This is the last chapter of seven in Book 2 of the Charlie and Mindy tetralogy—which is a story of forbidden love between a brother and a sister.
While Book 2 stands on its own, it refers to events that took place in Book 1. Book 1 also contains some of Charlie and Mindy’s family history that bears on the story. You may therefore want to read Book 1 before reading Book 2.
This is a rewrite of a series I posted in the past and removed for a while.
Please leave your comments. I try to respond to non-anonymous comments within a few days.
…my head hurt, and someone was shining a bright light into one of my eyes. I blinked furiously to try to make the light go away. I tried to turn, but for some reason, I couldn’t move my head. My arms and my legs wouldn’t move, either.
A male voice said, kindly, “Relax, lad. You’ve hit your head pretty hard, and we want to be sure you don’t hurt yourself any more than that fall already did, so you’re strapped down. The bright light is because I’m double-checking your pupils’ responses.”
Memory flooded back. I remembered walking toward campus, The Doberman’s rage, his attack, my response, and…Mindy! a wave of terror ran through me.
“Mindy!” I squawked. “Where’s Mindy? Is she okay?”
I can’t remember ever being as afraid as I was at that moment.
“Who is Mindy?” the voice asked.
The light went away; after a few seconds, I could see that I was talking to a white-haired man wearing a doctor’s white coat. And I was lying on a table surrounded by a green curtain that hung from rails. I could hear a good bit of hubbub beyond the curtain. a lot of people were carrying on a lot of conversations, but I couldn’t distinguish any single voice. I gathered I was in an emergency room.
“She’s my sister,” I said. “Please! I need to know where she is and if she’s hurt. There was a dog…”
“She’s here. If you are who I think you are, she’s been asking the same thing about you ever since the medics arrived at the scene of your unpleasantness. We know all about the dog. She has some pretty unpleasant dog bites, and a couple of them bled quite a bit. But she’s going to be fine.”
I tried to get up, but he was right. They’d strapped me down so that, except for my hands and my feet, I couldn’t budge.
“If she’s hurt, I need to go to her,” I said. “Let me up.”
“Right now, we’re more worried about you than we are about her, so you’re just going to have to stay put for a while. She’s been hurt, but she’ll be fine—and we’ll see to it that someone tells her how you’re doing.
“You’re in the City Hospital Emergency Department, and I’m Dr. Morrow. We need to figure out how badly you hurt your head and if you broke your neck when you fell. We don’t want to move you any more than we have to until we have answers to those questions, so we’re going to get an X-ray machine in here and have a look. How do you feel?”
“My head feels like someone just stopped hitting it with a hammer,” I said, “But I can live with it. My neck hurts, too. And my left ankle aches a little.”
“Where does your neck hurt?”
“Around my throat,” I replied.
“I’m not surprised,” he remarked, reaching for something out of my range of vision. He held it up; it was my bomber jacket. He pulled the collar up so that I could see the underside and the throat strap. The thick leather had a definite chewed look, including several slashes and some punctures. And the button that had held the throat strap in place hung by two or three threads.
“The EMTs who brought you in said that you had your collar raised and fastened. Good thing. Because this collar was there, you’re just going to have some bruising. If you hadn’t raised it and fastened it, you might not have a throat now.”
I gulped; there didn’t seem to be much to say about that.
“I’ll have a look at your ankle. Meanwhile, can you tell me what year it is?”
That was the silliest damned question I’d ever heard—especially given the circumstances: My little sister was hurt and he wouldn’t let me go help her.
“It’s 1987, of course,” I said.
“Good,” he replied. “And what’s your full name?
I remembered what I knew about head injuries. Of course! I’d hit my head, he’d said—so he was trying to see how well I was thinking.
“I’m Charles Edward Magness,” I said. “I was born on January tenth of 1968, and I’m 19. My sister is Melinda Lee Magness. She was born on May twenty-first of 1969. She’s 18. And I need to go to her because she’s hurt.”
About then I remembered my manners. “Please,” I added, only a little bit late.
He smiled, for the first time. “You seem to be thinking well, and I don’t think we need to worry about a serious brain injury at the moment. Your pupils are reacting normally, and that’s another good sign. So is your concern for your sister.”
