrenaline spiked for the preparation for the work ahead.  The Captain’s voice faded with the exception of key words regarding the patient’s health.  Mitch learned the patient wasn’t breathing, no pulse, and unconscious; all the requirements to use the AED to shock him back to life.  The automatic defibrillator aided him to bring many people back from the grip of Death. 

A circle of police officers separated to allow the Captain and paramedics through.  A police officer kneeled on the shoulder of the road doing CPR on a young man.  Two other officers looked on.  One of the officers held his revolver in a two-handed grip and pointed it at the unconscious man on the ground.  The scene was almost comical, if not for the serious circumstances.

Mitch moved forward.  “Step back.”

The kneeling police officer stopped his CPR and stood.  The officer with the drawn weapon stood firm.

Mitch crouched next to the man on the ground and placed his fingers on the man’s neck.  “Step.  Back.”  He didn’t want the officer to get nervous and pull the trigger.

“Step down, Sergeant Mak,” Captain Ross told his officer.  “Let them do their job.”

Sergeant Mak lowered his pistol to his side and took a several steps away, but didn’t holster his weapon.

The patient was in his early twenties.  His whitewashed jeans looked new without the rips and tears the kids currently favored.  The red T-shirt was new, but with a hole from a bullet.  The kid looked like a choirboy, not the typical person you’d find on a wanted poster.

Blood ran weakly from the shallow wounds.  The bullet passed right through his side; nothing more than a flesh wound, but Mitch didn’t think that was the cause of the patient being unconscious.  Rick cut the patient’s shirt up the middle and removed it while Mitch prepared the AED.  Suddenly a chill came over Mitch, raising the hair on his arms and the back of his neck.  The air was calm, nothing stirred.  He looked around trying to figure out what had changed.  What was warning him?  He didn’t like to ignore his instincts, but nothing he could do.  He had a job to do.

Rick stepped away while Mitch placed the electrodes on the man’s body.  For safety precaution, the immediate area was cleared of all people.  Mitch double-checked; making sure, he didn’t touch any part of the patient.  He reached for the shock button after it indicated the patient was shockable.

Rick screamed, “No.”  Mitch depressed the button a heartbeat before.

Mitch didn’t look up at his partner.  Instead, he kept his eyes on the young man lying on the ground, expecting him to be conscious--he wasn’t.  It was too late for Mitch.

The worst pain Mitch ever felt coursed through his body.  Every muscle froze in place, as if he became freeze-dried.  The edges of his vision darkened and tunneled until he only saw the patient.  He tried to lift his hand in front of him, he couldn’t.  Panic set in.

Mitch realized only his eyes worked, but even they were failing fast.  In the next few seconds, he begged for blindness.

He observed scene after scene as the young man lying on the ground killed a woman as the husband helplessly watched, before he was also killed.  It wasn’t a quick death for either of them.  This killer wanted to witness their lives slowly drain away like a puddle of rainwater evaporate from the bright sun.

Mitch wanted to look away but he couldn’t.  The killer was in control and Mitch was dying.

Finally, his vision dimmed and blackened.  Mitch was grateful.

***

Before opening his eyes, Mitch knew he was in a hospital.  He spent enough time in them to recognize the smell of antiseptic.

The heart monitor beat rhythmically.  It should have eased his mind, but something bothered Mitch, besides the mild tingling coursing through his body.

Slowly he opened his eyes to a darken room.  Only a dim overhead lamp gave any light.  It took him a moment to recognize the silhouette sitting in a plastic chair at the end of the bed with his feet propped up and holding a magazine.  Even with the insufficient light, Mitch recognized his partner, Rick. 

Mitch cleared his throat.  Rick’s feet dropped with a thud and the magazine fluttered to the floor like an injured bird.

“You’re awake!”

Mitch got a good look at his friend.  Stubble decorated Rick’s face, and dark circles hung under his eyes.  Rick hadn’t slept much and it didn’t bother Mitch.  He wondered why.  They’ve been close friends for a while.

“You look like hell,” Mitch said, his voice dry and croaking from lack of use.

Rick stood and pointed a finger at Mitch.  “Stay awake!” he almost shouted.

His partner stood in the doorway with his hands braced on each side of the door jam, stuck his head out and shouted for a doctor and nurse.  After a half a minute of shouting, he turned and came back into the room.

