Translation-Chapter 6

Friday, May 7, 2010 8:25 PM By crosswaysnet , In


Chapter 6 (Saturday, 2:30PM - south of Austin, TX):

Jalapeno Hunger-Buster Meal Deal, $3.99. Today only...
It's what the sign said.
C.R. Colpoys was staring at it intensely - or maybe his eyes were just boring a hole right through the marquee into outer space somewhere. Mitch couldn't tell. He was pushing himself into a sitting position, rubbing the stiff out of his neck. He moved his hand to the dull pain in his left rib where the seat belt had just been removed. It was almost as throbbing as the top of his forehead, which he touched more tenderly.
Fudgemint Brownie Blizzard $1.69, All This Month!
Now that sounded disgusting to Mitch. Pick a flavor and stick with it. He shook his head and looked at C.R. He hadn't moved a muscle, his hands still clenched to the steering wheel, his jaw set the same way. Mitch looked around at the people coming and going from this highway-side Dairy Queen. They were now apparently up north of New Kassel somewhere along the booming I-35 corridor. Not to Austin yet, from what Mitch could tell.
Truckers, soccer moms, landscapers. All catching an afternoon snack; tossing feed to the hungry migrant workers perched on the flat-bed; corralling five grade-schoolers to their 'got their homework done early, gotta get to practice on time' treat.
Behind Mitch somewhere, a large growl caught his attention. He looked over his shoulder to see cranes moving concrete slabs into place. Another bridge construction project over this fast-flowing river of vehicles. Seemed to be popping up everywhere in Texas these days. Seemed everyone from everywhere was moving here. They all apparently needed more convenient access to their Dairy Queens...
C.R. was stirring. With a deep breath and pound to the steering wheel he got out of the car and headed for the glass door of the fast food joint. The door that never seemed to stop swinging in and out. Mitch sighed and got out to follow him. He couldn't help look over his shoulder a couple of times to see if 'they' were following, whoever 'they' were. There must be someone following them, right? Or was all that 'get down out of sight' nonsense just about not being noticed in the first place? Better just keep your cool and act normal, Mitch.
C.R. was next in line at the counter when Mitch caught up to him.
"Whad're you hungry for?" C.R. asked without turning his head. "You haven't had anything to eat today, have you?"
Mitch thought about it. The growl two feet below his chin answered the question. "Is that special any good?"
"I'm not carrying any Rolaids," C.R. replied flatly.
Mitch decided to play it safe. "How 'bout a chicken-fried chicken basket? Wait, do I have my wallet on me?" He patted down his pockets. He figured too late that it was probably still sitting on his kitchen counter.
"I got it," C.R. said, stepping forward to order Mitch's lunch, and nothing but a rootbeer float for himself.
They grabbed the folded plastic number and filled up at the soda fountain without talking. Mitch got the tap water of Texas - a Dr. Pepper. C.R. a real water to go with his float. Seated for the two minutes thirty nine seconds it took for their order to appear, C.R. stared out into a worksite beyond the DQ parking lot. A big box retail store was going up, ready to take advantage of that new bridge and multiple lanes of highway frontage. When the number was called, Mitch volunteered to fetch their order. C.R. didn't even nod. He finally responded to the sound of his treat landing in front of him.
"You always this preoccupied, C.R.?"
His conversation partner wasn't in the mood for small talk. He just poked at the ice cream blob with his red spoon/straw.
"Just concentrating, Mitch. You've gotten yourself in one big heap of a mess - that's for sure. I'm trying to visualize the way forward."
"I suppose you'll clue me in when you know?" said Mitch, eyebrows raised a little.
"It's not a personal favor, Mitch. I'm on the clock with the Canyon West PD for this one. I'll tell you exactly what I feel is appropriate. But I won't hold back, no. Things are moving fast. We're gonna have to move faster. You'd better tell me everything you know."
"What, are they outsourcing detective work now?"
"Canyon West can't afford a full-time detective, you know that, Mitch. You sat on the advisory board, for crying out loud."
"Easy, friend. I'm glad to have you working on this, even if I have no idea what you can do about it. Don't get all testy on me. I'm the one getting beat up or blown up, after all."
C.R. sighed and lowered his head. Putting his hands up on the table behind his frosty paper cup, it looked like he was about to bless the 'meal.' Mitch tried to be polite and act the part, putting his hands around his lunch in a similar manner. Their knuckles touched lightly on the crowded, undersized pink table. Mitch expected a couple of awkward moments of silence. Instead, C.R. began praying in an urgent voice.
