When We Were Married Ch. 06BbyDanielQSteele1©
September 23, 2005
My name is William Maitland. Officially I'm an Assistant State Attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. Unofficially I am THE State Attorney as far as day to day functioning goes, or I was. I think I must be dying. I've been shot by a crazed cop among a whole gaggle of other armed cops who weren't able to save me.
My friends, the few I have, called me Bill. My wife, when I had a wife, called me Bill.
I'm pretty sure the cop who shot me, Shawn Smith, who has made an unfortunate habit of shooting men in the back, got in a head shot because I'm bleeding like crazy, I can't see for the blood running in my eyes and I'm down on the ground. I'm trying to move but it feels like I can't move my arms and legs.
I wonder curiously how long it takes to die and wondered whether you really know what's going on as your life drains away.
I remember, somewhat incongruously, a great movie called "American Beauty" I saw a few years ago, which ends with the main character shot in the head and dying and he says the moment of dying lasts for an eternity.
In the movie the main character says that moment of dying is the afterlife and you spend an eternity reliving your life before the lights go out forever.
I wonder if that's somehow the truth of it and when I will start the long journey back through all the moments of my life.
It must have started already. Through a blood red haze, I see the features of the woman I have loved for 20 years, who convinced me she loved me and then destroyed me by giving her body and love to another man. It would be alright if I could relive the days when we met and when we had a happy marriage.
It's too bad I don't believe in reincarnation or second chances. If I could go back and learn from my mistakes I would never have taken a job in the prosecutor's office.
A man I respect told me once that we are all tools in God's hands and that I had served a greater purpose as a prosecutor by alleviating human suffering and balancing the scales of justice.
In God's eyes, he indicated, that role was greater than that of a husband to the beautiful Debbie and father to Kelly and BJ. I had sacrificed the chance of mere happiness to serve God.
I don't really believe in God and less in Heaven, but if I'm wrong and I wind up on a cloud somewhere staring up at the face of the Almighty, I already know I'm going to tell him to go fuck himself and just give me back the life he took from me, and if he's going to punish me for blasphemy, well let him try to hurt me more than he'd already done.
I don't think even God could do that.
I know he can't as Debbie's beautiful face comes closer. Tears stream down her face and I wonder if somehow I'm dead and watching from heaven.
As memories war within me, I know I hate her. God, how I hate her, but for now I'll just love her and her memory for a while. Maybe I'll just do it forever, if that "American Dream" flick has it right.
September 23, 2005 -- 8:12 p.m.
"Let go of me, you bastards, let me go."
She struggled against the two men grabbing her arms and trying to keep her away from the bloody scene on the FOP floor. One was black and one was white. She was crying; watching the figure she knew so well covered in blood and spasming on the floor under the grip of two or three cops trying to hold him down.
There were bodies all over. Bill lay there with his head covered in blood. A figure that must be Shawn Smith lay sprawled on the floor a few feet away. He was bathed in blood oozing from what appeared to be a dozen places. Fortunately, he lay face down because there was a large hole oozing blood and white stuff from the back of his skull.
A big black man sat on the floor to the right of Bill and the men with him. A white cop was holding him as he leaned back and another pressed his hand down over the black cop's hand pushing down on his abdomen as blood flowed out around their fingers.
A tall, thin cop with thinning brown hair was being held up by two men. He breathed in and out with gasping sighs. A big bald cop was saying, "Breath in and out, don't force it, Phil. You're going to pass out if you panic and you need to stay awake. Hang in there. Rescue will be here in a couple of minutes, no more."
Debbie tried to kick one of the cops holding her in the balls but he turned so her kick glanced off the side of his leg.
"Let me go you sons of bitches. Let me go. That's my husband."
The cop holding her left arm stared at her and for just a moment relaxed his grip on her and that was enough. She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and jerked hard enough to pull free of the other cop. She threw herself down on Bill's bloody body.
There was so much blood, so much damned blood.
Two of the cops that had been holding his lower body down fell back and she pulled his head toward her. She felt the mass of blood that made the back of his head slippery to the touch but she forced herself to pull him until his head rested against her shoulder.