Mitch became concerned.  “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?  I’ll tell you.  We lost you three times… in one hour.  You’ve been unconscious for five days with a very irregular heartbeat.”  Rick raked his fingers through his hair.  “The doctors were concerned if you were going to wake up.  They had no explanation for the strange test results, but they said there’s hope.”

His near-death experience would have interested him if he remembered.  Mitch waited for Rick to take a breath and then he changed the subject.  “What happened at the scene?”  He braced his arms on the side rails of the bed to push himself up, but never heard Rick’s answer.

Suddenly he felt as if he was in a rowboat in the middle of an ocean storm.  He closed his eyes until the dizziness passed.  When he opened them again, a nurse with flaming red curly hair was leaning over him taking his pulse.  Her smile made her green eyes sparkle. 

“Nice to see those eyes open on their own.”

Mitch couldn’t take his eyes off the nurse’s snug uniform.  He was disgusted with the way she displayed her body.  Her attire was that of a tramp that gave it away to anyone giving her a second look.

She released his wrist and checked the IV drip.  “Dr. Morton has been paged and should be here in a few minutes.  If you need anything just ask for Jordan.  My shift doesn’t end for six more hours.”  She winked at him and sashayed out of the room.

“Are they hiring prostitutes for nurses?”  He said to Rick.  “Did you see how she rubbed up against me while checking my pulse?”

“I think your IV has hallucinogenic drugs in it.  You were glaring at her as if she’s diseased.  What the heck is wrong with you?  Jordan couldn’t get out of the room fast enough.”

Rick paced from the doorway to the bed.  “Maybe the electrical shock caused more damage than the doctors thought.  They did say they’d do more tests once you awoke.”

“Electrical shock?” 

Rick stopped at the side of the bed.  “You don’t remember?”  When he got no answer, Rick continued.  “Water main break.  When I stepped away, I noticed the unusual soft shoulder of the road.  You were down hill from me; the water could’ve surfaced under the patient.”

Mitch vaguely remembered Rick calling out to him at the scene.  “That’s why you yelled out.” 

“Half a second sooner, you may not have ended up here.”

Mitch ran his hand over his face.  The dizziness subsided but not completely.  There was something more than just the dizziness that was bothering him.  Mitch felt a primal sense of foreboding and he wondered if he’d survive.

A volunteer pushing a cart full of plants, flowers and balloons came into the room.  The grey haired man shuffled to the window with his collection.

Mitch glared at the bent man.  “I know those can’t all be for me.  I may have been asleep for a few days, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a baby boy!”

Ignatius Lescoe was imprinted on the old man’s nametag.  He started to laugh so hard, Mitch hoped he’d pass out from lack of air.  Instead, Ignatius slid the side of his thumb into his mouth and pushed up on his dentures.

Rick helped the old man with the plants.

 Ignatius held up a small round yellow vase painted with a happy face on it and said, “This should cheer you up and if you re-cut the bottom of the stems about an inch they’ll last longer.”

Mitch scowled at the old man.  “They’d look better dead.” 

Mitch’s response startled Ignatius but then said in a cheery voice, “It appears you have lots of family and friends.”  He quickly turned back to his plants.

“Not for long,” Rick mumbled under his breath.

 Rick took the happy face vase by one of its handles and headed toward the bathroom.  The vase tilted and water spilled out.  Rick looked around for something to wipe it up.

Ignatius waved Rick away.  “Don’t worry about it.  I’ll get someone to clean it up.”  The old man weaved his cart around the puddle of water and left the room.

While Rick cut the stems in the bathroom, a large pasty white nurse carrying a tray of pills in little clear plastic cups came into the room.  She didn’t see the water on the floor.

Mitch didn’t bother warning the nurse, instead he watched in fascination as the woman’s right foot stepped on the edge of the water, just enough to lose her footing.  Her leg came up so high Mitch heard the seam of her slacks ripping apart.  Her eyes became huge with shock and fear. 

He knew what would happen next, but it took forever for her head to slam into the corner of the door jam.  When it finally happened, Mitch savored the cracking sound.  Mitch only had a second or two before Rick would come out of the bathroom and investigate…not much time for the blood to flow out from under her head, or enough for her to bleed to death.

Much to Mitch’s disappointment, the fat bitch knocked herself unconscious.  He wanted her aware while her blood painted the floor.  He leaned slightly over the rail of his bed to get a better view when at the same time Rick came running out, with one of the yellow daisies clutched in his left hand.