He put a couple of his fingers into my left canlı bahis hand and told me to squeeze hard; I did. He did the same thing with my right hand.
“That’s good,” he said, “That’s very good. Move your feet.”
I did that. He had me push against his hand with each foot, in both directions; I did that, too. He looked at my left ankle, and had me rotate my foot some.
“Excellent,” he said. “I think you twisted your ankle some. But there’s no swelling, and you’re moving it without trouble. It should be fine by the time we’re ready to let you go.
“I think it’s unlikely that you have serious spinal cord injury. But we need to be very sure that you didn’t break your neck when you fell; we always have to worry about that when somebody falls and knocks himself out. So I can’t let you get up until we’re sure. And you could have a skull fracture. That’s something else we want to be sure about. And there are some other things that aren’t so urgent now that you’re awake, talking, and reasoning well. We can think about those things later.
“Mindy wants to see you, too. All I can tell you right now is that we’re as sure as we can ever be about anything that she’ll be fine. I’m afraid you’re going to have to make do with that for now.”
A voice came from just outside the curtain. “Bob,” it said, “Is that the young man from the dog incident you’re with? Can I talk to him?”
“That’s one of the police officers who came in with you,” the doctor said. “Do you want to talk to him now, or wait until later. He’ll be pretty persistent, and you’ll have to talk to him sooner or later.”
Forgetting, I tried to nod. Of course, I couldn’t. So I said, “Sure.”
“Come on in, Andy,” the doctor said.
Andy turned out to be the police sergeant we’d seen at Burger Cheapie. He wanted to hear my version of what had happened. He wouldn’t say anything, himself, about it until he’d gotten the story from my point of view—and he seemed to be particularly interested when I told him that the gate had been open. He said that nobody else had known that.
When I’d gone through everything I could remember, I asked, “What happened to the dog?”
“Oh,” he said, “Li’l Abner shot the son of a bitch. Put a .357 Magnum slug into it. And that was that. Every cop in town knowed that dog, and we all reckoned one of us would have to kill it one of these days. I’m glad we killed it afore it killed a person—which, by the way, it come almighty close to doing to you and your sister.”
He told me what he knew of what had happened, and how he’d come to know it.
It turned out that several students had been on their way to Krojer. They had been nearly right across the street from The Dog House as Mindy and I had first attracted The Doberman’s attention. They’d seen the dog come bursting through the gate and pause. And they’d told the cop how I’d picked up that pipe while I pushed Mindy behind me, how I’d met the dog’s first attack, and how I’d fallen down doing so.
Andy and Li’l Abner—who had to be, and was, the giant cop who’d held the door for us as we left the burger joint—had no sooner stepped into the restaurant than they’d gotten a radioed request that they defer their supper to go and take a theft report. They’d been just about to get back into their car when they’d heard the dog’s ruckus. That hadn’t fazed them, being pretty much normal for the The Dog House neighborhood. Mindy’s scream had not been normal.
Li’l Abner hadn’t even looked at his sergeant when he’d heard Mindy; he’d just taken off at a gallop for the sound. Andy, who considered himself in pretty good shape for his age, couldn’t keep up with Abner—who, he said, was very fast on his feet in spite of his size. Andy rounded the corner from the parking lot several seconds behind Abner—but before the dog attacked, and in plenty of time to see me hit the dog, go down, and not get up.
“You hurt that dog considerable,” he went on. “You crippled it. It couldn’t use its left front leg after you whacked it with that there pipe. And it knowed who’d hurt it. It went for your throat right after you landed, and I thought for sure that you’d be dead afore either Abner or me could get close enough to do you any good. I seen you fall, go limp, and roll flat on your back, and I knowed you was knocked out. Thank God for your jacket collar and for your sister!”
As he spoke, I heard a commotion outside the curtain that supposedly provided privacy.
I already knew about the jacket. “My sister?” I said. “Mindy?”
He began, “That little gal is somethi—”
“I am not little!” came a familiar voice—a voice I’d never been happier to hear, saying the one thing that would reassure me more than anything else—from just beyond the curtain, from the vicinity of the activity I’d heard. She went on, and relief washed over me so that I almost missed what she said. “Charlie? Are you in there? Are you okay? They won’t let me see you!”
