Knox County Ch. 09byRehnquist©
Before I start this, the final chapter of Knox County, I'd like to make a few comments. First, my most sincere apologies for taking so long to get this out. Yep, six months is inexcusable, but funny how life gets in the way sometimes. Second, thanks to all who have read and commented, both good and bad. Hey, even bad criticism is better than none at all. Third, this is a first for me. I have tried to tackle some tough subjects and do so in a compelling, believable manner. To do so, I have had to juggle numerous major characters, and it was important to give each character a finish to their respective stories. Thus, the major reason this final chapter was so long in coming: It took at least eight tries to conclude this in a satisfactory manner and do justice to all of the characters. There will remain, though, some questions that remain unanswered. Some of the whys and hows and where-did-that-come-froms will be there. I am aware of most of them, and these gaps were left intentionally. Simply put, life doesn't have an answer to most questions. If you really want some of them, though, read this through to the author's comment at the end and I will fill you in on at least my thoughts.
KNOX COUNTY CH 9
Elizabeth was walking down University Avenue in Madison, on her way to her third, and last, class of the day. The autumn air was crisp, a gentle breeze making it seem cooler than the predicted high of sixty degrees.
As she turned to enter the massive building, her cell phone rang. She glanced at her watch, decided she had enough time, and grabbed the phone from her pocket. It was Aimee. She smiled and pressed the green talk button.
"Elizabeth, where are you?" Aimee sounded frantic, sniffling and excited at the same time.
"I'm at school," she said. "What's wrong?" She didn't have time for this.
"Elizabeth, you need to get to University Medical Center," Aimee said. "It's Sean. And Will. They've . . . they've . . . ." She heard Aimee's voice breaking, sobs overtaking her.
"What Aimee? What's happened?" Elizabeth felt queasy and dizzy.
"They've been shot," Aimee sobbed, and Elizabeth gasped. "They were flown out from the courthouse. They're going to University Medical Center in Madison. They should be there any minute."
"Are they going to be okay?" Elizabeth asked, dreading the answer.
Aimee's sobbing got louder before she could choke out her answer. "I don't know."
Elizabeth promised to meet her there, then she turned and ran the four blocks to her car.
Ten minutes later, she was in the lobby of the University of Wisconsin Hospital.
"May I help you?" a young girl behind the desk asked.
"My boyfriend's been shot," Elizabeth said, trying to speak slowly and relax her racing heart rate. "He's . . . they . . . helicopter–"
The girl nodded and picked up a phone, pressed three numbers, murmured into the speaker, nodded, and hung up. She turned back to Elizabeth. "What's your boyfriend's name?"
"Will. Will Sherman. He's an attorney in Knox County. Armitage."
"And your name, please?"
"Elizabeth Han. I'm his girlfriend."
"Ms. Han," a voice from behind her said.
Elizabeth turned to the voice. It was a woman, maybe fifty, with short, dark, curly hair and tired eyes. She was in green surgical scrubs. "I'm Doctor Reynolds," she said, keeping her hands unmoving and held up in front of her. "Come with me." With that, Doctor Reynolds turned and strode down the hallway.
"How long have you known Mr. Sherman?" the doctor asked.
"Maybe a year," Elizabeth answered.
"Does he have any allergies? To medicines? Penicillin?"
Elizabeth thought for a moment. "I don't know," she said. "He's never mentioned any." Elizabeth was trying to catch up and draw level, but the short doctor was nearly sprinting through the maze of hallways.
"Doctor, how is he? Is he going to be all right?"
Doctor Reynolds ignored the question, instead posing one of her own. "Do you know where his family is? How to reach them?"
"They're in Iowa. He's got a sister there; I have her number on my cell phone."
"Call her please. Get her on the phone." Doctor Reynolds reached a door and pushed it open with her hip, stepping inside and calling, "Nurse Wozniewski, come here please." Elizabeth tried to follow the doctor in, but she was stopped. "You can't come in here," she said.
"How is he?" she repeated.
The doctor's look became more weary. "I don't know yet," she said. "He's lost a lot of blood and they're prepping him now."
A tall, solidly built blonde man, about thirty-five years old and also in green surgical scrubs strode over. "Bill," the doctor said, "Ms. Han is going to try and reach some family. When she does, see if you can get a history, okay?"