Rick took a step toward the fallen nurse but a doctor appeared in the room and was already falling on his knees next to the nurse.  Rick turned toward Mitch and noticed him leaning over the rail.  He put a restraining hand on Mitch’s shoulder.

“The doctor is here.  Remember, you’re a patient now.  Allow someone else to be the savior, for today at least.”  Rick spoke to him as if he was a child.

Mitch pushed himself away from the rail and laid his head on the pillow.  Dizziness came again and he closed his eyes until the room stopped spinning.

***

After three days in bed, boredom and anxiety set in.  Mitch needed to get out of the hospital.  He spent most of those days waiting for tests and results.  None of the staff wanted to explain the need for the tests.  Some of the test showed unusual brain activity in areas that normally weren’t active.  He wanted out of his prison and threatened to walk out if they didn’t give him a date of release. 

“Hey,” Rick said from the doorway, “you decent?”

“Only if I don’t stand up and bend over.”  Mitch tugged the covers up to his chest.  He expected Rick’s wife, Casandra.

It wasn’t Casandra, but someone more interesting, the girl with the severe burns from the school.  She studied him.  Her eyes judged him.  Part of Mitch became annoyed with her behavior and …also challenged.

Scraping chairs across the floor broke the silence.  Rick set one for the girl and one for himself.

“This is Cecilia.”  Rick made the introductions.

“Most people call me CC.”

Mitch said, “I like Cecilia.”

“I prefer to be called CC.”

The girl’s defiance intrigued Mitch; it showed her spirit.  Regardless of her scars, she showed a lot of life, more than most.  Besides the school, Mitch had a feeling he knew her from the past, before her burns.  Trying to remember gave him an intense headache and the dizziness became more acute.

“My wife tells me that CC has a special gift.”

Casandra went to a psychic once a week.  She also kept a dream book next to her nightstand to analyze her dreams every morning.  Rick often told stories to the other paramedics of his wife’s wild dreams.

“I have no need of a psychic.”  He knew the direction of his new life.  His time in the hospital gave him plenty of time to plan.

“I’m not a psychic, but I can tell you that you’ll die of a bullet in your brain.”

Rick’s foot dropped to the floor as he turned toward Cecilia.  “Psychics never talk about their clients deaths, ever.”

“Yeah, it’s bad for business,” Mitch said.  Death, not even his own gave him concern.  Life and death were intertwined.  He wanted to untie death from life.

Cecilia shrugged.  “I’m not a psychic.”

“How do you…”

Mitch interrupted Rick.  The last thing he wanted was his future dissected.  “Tell us how you got burned.”  He knew her story would fascinate him.

Cecilia clutched her small green and brown purse to her stomach.

“Your patient on the overpass caused the double shock.  He was my brother, the person who caused these burns.”  She paused.  “I always knew something was wrong with him.  There’s evil inside of him.”

Surprisingly she had no emotions when she spoke of her brother.  Her right hand moved to the top of the purse, while the left, clawed hand, stayed behind the right.  It looked like it took concentrated effort to move her left arm.

“As a kid he tortured small bugs by putting them in glass jars, and using a magnifying glass under direct sunlight until they slowly burned up.  Death fascinated him.  He loved watching life slowly drain away.  By the age of twelve, Mark had killed all our pets.  Ours was the only house on the block that a spider was too afraid to enter.”

Mitch asked, “If he was so dangerous, why were you left alone with him?”

“After he hung our collie from a tree in the backyard, skinned, our parents placed Mark into a special hospital for several months.  When he got out, he was in counseling for the next five years.  We never did get any more pets, even though my parents thought Mark was cured from his illness.  I knew better but had no proof.”

“Blah, blah, blah.  Nice back story, get to the point.”

Rick leaned forward on his forearms.  “What the hell is wrong with you, Mitch?”

“I want to know how he managed to burn Cecilia when at least she seemed to be on guard.”

Cecilia stared at Mitch for a moment, then said, “For someone who proclaims they don’t judge, you are doing a lot of it.  Or maybe your accident has changed you?”

Rick mumbled, “Something sure in hell has.”

“My parents took a business trip together out of state.  Mark stayed at our uncle’s house.  Being ex-military, he knew how to handle my brother.  My parents were due back Friday morning, but their flight was delayed for several hours.  Mark found out about the delay but didn’t tell my uncle.  My uncle brought my brother back home, thinking that it would only be a few minutes until our parents showed up.”