Somehow, I answered bahis siteleri her. “I’m fine. Except that I’m all tied up and being held against my will. There’s a policeman in here that I’m going to complain about that to. Are you okay? I love you so much!”
“I’m fine, too,” came the reply, the volume diminishing as they rolled her out of the department. “And I love you even more! But don’t waste your time complaining to that sergeant. He wasn’t any help at all when I wanted to see you.” She said something else, but a door closed and cut her off.
The cop grinned at the doctor and me; the doctor grinned back.
“Looks like, between these two, you got your hands full, Doc,” said the cop.
“This guy here sounds like his brain’s working pretty well, Andy. I don’t think he’s got any cognition problems at all. So I’m hoping we can get rid of them fast,” the doctor replied.
“You were saying about my little sister…” I prompted the cop.
“Lad,” he said, “That little gal saved your life. When you went down and that dog went after you, she picked up that piece of pipe you dropped, and she fetched that dog a wallop like you wouldn’t believe. She hit him right where you’d hit him, and that son of a bitch, he howled again and backed away from you.
“And then she stood over you with that pipe in her hand like a mother tiger protecting her baby. That dog kept slashing at her, and he chewed her legs up considerable—but she wasn’t backing down for nothing. And she give him Hell with that pipe, too. I don’t reckon I could of done much better my own self—except I’m stronger and I maybe could of hit him harder. And that animal probably weighed more than her.
“I been a cop for over thirty years now, and I don’t believe I ever seen the like afore.”
He looked me right in the eye, and said “Charlie…lad…you got yourself one hell of a sister. Might could be she’s a little gal on the outside, even if she don’t think so, but on the inside, where it matters, she’s every bit as big as Li’l Abner. And she’s got a lion’s heart.
“Even so, it’s a good thing me and Abner was close, because that son of a bitch chewed her up pretty good, mostly on the legs—and I’m thinking she couldn’t of stayed on her feet much longer. It took us less than a minute to get to you from that parking lot, but it seemed like a year.
“Li’l Abner, he got there first. And he just stepped in between your sister and the dog. And when the dog tried to jump him, why he shoved his gun down its throat and blew the son of a bitch to Hell.
“And when your sister seen that Abner was taking over the dog from her, why she dropped to her knees beside you and wouldn’t leave you till we hauled her away—and, let me tell you, it took some hauling.”
“She shouldn’t have had to face that dog,” I said. I was feeling a lot worse about that than about any of my injuries. “I feel really bad about that. I’m her big brother, and I’m supposed to protect her. If I’d done my job right she wouldn’t be hurt.”
“No-sir!” he replied. “You done your full duty. You only got in one lick, but it was a damn good one. I think you busted that dog’s shoulder when you smacked it. Li’l Abner hisself couldn’t of hit that dog no harder—and I’ve seen him pound a full-growed man through a wall with one punch. If you hadn’t done what you done, your sister couldn’t of held that animal off the two of you the way she done. You done your duty right and good—cain’t nobody ask a man for more. And if you hadn’t been there, your sister would be dead now. You saved her life, lad. You ain’t got nothing to feel bad about.
“I’ve been in this here protecting-people business for a long time now. It took me a while, but I’ve learned this: There ain’t no way you can get it right every time. And when you don’t get it right, it don’t necessarily mean that you didn’t try hard enough or that you done something wrong. It just means you cain’t always do it. Like Abner and me, we couldn’t get there fast enough tonight. ‘Twasn’t nothing we done wrong—we just flat couldn’t do it.
“You and your sister, you both done good tonight, and you’re both gonna come out of it okay. In the end that’s what counts. And it’s all that counts.”
“Where is Abner?” I asked, suddenly curious. “I’d like to thank him”
“He’s out in the cap’n’s car in the parking lot—filling out forms and explaining why he ‘discharged his weepon’. That’s how the brass hats say ‘shot his gun’. He ain’t in no trouble—there ain’t no doubt but what he had to do what he done, and the cap’n, he knows that. But the brass, they do like their paperwork.
“And don’t worry none about thanking him. It’s our job to do what we done.”
“Andy,” said the doctor, “When the captain is done with Li’l Abner, send him in here so we can look at his hand.”
“I’ll do that,” said Andy, putting on his cap to leave. He turned to me.