The man nodded at the doctor, then looked at Elizabeth and tilted his head down the hallway. "Let's go outside," he said. "Cell phone reception is better." He grabbed a clipboard off the wall and led the way.
"The other man who came in," Elizabeth said, "Sean. How's he doing."
"Don't know," the nurse replied. "He's down the hall in the other operating room."
"Are they both still alive?"
"I'm sorry, but I don't know. I know the one in our operating room is still with us, but I don't know about the other victim."
The nurse opened a door and led the way out front. Elizabeth retrieved her phone from her purse and scrolled through the list of contacts. Finding SUE, she pressed dial. Sue Sherman answered on the third ring.
"Sue, it's Elizabeth. Will's girlfriend."
Sue's voice was cheery. "Hey Elizabeth, how's–"
"Will's been shot," Elizabeth said. "We need a–"
"Is he okay?"
"He's in surgery, Sue. They need a history. That's why I called."
"Where are you? Where's Will?"
"He's in Madison, at the University Hospital."
Sue was silent for a moment. Elizabeth figured she was calculating the driving time from Iowa City to Madison.
"Sue, they need that history," Elizabeth prompted when the nurse started tapping his pen against the clipboard. "Here, I'm going to put you on with someone. Answer his questions, okay?"
Elizabeth didn't wait for a response before handing the phone over to the nurse.
The tall man began asking questions, cradling the phone between ear and shoulder while checking off boxes and jotting down notes on the patient history. Elizabeth watched him, not paying attention to what he was saying. Rather, she was fidgeting, trying to keep her nerves in check until she knew more.
The nudge on her shoulder broke Elizabeth's trance. "Here," the nurse said, holding the closed cell phone out. She put the cell phone in her purse, then followed the nurse back into the hospital.
"Follow me," he said, over his shoulder. "You can wait in the surgical waiting room. We'll come get you when we know something, okay?"
Elizabeth nodded, not speaking. The nurse looked at her face and stopped. "Listen," he said, "relax for now. We know they were both alive when they got here, okay?" She nodded. "That means they've got a real good chance of coming through this, okay?" She nodded again, but his words didn't relieve her anxiety.
The nurse walked down the hall a little further before stopping and opening a door, holding it for her. She entered and saw Aimee huddled in a chair, crying while trying to brush the tears from her cheeks, answering questions being posed by what Elizabeth assumed was another nurse.
When Aimee saw Elizabeth, her tears increased. Elizabeth saw her try to say something, but no words came out. She looked so small and frail, helpless and alone. Elizabeth fought the emotions rising within her. She knew that battle was lost when she felt the tears streaming down her own cheeks.
* * *
Cynthia was dusting Sean's studio when she heard a phone ring in the hallway. She left the room and answered on the third ring.
"Mr. McMahon's residence," she said.
"Cynthia, it's Tim. Rogers. Tim–"
"I know who it is, Tim. What do you want." She tried to control her anger. She knew she shouldn't hate him. Her past was her own fault, and God knows she had little room to be judgmental on the matter. Still, she thought he was a complete pig for what he'd done to his own wife. After all, she'd just cheated on David with the one man–Tim–but he'd cheated on his own wife with a veritable harem.
Tim must have been put aback by the venom in her voice; the line was silent. Cynthia calmed her voice, speaking softer. "Tim, what do you want? Aimee's not here."
She heard an expulsion of breath. "I know. She's at the hospital. In Madison." Cynthia felt her hand clutching the phone tighter. "It's Sean, Cynthia. And Aimee's lawyer. Will."
"What about them?"
"They've been shot," he said. "George Silverman. He came at us as we left the courthouse today."
"George Silverman?" she said. She was confused.
"Long story," he replied. His voice was cracking, and she realized he was under a lot of stress. "Listen, I've got to go. They're interviewing everyone now, doing the investigation. I just wanted to call and tell you, see if you could call whoever you can think of for Sean and Will."
Before she could say more, Tim had hung up the phone.
Her first call was to David, who agreed to leave work immediately and meet her at home. Next, she phoned Roger Hollister's office and spoke with Emily. Emily's initial shock was soon replaced by chirping efficiency as she ran down a list of things to be done immediately. Finally, Cynthia tried phoning Elizabeth, but the cell went immediately to voice mail. She left a message imploring Elizabeth to call immediately. Then she set the alarms, locked up the house, and drove home.
An hour later, Cynthia and David entered the surgical waiting room. Elizabeth looked up, tears streaming down her face.