"Lord, I thank you for this food. Mitch, especially, is going to need the energy. I can feel how urgent and busy the next few days will become. Thank you, so much, that you spared Mitch's life today. It was so close. If he only knew how much danger he's in, he'd be a lot more anxious than he is. Spare him any unnecessary grief and anxiety. Most of all, spare his life from those who intend to harm him."
Mitch's head snapped up to look directly at C.R. What the heck is he talking about?? Well, if I wasn't alarmed before, I sure as hell am now! C.R.'s head was stilled bowed. He continued to speak, but his mouth wasn't moving. What the...?
"Lord, give me the wisdom to sort this out, and help me not to screw it up. Lives are at stake here."
C.R.'s lips still weren't moving. Mitch noticed something else. Soft flakes, like snow or fluff of some sort was falling on C.R.'s shoulders while he continued to pray. Bright, fluffy, sparkling flakes that gently flashed as they hit his shoulders.
"I pray against the powers of darkness that even now seek the destruction of Mitch and probably others..."
The snowflakes continued to fall, but they were swirling now in an invisible wind. Shadows farther back in the room were shifting, retreating.
"Drive the dark of evil intent away and bring your clear light to bear on the situation..."
Shadows were sliding farther, faster, up and over benches, across tables, over the soda fountain, across the floor, chased by the snow flakes now flying out from C.R.'s shoulders. Shadows were being squeezed out the cracks, under doors at the far end of the room, out the drive-through window.
"Surround my brother with your presence and protection. Take him where you want him to go. Tell him what he needs to know. Show him the path You've laid out for him..."
The snowflakes were swirling around Mitch now. He could feel their wind. Warm and gentle, not cold. Almost electric and quietly whispering. Soon it was a blizzard that blotted out the garish colors and metallic noises of the restaurant.
"In Your Son's name, Amen."
C.R. raised his head to acknowledge his friend and start in on his rootbeer float. Mitch was not sitting there. C.R. looked around the room without finding him.
***
A quiet warmth gave way to a soft buzzing. Mitch heard a door open somewhere in the distance. He opened his eyes to see the institutional blue/white of flourescent lighting. Stiff vinyl squeaked behind his neck as he turned his head to the side. For twenty yards or more, Mitch saw nothing but empty hall; floor polished tile; heavy, fake woodgrain doors along the wall every ten feet or so. At the end of the hall a small yellow light blinked next to a double metal door from time to time, indicating some kind of restricted access.
Mitch stood up.
The chair slowly gave up the impression of his shape as he looked around trying to figure out where he was. The tired foam was the only thing moving within Mitch's view. A soft beep drew his attention to the doors down the hall. The light turned to green as both doors swung open on motors. Two chatting young people dressed as hospital interns padded their way toward Mitch. He moved their direction. As they drew close he could see the insignia of County General Hospital screened on the pocket of their scrubs. The parapet of the New Kassel clock tower backed the block lettering.
How did I just make a thirty mile trip without knowing it? thought Mitch. Where's C.R.?
As the gap closed, the first person, a slim black man, locked eyes with Mitch and nodded his head pleasantly. Mitch realized he was staring awkwardly. He gestured with his left hand toward the doors.
"Um... Desk that way?"
"Yes, sir," said the young man. "Just lift the receiver next to the door and it'll dial the nurses' station." They continued on their way discussing someone's fridge-robbing habits.
Mitch reached the doors which read "ICU." He picked up the receiver. The flat voice on the other end asked whom he was visiting. Mitch was silent a moment.
"Sir?"
"Oh, yes... Uh, Jim Hughes. Is he still in ICU?"
"Yes. Just arrived up from emergency. The doctors are very busy with him. Are you family?"
"Family friend. I'd like to see Connie, his wife, at least."
"Name?"
"Mitch... Blackman.”
"Moment please...”
Mitch stood holding the phone for a few minutes. The invisible nurse jumped back on the line without warning.
"Door will open by itself. Please stand back. You can meet your party at the nurses' station around to the right."
The doors wasted no time magically opening themselves. Mitch followed new murmuring sounds down the hallway. Connie met him almost at a run with a frightfully aggressive hug. She was already crying.
"Oh, Mitch. They don't know if he's going to make it."
