By Mark W. Meier
Windowed The Soul
Monday brought tests. There was an MRI, an EEG, blood draws, and a whole gamut of poking and prodding only performed to satisfy attorneys and keep lawsuits at bay.
I watched. And waited.
You’d learned that the log had peeled back a piece of your scalp and cracked your skull. The pieces were all still in place. No bleeding in the brain, either, so beyond stitching the flap of skin back in place there was no surgery planned.
For some reason nobody could recall Judge Boynton being there. Their only recollection was a local fisherman had pulled you from the water and taken you to Polly’s Landing. An ambulance had arrived a minute before the flat bottomed boat.
By evening you were bored out of your skull. I chuckled at the irony of that phrase. A television on the opposite wall was tuned to a classic television network, but Dobie Gillis made your headache worse. You turned it off, preferring silence over the dialog of Maynard.
The beagle’s phone had buzzed maybe a dozen times during the day, so when the examinations ended he stepped into the hallway to take care of Grambic Tiles.
An hour later he returned.
You asked, “How’s business?” Did you even realize it sounded like “Howe’s business?”
“Everything is going well, Mr. Grambic. The required permits in Dannacona will all be approved unless something unusual comes up. About half of our valuable employees from Paris were enticed to move to Canada. Perhaps five of the less-than-valued will relocate on their own. The Paris police determined the culprit of the explosion, but he’s fled outside the EU. Stock prices dropped after the explosion, and again after your accident Friday. Word of you waking up has pushed the price back upward. Unless there’s another issue, analysts say Grambic Tiles will fully recover by mid-summer.”
For some reason you didn’t care about stock prices. Altruism? Perhaps. Even I couldn’t make concern for your employees drop lower on your priority list.
You breathed a sigh of relief. The survivors of the explosion were all taken care of, with some in the process of joining your new plant when it started up.
“Victor, is there anyone asking for me?”
You succeeded in keeping your voice level, but I knew you well enough by now to interpret it as whining. You already felt nearly useless at work, and the emptiness yawned beneath you. Nobody but the beagle saw fit to be at your side.
“Terrance Yang called to see how you’re doing.”
“He’s only worried about his ten percent share of the company.” You stretched. The pain you’d felt before had faded through the day.
“I told him you were willing to buy him out.” The beagle grinned. “With the price drop you could have picked up his shares at a bargain. But he said he’d hold on to them.”
“What about Amy?” You wondered if your cousin even knew you existed. If so, you doubted she’d cared about what happened to you.
“Nothing from Iowa.” The beagle frowned. He didn’t like your thoughts of someone so far beneath you.
You reached up to touch the bandages above your right ear and winced. That was still tender, but you’d had no pain relievers for more than six hours. “Ring the nurse. I’m leaving.”
A moment later you pulled the clip off your index finger, then peeled back the sticky pads holding the heart sensors. The display over your head flatlined and shrieked in protest, but you swung your feet over the edge of the bed. You wobbled, but managed to sit upright.
The day nurse knocked and entered, her face white with panic. When she saw you sitting she took a deep breath. “You shouldn’t be getting up yet, Mr. Grambic.”
“I’m not going to spend another night here. If I’m going to be useless, I might as well be home.”
The beagle opened the cabinet he’d stocked with a pair of your shoes, new sweatpants and a sweatshirt. You’d never worn anything like them since before your father had died, but they were loose-fitting and easy to get into. Underwear and stockings were from your home supply. The slip-on shoes were probably as new as the sweats.
“I have to insist, Mr. Grambic.” Day Nurse did her best to look stern. “You’ll have to stay until the doctor releases you.”
“I’ll be leaving. I think you call it AMA, ‘against medical advice.’ You can help me get dressed or stay out of the way. Your choice.”
Day Nurse scowled and crossed her arms, but otherwise remained still and silent.
The beagle gathered your few belongings, and the two of you brushed past the fuming nurse. She followed and gave a hand signal to the duty station.
A short spitfire of a head nurse stepped away from the desk and blocked your path. “If you’re leaving, you have to sign out.” Her expression brooked no dissent.
Your gait faltered. Attitude went a long way in dealing with people, and she had enough to stop a train. Her arms akimbo, creased forehead, and a steely gaze all contributed to the overall “don’t mess with me” and took it to new heights.
You hesitated a moment. “Very well.” You stepped to the desk and leaned, grateful for a brief respite. “Where do I sign?” Depression bayed in the back of your mind. Those were the hounds I wanted you paying attention to, not the beagle.
At the valet station outside, the beagle led the way to his car and opened the door for you. Exhausted, you nearly collapsed into the passenger seat. He handed the valet a pair of bills and closed your door.
The beagle climbed into his side of the car. “Mr. Grambic?” He started the engine. “I think you should change your will.” He pulled away from the hospital entrance.
You closed your eyes, wanting nothing more than to sleep. “Why do you care about my will, Victor?”
“Sir, you almost died.”
“That’s why I’m leaving everything to my cousin Amy.” You paused as your head throbbed. “You’ll be taken care of, Victor. No need to worry about that.”
“That guttersnipe in Iowa won’t have any idea what to do with wealth, sir. Handling a multinational corporation would be so far out of her wheelhouse as to be ridiculous.”
“She’s my only living relative, Victor.” Lassitude clawed at you. “Who else would I leave everything to?”
You were so insulated from the way the world worked you never suspected the beagle might be after your wealth. “Just let me sleep. Wake me when we get home, Victor.”
The trip from Clarendon Memorial Hospital to the interstate didn’t take long, but you were asleep before the beagle took the entrance ramp. Minutes later the car crossed over Lake Marion within sight of where your life almost ended.
You passed through Santee, South Carolina, at midnight. You’d probably have slept the whole two-hour trip except for the beagle swearing, followed by the grinding vibration of antilock brakes.
Your eyes opened to high beams glaring into the Honda Crosstour from behind. One car flashed past in the left lane, then the one which had nearly rear-ended the beagle’s car changed lanes and accelerated into the wake of the first. Seconds later a third car rocketed past, then three more in rapid succession.
You blinked in confusion for a moment as the beagle swerved back and forth in his lane as the Crosstour slowed to a stop.
Then you smiled in appreciation as taillights faded in front of you.
The blue and red flashing lights of a police cruiser appeared behind you, and followed the speeders toward Georgia. No chance he’d catch them before they crossed the state line.
As you watched darkness swallow their tail lights new orders came to me from the Brotherhood. The timeline was set.
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