"Elizabeth," Cynthia said, walking to her and bending down, placing her hands on Elizabeth's knees. Elizabeth sniffled, trying to stop her tears. "Any word yet?"
Elizabeth shook her head.
"The police," she said. "They're interviewing her."
"Do we know what happened?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "Just that they were shot at the courthouse."
"By George Silverman," Cynthia told her.
Elizabeth had a quizzical look on her face at this; it was obvious she had never heard of George Silverman.
"Ms. Han?" a voice said behind Cynthia.
Cynthia turned around and saw a short, tired woman in surgical scrubs, a few smears of blood on her smock.
"Yes, Doctor," Elizabeth said, a hopeful look coming over her face.
The doctor made an effort at a smile. "He's out of surgery. The bullet's been removed, and the bleeding has all been stopped."
"Will he be okay?"
The doctor nodded. "He should make a full recovery."
"What happened to him?"
The doctor shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I can't really tell you more unless he or a family member consents."
"Where is he now?"
"Post-op recovery. He'll be there for at least a day."
"When can I–we–see him?"
"Give him a few hours to rest and come out of the anaesthesia. We'll send someone around to get you."
"What about Sean?" Cynthia asked.
The doctor looked at her. She pursed her lips and paused. "Well," she began, "I'm not in there. I do know, though, that his injuries are far more severe. He was hit twice, whereas Mr. Sherman was only hit once. He's still in surgery. Has anyone contacted family?"
A voice cleared behind the doctor. "He has no family," Cynthia heard Roger Hollister intone. "He does, however, have a medical power of attorney, of which I am the agent."
The doctor turned to him. Hollister handed her an envelope, which the doctor opened. She scanned the contents of the papers within, then handed them back to Hollister.
"I'll try to get someone out here to fill you in," she said. With a nod at the others, she was gone.
* * *
Ten minutes later, a plump man of middle years entered the waiting room. He pulled off his surgical cap and wiped sweat from his bald, shining dome as he looked around the room. "I'm here to discuss Mr. McMahon," he said. "Someone here is his agent for health care?"
Hollister rose. "That would be me," he said, reaching into his jacket and retrieving the form.
The doctor took the papers, scanned them, folded them, then handed them back to Hollister. "Is there someplace we can talk?"
Hollister looked around the room, at the expectant eyes and faces locked on him. He cleared his throat. "That won't be necessary, sir. We're all . . . how do I say . . . everyone here is Sean's family in one way or another. We're all he has, and we'd all like to know how he is doing."
The doctor scanned the faces, nodded, folded his arms, and leaned into the doorframe, crossing his legs as he did so. "First off, I'm Doctor Stanley Levin. I'm the Chief of Thoracic Surgery here."
David looked around, watching everyone's faces go grim at the same time. The chief of any department wasn't going to be good news.
"Mr. McMahon suffered two gunshot wounds. The first–at least what we believe was the first–entered his chest about right here," he said, placing a finger in the area of his left chest. "That bullet struck and broke the rib, then fragmented into three pieces. The two largest pieces lodged in his left lung, causing damage and bleeding. That lung collapsed shortly thereafter. The third, and smallest, bullet fragment caromed into the lining of the heart itself."
David's eyes were glued to the doctor. At the last bit, he heard himself gasp. Then he saw Aimee, standing just outside the door next to what he assumed were detectives. Her eyes were wide, tears cascading down her cheeks.
"The fragment had lost much of its velocity by that time. Thank God for that. It has caused some damage to the lining, but it was finally removed and the tear repaired about ten minutes ago."
"What about the lung, Doctor?" Aimee whispered.
Doctor Levin turned to Aimee, then turned to Hollister, raising his eyebrows.
Hollister nodded in response to the silent query. "You may speak freely with anyone here."
The surgeon nodded and turned back to Aimee. "When I left, they were trying to reinflate the lung. I'm afraid they're having difficulties. The damage there was extensive, and it could be awhile before we know."
Aimee's hand went over her mouth, choking back a sob. David watched as her knees began to buckle just as the taller detective behind reached out and grabbed her, holding her up and pulling her closer to him.
"And the second bullet?" Hollister said.
"Glanced off a rib," Doctor Levin answered. "Here." He pointed lower, in the middle of his abdomen. "Entered here, hit the rib squarely. Broke the rib, then exited here." His finger moved six inches around his waist toward the back. "We surmise that this is the bullet that struck the other victim."