“Now you take care of yourself, youngster. And keep on taking care of that sister bahis şirketleri of yours. Cause she is surely going to keep taking care of you—and that’s a fact.”
And he was gone.
The doctor looked at me. “If Andy says that Li’l Abner shoved his gun down that dog’s throat, that’s exactly what Abner did. Along with his hand. And Abner isn’t the type to worry about ‘just a little old dog bite’. But they can get badly infected. That’s one of the things we need to be careful about with your sister.
“I’m going to leave you here for a bit, Charlie. I have other patients I have to attend to. But the X-ray should be here soon.” He smiled at me; it was an evil smile worthy of Mindy. “Behave yourself while I’m gone.”
As if, strapped down so that I could move only my hands and my feet, there was any trouble I could get into.
The X-ray did arrive soon thereafter—probably even sooner than it seemed to me. The doctor came back in after the tech had taken the pictures.
“The radiologist just arrived, and we should know soon if anything’s broken. My guess is that everything is fine—but the potential consequences of a bad guess are just too severe for us to take that risk. That’s why I called in the radiologist instead of trying to read the films myself. Just be patient for a few more minutes, and we’ll know what we have to do.”
And he disappeared again.
It was probably only fifteen or twenty minutes before he came back, but it seemed like hours to me.
He was smiling. “Charlie, the films show that nothing’s broken, so I’m going to let you leave. But there’s a catch.”
I looked at him distrustfully, even though an orderly had followed him in and was unstrapping me.
“What’s that?” I asked, probably in my most suspicious voice.
“You were unconscious for twenty to twenty-five minutes, which means that you sustained a pretty sturdy blow to your head. The goose egg on the left side of your head confirms that.” Having my arms finally loosened, I was in fact rubbing said goose egg somewhat ruefully as he spoke. “Do you know what a hematoma is?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I’ve had some first aid training from the Mountain Odyssey Learning School, and I remember that.”
“Good,” he answered. “They’re a good outfit, and they’ve been doing good work recently with backcountry first response—so I’m sure they covered this kind of injury well. But just to be sure, I’m going to review it with you.
“Sometimes, when blood vessels get broken, blood leaks out and pools in the surrounding tissue. That’s a hematoma. In most parts of your body, a hematoma is just a nuisance that your system pretty much knows what to do about. Once in a while, they harden and have to be dealt with surgically.
“But a subdural hematoma, or a hematoma between your brain and your skull, is very serious, because there’s only a limited amount of space in there, and your brain needs all of it. When blood tries to take up some of that space, it compresses your brain. That can have undesirable consequences—like death.”
“From my point of view,” I said, keeping a straight face, “that’s certainly undesirable.”
“Good,” he said, smiling. “We understand each other. There isn’t any way for us to tell if you have a subdural hematoma, but there is a definite possibility that you do. And they can be very insidious. If you have one, it’s altogether possible that you could feel fine for days, and then, without warning, collapse into unconsciousness.
“That would be unusual, but it does happen. Far more likely is that you would experience headaches that get worse over time, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, weakening on one side of your body, and/or unexplained drowsiness, before ultimately lapsing into coma. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said. “I remember what kind of trouble head injuries can cause.”
“Good,” he said, again. “Now if you should suddenly lose consciousness without warning, that would be a medical emergency you might not survive. But, as I said, that’s unusual—especially in a case like yours, because you weren’t unconscious for a half hour or more. But you need to be on the lookout for the symptoms I’ve mentioned. If you experience any of those, I want you to have a responsible person who knows about your injury take you to medical help immediately. And I do mean immediately, and not in twenty minutes or so. Have you got that?”
“Yes, sir, I have that. ‘Immediately.’ I would like to avoid undesirable consequences.”
“Exactly,” he said. “For the next five days, I don’t want you doing anything that would raise your blood pressure. No physical exertion. No sports. No sex—just tell your girl friends that they’ll have to wait a while. And, most of all, I don’t want you to be alone for any extended period of time for the next few days. I’ve just talked to Dr. Baire at the campus infirmary. We want you to sleep there, where medical personnel can keep an eye on you through the night, for the next five nights. We’ve done this before with students, because you find it more convenient, and the college hospital can follow you more cheaply than we can here. So your student health insurance likes that.”