Mitch noticed Cecilia’s left hand twitched, as if subconsciously her body was remembering the pain.  Her forefinger and thumb of her left hand had been surgically removed and the remaining fingers fused together.  Patches of pink skin were visible on her forearm where her sleeve of her shirt had risen.

“I awoke to the smell of my candle I kept on my nightstand.  Instantly I knew my brother was home and in my room.  It took me a moment to realize he tied me to the bed.”

***

Cecilia screamed, he expected her to, but the volume startled him for a heartbeat, it was then he saw the knowledge of death in her eyes.  She witnessed her death in his eyes.  He didn’t want to rush it, though.  Mark wanted to watch Death slowly claim her.  Mark didn’t have any ill feelings for Cecelia.  She had an abundance of life and he wanted to watch it drain from her.  Nothing was more beautiful than a life force drifting into a void.  He loved watching all the emotions play on their faces.

As much as Mark wanted to continue to listen to her scream, he couldn’t take the chance of someone hearing, that would spoil his pleasure.  All of his other deaths were quick.  Only Cecilia’s had he planned.   

A small round red ball sat on Cecilia’s nightstand, kept as a reminder of their pet collie.  He should have taken the dog further into the trees, Mark thought.  He pushed the ball into Cecilia’s mouth and placed a strip of masking tape across her mouth.  Only he heard her muffled screams.  Now he could relax and enjoy.

A belt held her wrist to the bed frame.  The restraints were loose but confining.  He wanted her to have hope.

With lighter fluid, Mark soaked a washcloth and gently rubbed it on her forearm as the fine little hairs stood on end.  Cecilia struggled like a trapped wildcat; even the air moving through her mouth sounded like hissing.

Mark brought the lit candle to her arm.  The sound of flesh crackling excited him.  It ended all too soon, when Cecilia passed out.

***

Cecilia’s eyes didn’t blink while she spoke.  “I woke the third time to Mark pulling up the bed sheet to my chin.”

***

Cecelia awoke again with Mark’s help.  While he prepared another section of her arm, the automatic garage door opened.  In his haste to look out the window overlooking the entrance to the garage, he bumped into the nightstand. 

***

Mitch said, “The lavender candle fell over onto the bed.  You started to thrash around trying to put out the flame on the sheets, but your arm came too close to the flame and caught on fire.  It took only a couple of seconds before your hair was burning.”

Cecilia stared at Mitch.  “Mark escaped out the window a few seconds before my parents entered the room.”

Rick stood and walked to the side of the bed.  “What makes you think, Mitch, the candle fell onto the bed?”

Mitch shrugged and didn’t respond.

“He doesn’t think,” Cecilia said to Rick.  “He knows for a fact.  Don’t you, Mitch?”

When Rick turned to Cecilia, Mitch grinned.  He wanted to provoke her.  Everything started going his way, even the dizziness and headaches were diminishing.  Mitch wondered if Cecilia would stay quiet or open her mouth.  Cecilia knew the truth. 

Suddenly, Cecilia leapt from her chair and paced at the end of the bed.  She still clutched her purse to her chest.

“Don’t you see what has happened, Rick?”

Rick crossed his arms over his chest.  “No, but something seems to.”

Cecilia stopped at the end of the bed and glared down at Mitch, then back to Rick.

“When Mitch used the defibrillator, Mark’s spirit traveled along the electric current through the water and entered Mitch’s body.”

Mitch burst out laughing, but he couldn’t help it.  His laughter was of joy.  Cecilia had just set him free. 

Rick’s shoulders sagged and the corners of his mouth drooped.  He gazed at Cecilia with shock and pity. 

Mitch decided that before he killed Rick he would tell him just how right Cecilia was.

Still clutching her purse tightly, as if inside were the keys to Fort Knox, Cecilia yelled at Rick.  “Don’t you dare look at me like I’m crazy.”  She pointed at Mitch.  “Mark is inside of him and he’s taking more control as time passes.  The EEG even agrees.”

“The EEG?”  Rick raised his eyebrow.

“I heard the doctors discussing it in the elevator.  They didn’t use his name but I knew.  The first test showed very high levels of brain activity.  Mitch and Mark are fighting for control.  The second EEG shows lower levels of activity compared to the first.  Mark is gaining control.  There’s less of a struggle, but the headaches and dizziness are still there.”

Rick turned to Mitch but asked Cecilia.  “How do you know he has headaches and dizziness?”

“Whenever he moves, he grabs hold of the side rails, like he’s doing now.  It keeps him from weaving when he moves.”