"Whoah, Connie. What happened? He was holding steady when the ambulance left."
"He's got a broken shin and they say a blood clot broke loose. His heart wasn't beating when we got here."
The last words came out as sobs.
"Come on." Mitch turned her around and walked her briskly back down the hallway.
"Which room?"
Connie pointed off to the left, just past the main desk. Nurses and doctors were moving in and out briskly. They waited a moment to avoid colliding with someone in more of a rush, then stepped into the room. Tubes and wires were running everywhere. IVs went in both arms and a mask was pushing in air; a young intern at the other end firmly squeezing a large bulb every few seconds. A doctor stood back a few feet, holding up electric paddles, still gelled up. Everyone seemed to be focused on the EKG above and behind Jim's head.
Suddenly, the machine's metronome blip turned into jazz, beating erratically. The young doctor with the paddles stepped forward. "I don't think he can handle much more of this," he mumbled under his breath.
The monitor fluttered into a blur with no blips.
"V-Fib! Charge it up - how long's the TPA been workin'?"
"Eighteen minutes," answered the nurse standing behind him.
The EKG flatlined, letting out a mournful, continuous bleep.
"This clot's gonna beat us in another two minutes... CLEAR!"
As he was speaking, the doctor pulled forward and placed the paddles back on Jim's chest, pulling the trigger till it clicked. Mitch winced, expecting to see Jim convulse. Nothing happened. No change on the monitor. The doctor was looking down and around.
"What the?... Is this thing charged or not??"
"Yes, sir," said the nurse standing behind him, with some alarm. "Two-ninety on the monitor. Is there a connection problem?"
Mitch found himself beginning to pray, even as Connie sucked in a breath and began to ask in a choked whisper, "What's going on?"
The doctor was feeling his way back up one of the cords when a blue flash and a pop sent up smoke from the front of the defibrillator.
"Power down!" yelled the doctor. The nurse hit the master kill switch on the portable unit. "Clear this one and get another unit right now!"
Everyone was scrambling again as the doctor jumped up on the bed to re-start Jim's heart the old-fashioned way.
"Hold!" He shouted to the intern at the air bag. "One, Two, Three, Four, Five. Hold compression - two breaths." The intern continued to breathe for Jim.
God, hold his heart together. Connie needs him.
The two doctors continued while the sound of a crashing cart came rushing down the hallway. Two technicians burst in with another defibrillator, powered it up and gelled the paddles. The first doctor jumped off the bed and grabbed the handles in one motion.
Break the clot free and bring him back now... Please...
The flatline continued.
"Clear!" yelled the doctor again, bracketing Jim's chest with the paddles. The trigger clicked again. No jolt.
"Are you kidding me?? What the hell's going on???"
The nurse saw the digital display go black. She just blinked, unbelieving. The doctor hit the machine with his elbow - hard. Nothing happened.
"Get the crash cart up from Emergency right now!!" He cursed under his breath as he jumped back up on the bed.
God, please don't take him now.
It was Mitch and Connie's prayer at the same moment. Mitch continued.
If you brought me here, you did it for a reason. I don't believe it was to watch Jim die. It's your name on the line here. Bring him back.
The EKG stopped making noise, which brought the doctor's head up quickly. You're gonna break on me too? he thought, madly.
Then, a bright spike on the monitor, followed a split-second later by a blip. It repeated itself fifteen times as they all counted. Finally, the doctor blew out a long breath and tried to climb down off the bed as gently as possible.
A minute or so later, another doctor stepped hurriedly into the room closing his cell phone. "Is it holding?" he said urgently, rounding the bed quickly.
"Yes, sir." answered the sweating junior doctor, his mask soaked like the back of his blue-green scrubs. "Regular sinus rhythm, two minutes, thirty seconds. We tried to shock him a third time when the d-fib broke. The backup didn't work either. I really hope we don't have to do it again. With his burns, I'm afraid of doing his skin some real damage. And he's already coded for five minutes."
"The d-fib broke?" asked the new doctor, incredulously. "How'd you get him restarted?"
"I don't know. It just did. I didn't think he had the strength to jumpstart himself, but he surprised us."
Everyone stared at the EKG for another minute.
"I think you can stand down, Brett. Incredible job."
