Continued from Chapter 25.
The human body responds to trauma in a variety of ways. One way is shock. When the system is overloaded, the body will shut down what it perceives as non-essential functions in an effort to preserve life. It can be dangerous and life threatening, and the body generally has no conscious control. Of the many forms of shock, psychogenic shock is the most common and, for the most part, the least life threatening. Fainting is the most familiar manifestation of psychogenic shock. The symptoms can range, however, from a brief “dazed” state to mild catatonia without the loss of consciousness.
Arguably, Tyrone Brown had the worst night of all involved. After all, he was dead. Joe Amadiana, however, was having a very a close second.
His physical condition, coupled with the lack of sleep and the medication he had taken, had weakened him considerably. Certainly, Scott Raines’ ultimatum hadn’t done his psyche any good. Add to that the minor inconveniences of his car, wet clothes, an empty stomach and the overall emotional disorganization of the evening, and Joe was pretty close to the breaking point before everything went sideways. The four block foot pursuit of Tyrone and Sheila followed by the one-sided shoot out had pushed Joe over the edge. The little man at the controls of his mind had made the executive decision to temporarily shut down all nonessential functions. Joe’s mind and body had had enough. He was in shock.
The condition had allowed Joe’s body to engage in some much needed repair work, while ignoring the ringing in his ears, the temporary loss of vision, and responding to any outside stimuli. During the ride to the hospital emergency room, Joe’s breathing and heart rate slowly returned to normal. Control of his extremities came next. By the time Colin and Joe were halfway to the hospital, he had gone from a catatonic state to simple confusion.
He first became aware that he was riding in a car, but he was not sure how he got there. He pieced together the last few events of the evening leading up to the carnage in the alley, but he was unable to figure out how he got from the alley to the car. And what happened to the dead guy? He could remember the mangled head of Tyrone, the pool of blood and the stillness of the body. Now he was in car, a police car. At least he was in the front seat, and, thankfully, not driving.
Joe’s vision had not completely returned. More accurately, the yellow spot in the middle of his vision had not entirely gone away. He looked to his left and could now, between spots, make out Colin next to him, apparently driving the car.
Joe groaned. “Where am I?”
“You back with us, partner?” replied Colin, taking his eyes from the road briefly to look at Joe.
The ringing in his ears had not yet ceased either and Joe was still experiencing difficulty hearing.
“What?” he said, a little too loud.
“I said, are you back with us?” repeated Colin.
Joe was not sure how to answer. He was vaguely aware of a mild stinging pain on the right side of his head. He reached up and touched the wound and winced. He withdrew his hand and could see blood on it.
“Well, I’ll be goddamned. I think I’ve been shot,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Is that what happened?” asked Colin, as he pulled into the emergency room driveway at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center.
“What? Speak up, I can’t hear you. This fucking ringing won’t stop,” said Joe, more frustrated than angry.
Joe appeared to be returning to his old irascible self. That was a good sign, thought Colin. “Good thing for you, Joe, only the good die young,” said Colin, allowing himself to smile.
“What?” Joe almost shouted, “I can’t hear you.”
Colin looked at Joe as he parked the car. He mouthed a sentence at Joe, who looked at him, straining to hear words that were not there.
Joe threw up his hands in disgust. “I can’t hear a fucking thing you’re saying, dickhead.”
Colin turned away and chuckled quietly as he got out of the car.
Several members of the hospital staff were waiting for their arrival in the carport. As soon as the car stopped moving, a large male nurse named Frank opened Joe’s door and reached in to help him out.
“What the fuck…” exclaimed Joe, as he was extricated from the car seat and practically lifted onto a gurney.
“It’s going to be all right, Officer, just let us take care of everything,” said Frank in a reassuring soft and effeminate voice.
“What…Hey…Get off of me…” Joe protested. He still could not hear anything, but was able to make out muffled sound. His sudden removal from the car had added to his confusion. Was he hurt worse than he thought? He tried to lift his head to examine himself. Did he have some other wound of which he was unaware?
“You are going to have to lie back and relax, Officer,” chastised Frank, as he whirled the gurney around and began pushing it at high speed to the emergency room entrance.
“Officer, could I get some information from you?” queried another nurse to Colin. Her identification badge read Nancy Tisdale.
“I’m afraid I don’t have much information,” replied Colin as he and Nancy followed the procession into the emergency room. “He was in foot pursuit of two suspects…on his own. There was a shooting, one of the suspects is dead. When we found him he was in shock, wouldn’t respond at all. The head wound was the only obvious trauma we saw. I don’t know if it’s a gunshot wound or caused by something else. It appears to be superficial. He also has some hearing loss. That’s about it.”