Mitch glanced at his fingers wrapped tightly around the rail.  He wasn’t even aware he was doing it.  Cecilia was more observant than a trained paramedic, Mitch thought.  Instinct told him to release the rail, but it he did he would look guilty.

“And the headaches?”  Rick asked.

“See how his brow is creased and how he squints?”

Mitch opened his mouth to dispute, but Rick beat him to it.

“That doesn’t prove anything.  He’s been through a difficult ordeal.”

“You’re forgetting, Rick, my special talent is to see people’s life auras.  Mitch has two.  A small white one and a dominating black aura.  It proves Mark is over coming Mitch.

Mitch snickered.  “So you see auras, eh?”  He never suspected anything special about her in the past, except that she was special, different.

Cecilia became more irritated.  Her movements were jerky.  She thought Rick would be easy to convince because of his wife.  “A blind person can see the changes in him.  The nurse, who fell, swore Mitch had an expectant expression just before the accident.”

Mitch watched Rick run over the facts from that day, remembering how Mitch never called out for help.  Finally, Rick shook his head.

“CC, I’m sorry, but what you are suggesting is impossible.  A traumatic injury occurred to Mitch’s body.  It’s normal for headaches, dizziness and slow response, but he’s not possessed by your evil brother.  Your brother is dead.  You don’t have to fear him anymore.  He’s dead, he can’t hurt you anymore.”

Cecilia pulled a letter from her purse.  “How does a dead man write a letter?”  She handed it to Rick.

Rick read the letter aloud. 

“I always finish what I start.  You and I will have our day of destiny.  Your loving brother, Mark.”

Mitch carefully watched Rick’s reaction the stationary paper.  To his relief, Rick only noticed the words.

Rick still didn’t believe.  Cecilia handed him the envelope.

“Look at the post mark.”

Rick glanced at the envelope and said, “It’s post marked two days ago.”  He handed it back without a thought

She hadn’t convinced Rick.

“The hell with you then.  Mark is still alive within Mitch’s body.”  She reached inside her purse.  “This time he dies forever!”

Mitch stared at a Smith & Wesson, Ladysmith handgun.  The short stubby barrel pointed at his head.  He quickly overcame his shock and rolled to the right, just as she pulled the trigger.  Pain radiated from the side of his head.  He felt and smelled the warm blood running down the back of his neck before his vision turned black.

***

Rick asked for the third time in the past six months, “Doctor, any chance of Mitch recovering?”

“There’s very little brain activity.  Since the shooting, only a half percent of brain activity increased.”  Doctor Morton shook his head.  “I’m not holding out for any hope of a recovery.”

“Is he aware of us, of his surroundings?”

Dr. Morton stroked his beard.  “That’s an interesting question.  My colleagues and I discussed that particular point.  It’s highly unlikely he can, but reports from the staff, Mitch responds sometimes, by turning toward someone speaking to him.”

“Thanks for the honesty, doctor.”  Rick waited for Doctor Morton to leave before bringing a chair to the side of Mitch’s bed.

Every since Rick came into the room, Mitch’s face was turned to the window.  Mitch was awake; the heart monitor told Rick as much.

“I visited CC again in the hospital.  She’s doing well as anyone in a mental institution could.  She could be released early if only she gave up the claim of her brother still alive in your body.”  Rick leaned forward and lowered his voice.  “Not for a moment did I believe CC’s story, neither did twelve jurors.  There are two interesting findings, though.  The letter I assumed she wrote and mailed, she couldn’t have.  CC was in surgery having more skin graphs.  It took me a while to find out who mailed it for her, but I finally did.  Ignatius Lescoe of all people mailed the letter from here, but the letter didn’t come from CC, it came from you.  The old man probably was delighted to do something that made you happy, especially after the way you treated him--he would’ve done about anything for you.”

Rick leaned real close to Mitch’s ear.  “The other finding, I’ve already asked you that day, but it was the wrong question.  I should have asked you, how you knew it was a lavender candle?”

Mitch slowly turned his head toward Rick.  What he saw should have surprised him, but in all honesty, it didn’t.  The evil grin on Mitch’s face gave Rick his answer.

The End

About the Author

Sandy Daley

Sandy Daley is the author of many short stories.  During the day, she works at a local municipal office as an Administrative Clerk.  When not working or writing, she can been found with a book in her hands.

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Copyright (c) 2008 Drops of Crimson. All rights reserved.