At that, Elizabeth buried her face in her hands and lowered her head toward her lap.
"What's the prognosis, Doctor?" David said.
The man looked at him. "We don't know yet. There's been major blood loss, and the damage to the lung is extensive. Also, we don't know how much trauma the heart received. We got the bullet out, and we believe the damage is localized to the outer ventricular wall. Still, any trauma to the heart is serious and usually raises unexpected complications."
Doctor Levin raised his eyebrows and looked around the room to see if there were any more questions. Seeing there were none, he forced a tight smile. "I'll let you know as soon as–"
David heard a beeper sound at the surgeon's waist, then he saw people running down the hall behind him. Running, he realized, toward Sean's operating room. He heard Aimee scream and try to pull free from the detective as the surgeon looked at the beeper before turning and running after the others.
* * *
Elizabeth was standing out front, holding Aimee and watching Hollister speak to a bank of microphones that were being shoved in his face. It wasn't every day a major artist was shot outside a courtroom, she thought, and the jackals were trying to make the most of it.
"I am going to make a short statement about what we have learned. I will not be taking any questions afterward." Hollister reached into his pocket and withdrew a scrap of paper, stared at it, then stared at the cameras. "Sean McMahon and another man, a local attorney named William Sherman, were shot today as they exited the Knox County Courthouse."
"Do you know who shot them?" a voice called out from the back.
"Why was he shot?" another voice shouted.
Hollister fixed the crowd with an icy stare, and after a moment the reporters went silent.
"I have not yet spoken with Mr. Sherman's family, so I will not comment on his medical condition," Hollister continued. "I can tell you that Mr. McMahon was struck by two shots, one in the chest and one in the abdomen. The bullet in his chest caused significant damage to his lungs, and a fragment lodged in the lining of his heart. The second bullet glanced off of a rib, exited, and–we believe–is the bullet that then struck Mr. Sherman."
Elizabeth felt Aimee go stiff in her arms at the latter. She looked down and saw Aimee staring at Hollister, transfixed by the scene.
"The doctors and nurses here at University Hospital have worked valiantly on both Mr. McMahon and Mr. Sherman." Hollister looked at the piece of paper in his hands and cleared his throat. "We are told that Mr. McMahon's heart stopped on the helicopter ride to the hospital and he was revived. His heart again stopped at three forty this afternoon, and he was again revived."
Hollister looked up and stared at the crowd. Elizabeth saw a tear running down his cheek. He cleared his throat and started to say something. His lips moved, searching for words, but nothing came out. After a minute or more of total silence, Hollister turned and walked past Aimee and Elizabeth and back into the hospital.
The moment the door closed behind him, Elizabeth heard a frenzy of shouted questions from the press corps. She turned and watched them, disgusted. One reporter spotted her with Aimee. "Ladies," he called out. From the corner of her eye, she watched Aimee turn and bolt into the building, leaving her alone with them as they all descended on her.
Elizabeth could only stand rooted in place as the questions assaulted her. It was a high pitched drone, shouts and queries, and microphones were being stuck in close to her face. She couldn't move, and she found that she couldn't talk, either. She was frozen.
* * *
It was a dream, and she knew it was a dream. Faceless, sexless people in bloody green surgical scrubs darted in droves up and down the hallways, and she could see a mass of faces and microphones pressed against the glass doors, screaming questions and trying to get in. But no one would answer her questions. No one would tell her whether Sean was alive or dead. She was screaming at them, but they wouldn't answer.
"He's out of it," she heard a voice say, and she knew that he was dead. The voice was tugging on her shoulder, still speaking. Aimee was amazed she could hear him over the screaming questions and the constant loudspeaker messages and beeps. "Did you hear?" the voice continued. "He's out of surgery. They say he's going to make it."
It was Tim, she realized. What was he doing in my dream?
"Aimee," he continued, "c'mon, get up. Sean's out of surgery."
The screaming was dying away, and Aimee could hear him clearly now. She tried to open her eyes, but they were caked with the salt of a day's worth of tears. When her eyelids cracked open, she saw a blurry Tim kneeling before her. He was wearing his police uniform, but there was no badge or name tag.
"When did you get here?"
"Couple of hours ago." He took her hand in his. "Did you hear what I said?"
She shook her head, not trusting the dream.