The third, unused defibrillator was wheeled out by an orderly. The exhausted doctor pulled down his mask as he passed Mitch and Connie. He nodded almost grimly and kept moving. He was still deeply troubled about the electronic failures. He wasn't the one to worry about it, but he could imagine the liability issues, especially if this patient didn't pull through.
The rest of the busy bees took a breath and went their separate ways to other ICU emergencies - all in a day's work. The senior doctor now turned to notice Connie and Mitch standing in the back of the room. Things had apparently gotten so harried that no one had taken them to the ICU waiting room during the crisis.
"Mrs. Hughes? Dr. Williamson, chief of cardiology." He extended his arm for a warm handshake. "I've been on the phone for the past twenty minutes with the charge nurse. I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner, but Brett Hansen and his team are the best we've got. Your husband's had a close call, but we'll do everything we can."
Connie nodded with a quiet "Thank you, doctor." The white coat turned to study the person holding up Mrs. Hughes. Mitch took the initiative, putting out his free hand.
"Mitch Blackman. I was with Jim when he..."
"Were you in the blast zone?" asked Dr. Williamson, sounding surprised. "You look a lot better off." The good doctor studied Mitch up and down, taking note of the reddened skin. "Have you seen a doctor yet?" he asked.
"No sir. I just arrived. I wasn't as close - no real damage."
"Even so, your skin looks really raw. I understand it was a petroleum fire. You need to have the nurse look you over."
"I'll do that, sir."
Connie was moving slowly toward the bed. The nurse made room for her. She was afraid to take his hand again. He had almost crushed hers when the first heart attack had started.
A male nurse stepped into the room and quietly excused the one standing next to Mitch. He didn't look up.
Connie whispered into Jim's ear and sat down in the chair Mitch pulled up for her. She perched forward with her hand on his shoulder. Mitch did the natural thing and took his hand. Jim sucked in a startled breath and squeezed back. Hard.
Connie startled and leaned back to get the nurses attention. He nodded in a way that immediately calmed her down. Strange, she thought. Somehow she knew not to worry about this.
Jim pulled Mitch down to the side of his face with surprising strength. Without opening his eyes he said "I saw her Mitch."
Mitch blinked. "You mean Connie? Yes, she's right here." He leaned back to let her in close. Jim didn't let go his firm grip on Mitch.
"No. I mean Sonja. She's fine. I saw her, Mitch!" Jim opened his eyes as he said it. They were passionate and alive.
Mitch's stomach grew tight and his head was swimming a little.
"What... Do you mean?"
"She came to me... I think I was there, Mitch! I mean really there."
Mitch knew better than to ask. Jim continued.
"Unbelievable, man... Just unbelievable. Everything just so alive and beautiful..."
Connie moved around the bed to take his other hand. Mitch got his courage up.
"Did... she say anything?"
"Didn't have to," said Jim slowly shaking his head. "Didn't have to. I just knew. And she wanted you to know that. And that she didn't do it."
The words burned a hole straight from Mitch's heart to his brain. Deep relief and grief at the same time. A new kind of burning anger would come later.
"I felt your prayers, buddy. Like a lifeline - a rope. I followed it back.'
With an extra squeeze to Mitch's hand he said "You have to go now."
"Why now?" Mitch asked, perplexed.
"Trust me on this," Jim replied.
Jim squeezed Connie's hand next and turned his focus on her. They were both crying. The new nurse whispered in Mitch's ear. "Come on, I'll show you the way out."
Mitch followed the man into the hallway, past the nurses' station and through the powered doors. A few paces further he reached for a door handle. It looked like a broom closet or an exit to a stairwell
"Be careful," said the nurse in a serious tone.
"Do I need to watch my step?" asked Mitch as the door opened, flooding light into the hallway.
"There are no missteps in God's plan, Mitch," said the nurse and he stepped out into the light, covering his eyes. He heard the door close behind him and the sound of construction everywhere. His eyes were beginning to adjust to the sunlight when he heard a familiar voice.
"Mitch? There you are. You're beginning to worry me. Here's your lunch. Cold now. I was getting tired of waiting for you."
C.R. hit the keyfob and the door locks popped up. He climbed in. Mitch stood there for a moment staring at his DQ bag. Finally, he grabbed the passenger door handle and stepped into the car.
"You wanna explain yourself, bud?" C.R. continued.
Mitch nodded his head. He was thinking of the nurse. How did he know my name? "We've got a lot to talk about. Just let me get a bite first."
Mitch dove into his lunch sack.


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