“Thank you officer,” said Nancy, hurriedly jotting down notes on her clipboard. “You know where the coffee room is, don’t you?”
Colin nodded his head.
“Why don’t you take a load off; I’ll get back to you shortly.” She turned and entered the curtained cubicle where the examination of Joe was taking place.
As Colin walked down the hall, he could hear Joe’s voice.
“I can undress myself. Let go of that. Hey…Hey!”
Colin was certain Joe would survive. He poured himself a Styrofoam cup of evil-looking coffee and plopped down in one of the vinyl easy chairs in the coffee room. He looked at his watch. It was almost 1:00 a.m. He hesitated for a moment, then dialed the telephone. The phone rang three times at the other end.
“Hello,” the sleepy voice of Claire answered.
“Hi, beautiful, I’m sorry to wake you up,” said Colin.
“That’s okay Colin. I wasn’t sleeping much anyway. Is everything OK?” she asked.
“I’m OK,” he hesitated. “There has been a shooting. One of the suspects is dead. Joe’s been hurt. He seems OK now, but we’re still not sure what happened. I’m at the hospital now. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” her voice desperate for confirmation.
“Yeah, really, I’m fine. I have to wait for Scott, then I’ll be home,” he said reassuring her.
“Just so long as you’re OK. Call me…for any reason, OK?”
“I will, I promise. Try to get some sleep, I’ll be home in a little while,” he said, hoping he was being truthful.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” said Colin, hesitating, wanting to say more. Then he hung up.
Colin settled back into the chair and stretched. He meant to close his eyes for only a moment, but he was soon fast asleep.
Dr. Carrington, the emergency room physician, had completed his examination of Joe and was now carefully putting four stitches in his forehead.
“Detective Amadiana, this wound is not life threatening. You should have only a small scar,” he said as he pulled the first suture tight and cut it.
“That’s a relief,” said Joe, “I just hope it doesn’t wreck my career in modeling.”
The doctor smiled. “I am a little concerned though from what I have found examining you tonight. Based upon your personal history, I would think you would be in a little better shape.”
“Don’t worry about me, Doc, I can take care of myself,” snapped Joe, hoping to avoid a lecture.
“First of all, I have not called you ‘Dick,’ so don’t call me ‘Doc.’ You may call me ‘Doctor,’ ‘Doctor Carrington,’ or ‘Michael.’ Clear?”
Joe was caught by surprise. “Yeah sure…Doc…I mean, uh…Doctor.”
“Secondly, you are fooling yourself if you think you are taking care of yourself, unless the American Medical Association since I came on shift has made a determination that drinking and smoking oneself to death qualifies as appropriate personal care.” Dr. Carrington paused to see if his words had hit home. When Joe said nothing, he continued, “Let’s you and me get one thing straight, I will probably never see you again after tonight, so we are not going to form any kind of lasting relationship to the degree that I give a shit about what you do to yourself.”
Joe glanced at Dr. Carrington’s identification badge. He wanted to make sure he had read it correctly. He was beginning to think Dr. Mengele had come back from the dead and was now working on his head.
“I do, however, have an obligation to talk to my patients about what I determine to be health problems. This little scratch aside, you are in terrible shape. If you keep on at your current rate, I would give you two years before you have a heart attack, develop some kind of respiratory illness, or simply lose your mind and become the spokesperson for Depends undergarments.” Dr. Carrington completed the final suture. He surveyed his work. “Not bad.”
Dr. Carrington stood from his chair. He pulled a business card from the pocket of his smock. “Now, all that said, this is my card.” He pushed it into Joe’s shirt pocket. “When you are ready to come up for air, give me a call.” He placed his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Good luck, Joe. Remember, none of us are in this alone.” He looked Joe in the eye, smiled sternly, then turned and walked away.
Joe was stunned. For once in his life he had no flippant comeback. He, in fact, had nothing to say at all. He pulled the card from his pocket. Below the doctor’s name, address and telephone number was a small circle with a triangle inside. Next to the symbol were the words “One day at a time.” Joe stared at the card for several minutes before returning it to his shirt pocket. He lay back on the hospital bed. Staring at the ceiling, he sighed.
As Colin slept in the hospital easy chair and Joe stared at the ceiling, Sheila Masters slept in the shower of her motel room.