"You fucking idiot," she screamed in anger and fear. "Why? Why?"
She almost dropped him, bouncing his head off the concrete floor, but she managed to recover and put her arms around him to cradle his head, letting him lean back so she could see his eyes open through the film of blood that covered his face.
"Bill, you're alive!"
"Jesus Christ," said one of the cops that had been holding his legs down. "Jesus H. Christ I thought you were dead. I though the twitching was your last dying..."
Bill looked straight at him and incredibly a faint smile flickered on his bloody lips.
He took a deep breath and blew out bloody bubbles.
Somehow she read his mind and knew what he was trying to say. Being married and together for 20 years made it nothing magical. She just knew him and how his mind worked.
"Greatly exaggerated...." She said.
He smiled at her and somehow that made the tears flow even harder.
A black cop moved her hands away from the back of his head and held a handkerchief to the bloody mess there. Patting away the blood revealed a long gash almost deep enough to put a finger into, running from near the right side of the back of his skull to near the right temple.
She couldn't make herself, but the cop pressed in and a moment later said, "It's deep but it didn't penetrate the skull. No messy brain stuff leaking out. Maitland, you're the fucking luckiest bastard that ever walked the earth."
"Then why..." she asked, unwilling to believe yet, to hope that what she saw wasn't the reality of it.
"There are more blood vessels and they're closer to the surface around the head, neck and face than anywhere else in the human body. You bleed a hell of a lot when you have a bullet put a groove this size in your head, but I don't think he'll bleed to death. We need to mop up the blood. I'll get some rags from the bathroom. We need to clean him up enough to make sure there aren't any more bullet holes in his head, or anywhere else. Can you keep him supported until I get back."
She didn't answer, just held him tighter in her arms. Even now, there was a part of her that was pissed off at him. Why the hell had he risked his life, risked the life of his children's father, the life of his ex-wife's ex-husband so cavalierly. It was as if he didn't care what he was risking, as long as he was "doing the right thing."
But those were only words. She had talked with him often enough about his last memories of his father's leaving to know why they resonated so deeply in his mind and heart. For good or ill, they had scarred and shaped the man he'd grown to be.
But, goddammit, she thought, at some point you have to grow up. You couldn't be a crusader going out to battle evil and not caring if you lost your life in the process. You could when you were single, but when you married, when you brought two lives into the world, you lost the freedom to throw your life away in grand gestures and it seemed like he'd never grown up enough to realize it.
She had only been halfway sarcastic when she referred to him as "Saint Bill," to her mother and children. She had thought sometimes that it was like being married to a secular saint. Everybody looking in from the outside would 'oooh' and 'aaahh' about how wonderful it was to be married to such a noble creature.
But what it meant in reality was that she had never had more than a portion of him. No matter how much he swore he loved her and their children, actions proved more than words. When it came to the way he lived his life, for the last ten years he'd shown over and over again that he cared more for living up to the mythic legend of his father than he cared for the welfare of the people he said he loved the most.
She held him tight to her chest, cradling his head against her breasts, and she knew that if they hadn't torn each other's hearts out he'd have joked about the chance to feel her up making nearly dying worth while.
But they'd never joke like that again. She could still hold him against her and be glad that she wouldn't have to call Kelly and BJ and tell them their father had died in her arms.
He was trying to twist in her arms and she tried to hold him still. She understood why the cops had been trying to hold him still. There could be other injuries, damage to the spine and the general rule was to keep victims as still as possible in such situations, but he kept twisting.
"Bill, try to stay still. Even if the bullets didn't hit anything vital" - and here she couldn't help smiling down at him "and if they only hit your brain they didn't hit anything vital - you shouldn't be moving. Stay still till rescue gets here."
He returned a weak smile and managed to raise one trembling hand and wiped at the blood in his eyes.
"I feel....like shit....and I'm dizzy....but I'm not dying."
She let him twist around and he saw the cops holding up the man they'd called Phil.
