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OCTOBER 1998 | VOL. 2, NO. 5



BEGINNING of story





Wildflower 1, 2, 3

A rush of electricity surged through Janie. "Oh! Thank God! Is he all right?"

"We don't know. He's in surgery right now. We found him about thirty minutes ago. You'll probably want to go to the hospital."

"Oh, no. What's wrong with him?" Janie clutched the detective's sleeve. "What's the matter?"

"Where's he at?" asked Brad.

"Saint Michael's. I'll follow you there."

"What's wrong with him?"

The detective looked at Janie empathetically. "I don't know any more than you."

"Come on, Janie. Let's go." Brad snatched the keys from on top of the T.V. and charged out the door, Detective Stone and Janie close behind.

"Are you coming?" Janie asked Rose behind her.

"I'll be up in a minute," said Rose. "I want to call Anthony and tell him. He was worried."

Brad answered. "We'll meet you there."

In the car, Janie rocked back and forth and squeezed a wet tissue in her hands. "Can't you go faster?"

"We'll get there! Just relax."

Just relax, she thought. How am I supposed to relax?

At the hospital, Stone led them to the admissions office where they signed forms they paid no attention to, and asked the attendant how Danny was. "I won't know anything until they assign him a room. All I know is that he was suffering from hypothermia when he came in. The doctor will meet you in the surgery waiting room if you want to wait there. Third floor. Take the elevator down the hall and to the left." With that the woman returned to her computer and said no more.

The detective led them to a secluded spot in the large waiting room. "Want coffee, or a doughnut?" he asked.

"When will he be out? What's the matter with him? Jesus, why don't you answer?"

"Janie, please." Brad led her to a chair and helped her sit. "Just wait here. I'll talk to the detective. Just calm down. We found him, that's all that matters."

Yes, all that matters, she thought. Thank God we found him. "When can we see him?"

"Janie, relax."

Janie looked out a window, rubbing her hands nervously. In the parking lot below was a small building with nurses and orderlies gathered round smoking. She hadn't smoked this morning and she thought she needed one, but she dared not leave for fear she would miss the doctor. Brad and Stone whispered solemnly in the corner, an odd look of worry on Brad's face. Presently Brad walked slowly over and sat next to Janie.

"They found him . . . in a drainage ditch," he said haltingly. "They said he has hypothermia. They said he was all bruised up." He stopped. There was more, but she could tell he didn't want to say.

"What, Brad. What did they say?"

"He was right there! In the ditch. I drove right by him! They said he must have tossed Danny over the bridge when I started chasing him. They said he's got a broke neck and collar bone."

"A broke neck? Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, God, no!" Janie thought she might throw up. Brad rubbed her back.

"Now don't panic. Let's just wait and see what the doctor says."

She sat holding her arms and rocking. "Oh, God, why? Jesus, why?" Brad sat with his hand on her back until she calmed down, then stood up and went to the bathroom.

My poor Danny, she thought. My poor baby Danny.

An hour passed. Rose had come by, talked to Brad, and gone to the cafeteria. Janie flipped through an issue of Time, set it down, and flipped through another. Brad sat next to her, tapping his watch. "That's the third time you've read that one."

She continued to flip the pages. "They could at least come talk to us. No one has told us anything since we got here. Why'd that detective leave? I don't understand why somebody doesn't. . . ."

"Honey! Please, the nurse said a doctor will come by."

"That was an hour ago!"

Brad sat with his arm around her shoulder. It was cool on her warm skin and she was thankful even for such a small gesture. Maybe I nag too much. Maybe I drive him away. Scattered throughout the cold room was a hodgepodge collection of people, some reading, some watching the television. A few appeared neatly dressed, as though they were prepared to come to this place. Others looked like they had thrown on the first thing they could grab. Janie could imagine which group she should belong in.

The door opened and through it entered a balding man in green scrubs. Every head in the room turned to look. "Brad Bartlett," the man called out, looking over the crowd. The heads returned to the television or the magazines, some frowning. Brad and Janie stood up approached him expectantly. "Mister Bartlett, ma'am. I'm doctor Jacobson. I'm chief of cardiovascular surgery." He offered his hand.

"Cardiovascular? What's wrong with Danny? We were told he had a broken neck."

The doctor led them to their chairs. "Danny has had quite a fall. The police told us he fell at least fifteen or twenty feet." The doctor spoke softly, slowly. "He has three broken ribs and a fractured collarbone and his fourth vertebrae has been crushed." Janie began to sob. "One of the ribs punctured his left lung. We're still in surgery, but Danny seems to be out of danger for now. It should be another hour. If you like, you can go down to the cafeteria and get breakfast, or coffee. We'll page you when he gets out."

"Is Danny paralyzed?"

The doctor shook his head. "No, but he'll be in a neck brace for a while. He'll be here for a while, too."

"What about the hypothermia?"

"That is not a problem. Our biggest concern is his neck, and of course the lung. But we think he'll be fine. He's got a mild concussion, but that shouldn't be a problem either. The greatest long-term damage has probably been psychological. I'll refer you to a few psychiatrists. One has experience with juvenile crisis, such as this. We'll talk later about that. Like I said, there seems to be no real danger now."

They stood again as the doctor excused himself. Everything will be fine, Janie thought. She looked at Brad. Something glistened in his eye as he stood staring at the door. Janie touched his arm tentatively. He turned and pulled her to him and held her tight. It hurt, he held her so tight, but she did not notice.

"It's going to be all right," he said, and she felt something wet fall on her ear. "It's gonna be okay." She laid her head on his chest, and believed him.

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