By the time Colin had discovered Joe and Tyrone in the passage way, Sheila was more than a half mile away. When she landed on the opposite side of the fence, she ran through the underbrush and rolled into a small concrete culvert which ran parallel to the freeway and behind the blocks of commercial buildings. The culvert was full of runoff from the rain. Under the cover of ungroomed pepper trees and oleanders, she slogged her way through the culvert.
Her self-preservation had kicked into high gear. All she thought about was getting away. Tyrone was gone. There was nothing she could do about that right now. She would grieve for him later. And later she would take her revenge. But now, she had to get away. Her clothes were soaked and she shivered with cold as she pushed her way through the heavy underbrush, branches whipping against the bare skin of her face and hands.
The culvert eventually passed under a roadway where the brush abruptly ended. She clawed her way up the steep and muddy embankment to street level. She found herself in an old commercial district, many of the buildings now derelict as result of the downturn in the economy. The streets were empty and quiet. A cold breeze filtered through the empty yards. Two blocks down, she could see railroad tracks. The trains ran close by the motel where she and Tyrone had stayed. If she could get back there, she could get clean clothes, her bag and maybe get out of the area. She scolded herself for leaving her pistol in the van.
Sheila was about to step into the street and make a run for the tracks when a sound caught her attention. She pushed back into the bushes. The whirring sound, a high pitched whine, was coming closer. Through the branches of the tree she could see its source. Like a shark searching for prey, the black and white police car, headlights out, slowly moved up the street toward her. It would pause and a search light mounted on the hood would flash briefly into the shadows. The light would go off and the car would proceed.
She lay down and inched herself backward into the culvert, sinking her fingers into the muddy earth to keep from slipping back into the water below. The car was close now. She squirmed her face into the mud. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the beam of the searchlight illuminate the area around her. The light went out and she could hear the car slowly move away up the street. She lay still for several minutes, daring not to move. When she could no longer hear the car, she slowly raised her head. The car was now about a block away. Without warning, the headlights of the car came on. The tires squealed on the wet pavement as the car U-turned in the street, accelerating off in the direction it had come. She watched as the taillights disappeared down the street.
Pulling herself up, Sheila sprang to the top of the culvert once again and dashed across the street, seeking shelter in the shadows of the buildings on the opposite side. Satisfied she had not been seen, she ran, covering the last few yards to the railroad tracks. She ran north, her breathing hard, glancing back and forth for the telltale neon sign of the motel. Finally she saw it, the pink and blue neon, just above the roof of a warehouse. She turned the corner and there was the motel. She climbed one more fence which separated her from her destination. She cautiously entered the parking lot. It was quiet, the gray green glow of a television set emanating from the manager’s office the only sign of life. She approached her room and calmly took the key from her coat pocket. The sound of the key entering the lock sounded to her like a saw on wood. In actuality, the sound was nearly inaudible. She slowly opened the door and stepped inside, closing it quietly behind her. She pushed the lock on the button and turned the security latch.
Without turning on the lights, she made her way across the sleeping area and entered the bathroom. In darkness, she stripped off her wet clothes and started the shower. She felt with her hands as the water turned warm and then hot. She adjusted the temperature and stepped in.
As the water warmed her, she finally allowed herself to let down. At first she whimpered, but as the tears fell from her face, she fell into uncontrolled sobs. She held one of the thin terry cloth bath towels over her mouth to muffle her wails. Here, where only hours before Tyrone had cried without knowing why, she cried herself out. Exhausted, she sat in the shower for a long time, the warm water slowly caressing her into an uneasy sleep.
When she awoke, the gray light of false dawn had crept into the room. Suddenly awake, she turned off the water and quickly toweled herself off. In the half light, she examined the scratches on her arms and hands. In the mirror, she could see a large welt across on her right cheek. Once dry, she selected some dry denims and her baggy sweat shirt. The boots and jacket were still wet. With no other choice, she pulled them on. She ignored the unpleasant feeling of the damp jacket and boots; she had experienced worse and now had more important things to worry about. She took an old Atlanta Braves ball cap from her equipment bag and pulled it on tight, covering her hair. Finally, she took a Gerber dagger from the bag. The sheath had a small clip which she now attached to the inside of her boot. She covered the handle with her pant leg.
Satisfied, Sheila shouldered her bag. She eased the door to the room open. The stars above were slowly fading as the sun approached from the east. The sky was no longer an inky black, but a deep rich blue. The sound of traffic on the highway signaled the beginning of another day. It also drew her to the highway where she was certain to catch a ride. She slipped out of the motel parking lot without looking back.