"Oh shit!" he said softly. "Phil! Phil!"
His voice was still weak but the big bald man helping to hold Phil up heard and pointed to Bill. Phil looked up, saw him and his eyes widened in surprise.
"I thought you were dead." His voice whistled as he spoke and then he coughed up blood. He was gasping for air.
The bald headed guy said, "One of Shawn's bullets must have collapsed a lung. At least he didn't hit his heart. He'll make it. We all thought you'd bought it."
Bill looked over at the black cop whose skin was starting to go a shade of pale gray while a current of blood kept gushing out around the white and black fingers trying to hold it back, now pushing hand towels against the growing tide of red.
The black cop looked over at Bill and shook his head.
"You know you're a real pain in the ass, don't you Maitland? Or a pain in my gut, anyway."
James took a deep breath, then spit on the floor.
"It's all on him, and he paid for it."
The big bald cop glanced over the bleeding corpse on the floor, then at Bill.
"You're alive because of Phil. I think his shot hit Shawn in the neck, enough anyway to where the bullet that was going to splatter your brains all over this room hit the back of your skull and skidded. But Shawn would not go down. He turned and hit Phil while I was pumping into him along with a half dozen others.
"He turned his gun on me and I thought I was dead when James hit him. We must have stopped firing because we didn't hear anything until Shawn stuck his Glock into James' fat gut and fired. When James fell back we unloaded and he finally went down. Son of a bitch. We had to put two into his brain to finally bring him down."
The bald cop looked at the body leaking body and brain matter onto the floor and Debbie thought for a minute a hint of sadness flashed across his face.
"He was a tough son of a bitch. Stupid but tough. Anyway, that's what I remember happening. Things were popping kind of quick."
Bill turned his head slightly and looked up at Debbie. She had grabbed a couple of paper towels and was wiping the blood off his face. He swallowed hard.
"Damn...I'm dizzy, Babe."
She made herself not respond. He was still in shock. 'Babe' didn't mean what it once had.
"You're going to be okay, Bill. You've got a hard head, but that bullet must have shaken you a lot."
He closed his eyes and then they snapped open as he stared into her eyes.
"What....what are you doing here, Deb?"
Her heart flipped in her chest. This was the question she feared. How could she answer it?
"I......Dennis Leary told me you were going to meet with the cops here tonight."
He was slipping back into that damned interrogator frame of mind.
"Why are you here?"
He wouldn't let it go.
"You remember I said you don't have the sense to be afraid of things you should be afraid of. I guess....I just wanted to be close by."
"And you were going to be my bodyguard?"
"No, you bastard. I...I was worried about you. You happy now? You got it out of me. I was worried about you. You've got two children that love you and you don't have sense enough to protect yourself for them."
"So you were here for our kids?"
"Why do you have to be a prosecutor right now, Bill?"
"I'm just trying to understand. Why are you crying for someone you don't love anymore?"
She closed her eyes and when she opened them the room was swarming with cops and rescue EMTS and firefighters and high level Sheriff's Office officials. Two rescue types were leaning down and trying to separate her from Bill but she held him tightly.
"I said I didn't love you that way anymore, Bill, not that I didn't love you."
They were pulling him away from her and she had to get out the last words.
"I came here tonight, Bill, because I know you. I know you better than anyone else. You did what you always have done because you're the kind of man you are. I just....forgot....who you were. For a while."
She released him, pulling her bloody hands away while two techs leaned him down on a rolled up blanket. She leaned over and kissed his bloody forehead.
"I'm sorry I forgot, Bill."
He looked up at her and for once she couldn't read him.
"So am I, Debbie."
Then the room descended into organized chaos as rescue personnel swarmed the three wounded men and tried to shoo away the men who'd been caring for them. Debbie stepped back and looked at her hands and dress. Jesus Christ she was a mess. In minutes she knew the television crews would be swarming outside. She needed to call Kelly and BJ. If they heard the first reports that their father had been shot and she showed up on a newscast covered in blood it would not look good.
As she watched the techs clean off his head and face, turn him gently and inspect him for other injuries, she could see that there appeared to be only the deep gouge from the right back side of his head running almost to his temple. It was a flesh wound. He'd live, and she realized she was just now letting out the breath she seemed to have been holding since the second she'd heard the first shots.
So the vision was false. It had seemed so real but it was just her mind playing tricks on her.
They had brought in rolling stretchers, lowered one and, with three men helping, lifted him onto it. Then they raised it to waist level and while talking on their radios began pushing him toward the entrance. She started to walk toward him then stopped.
When it was happening, when everything seemed to have changed forever, she had held him without thought. It was as if the last six months - the last four years - had never happened, but they had.
Now, as she thought about walking to him and holding his hand, she found herself wondering how that would look to the men around her. If they knew what had happened, would they think the spectacle of the cheating wife holding her wounded husband's hand was just a show for the crowd?
She walked beside him without touching him.
"Do you want me to ride with you - in the ambulance - to the hospital, Bill?"
He looked back at her walking slightly behind the stretcher.
"No, that's okay."
She'd expected it, but...
"I'll be okay, Deb. I want you to find Kelly and BJ. Let them know I'm okay. They're liable to say I'm dying on the television and radio casts."
He focused in on her eyes.
"I'm good, Debbie, really. I'll be alright. I won't be quite as cute as I used to be, but..."
If she had said what was really in her mind, she was afraid she'd break down again so she forced a grin and said, "Well, no great loss then."
He grinned back.
"Bye Deb. Kiss the kids for me."
Then they were pushing him out the front door and she was alone with a host of strange men. They were checking her out and, for the first time in her memory, it made her feel uncomfortable, but she walked over to where the big bald cop stood.
"I wanted to thank you, and tell your friend Phil thanks for me too. In case you weren't aware, I'm Bill's ex."
He stared at her and took in her breasts but the smile on his face didn't reach his eyes.
"I know who you are. I've seen you with him around the courthouse, before you screwed around on him."
"We got a divorce. It happens. But I still want to thank you for what you did."
He shook his head.
"I'm divorced. Most cops wind up divorced. Fact of life. But Maitland wasn't screwing around on you, best I hear. You screwed his head. I kinda blame you for this. If you hadn't messed him up, I don't think he would have come down on Shawn like the wrath of God. He might have been more of a human being."
She stared him down.
"Doesn't matter what you think about me. He has two kids that didn't do anything to your friend. Thank you for them."
She turned and walked out. If he had said anything in reply she didn't hear and didn't care.
September 24, 2005 -- 6 p.m.
I lay back in a hospital bed in the St. Vincent's Medical Center trauma ward. I was laying on my side which was not all that comfortable, because a fairly good plastic surgeon had stitched up the back of my head last night after they had brought me in.
The bullet that Smith had tried to put into my brain had come just close enough to breaking through my skull - about as close as the width of a sheet of typing paper one doctor had said - that they felt duty bound to run CAT Scans and MRIs and all that other crap to make sure there wasn't any damage up to and including possible swelling of the brain as a result of the trauma.
Then there was the little matter of a concussion and a coma after my defense of Debbie had nearly gotten me killed the first time. I hadn't thought about that in a long time and it had never caused any residual problems except for a tendency to get headaches if I spent too much time reading or didn't get enough sleep. But that's what they invented Tylenol for and I'd never worried much about it.
Another ongoing effect has been what they called painless migraines, where brightly colored light flashes migrate across my field of vision. These were also triggered by exhaustion or overuse of my eyes and I'd had doctors tell me they might be inconvenient but not dangerous.
However, the doctors who examined me in the St. Vincent's emergency room and the specialists up in the head trauma ward were concerned that brain damage could have been caused by the compound effects of the old and new traumas.
So, for the last 24 hours, they'd put me through every damned diagnostic test I'd ever heard of and some I hadn't. They'd sewed up the back of my head after implanting some artificial cow bone to fill in the large groove so I wouldn't look like a real freak, and kept me from having more than half an hour of uninterrupted sleep at any one time.