tagNovels and NovellasReplacement Therapy Ch. 03

Replacement Therapy Ch. 03


Chapter 3: Yoyo, DeDe, and Captain Kirk

Thank god it was dark when I tried to open my eyes. I was floating around in some never-never land. I could feel pain, but it wasn't acute. It was my eyes that hurt the most. They were like two steel ball bearings, rolling around in the bottom of a tin can. Even the slightest movement of my head would set them off again.

I tried to form a coherent thought. Where was I? What had happened to me? I was lying on a cool, firm surface, trying to concentrate. There was a cover over me. I could feel it. Was I dead? No, the cover stopped at my chest. My chest. I could feel the pain just below the surface. Why wasn't anyone here? Was this a morgue? I had to make someone understand ... I wasn't dead.

I lay there, trying to assemble the information I had available. I was alive, it was dark, I was on some kind of a platform, I was hurt, but ... what else? At some point I could hear noises. Footsteps, I thought. That's good. Someone is coming for me. But they never did. And little gong sounds every now and then. What did it all mean?

I drifted off again into that wonderland of dreams. Strange dreams with shiny boots and pavement, three boys and a little girl. A very lovely woman, dressed in dark red. She looked happy. She was saying "Call me," as she faded away.

It was light the next time I tried to open my eyes. It seemed to take a herculean effort to accomplish that little task. As my eyes focused, I recognized I was in a room, a pale green room. There were things attached to me. Tubes and wires. Someone was calling me.

"Wake up, Mr. Prentice," a soft female voice called from a distance. "Time to wake up."

I turned my head slightly. She was dressed like a nurse. If she was a nurse, I was probably in a hospital. That made sense. I felt the cool dampness of a cloth wiping my face. It didn't hurt. It felt like it was the only place on my body that didn't hurt. I tried to speak.

"Whaa ... hawww," I heard myself croak.

The young woman held a cup with a straw and put it into my mouth. Instinctively I began to draw on it. It felt good. Cool and wet, just like the cloth. I could swallow. It didn't hurt. Another good thing. I tried again.

"How ... wha' happen?" I managed finally.

"I don't know, Mr. Prentice. The doctor will be along soon, and he can tell you," she smiled. She had a nice smile. It was just like another smile I remembered. The lady in the red dress. She smiled like that. I felt better. As long as I didn't move, I felt better. I drifted off again, skimming like a porpoise, in and out of consciousness.

"Mr. Prentice ... are you awake?" This time it was a male voice. I forced my eyes to open, in spite of the pain.

"Ya," was all I could manage. The young nurse appeared from nowhere and offered the straw to me once more. I sipped and felt my throat loosen again.

"Where am I?" At least I was making verbal sense now.

"Sutter Medical Centre. I'm Doctor Mike Davis. Glad to see you back in the land of the living," he said. It sounded like he thought it was humorous.

"Barely. What happened?"

"You were attacked, apparently. You were beaten by one or more people. Very badly beaten, as it turns out. You have a concussion, several cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, and possibly a damaged spleen. You're going to be here for a while."


"I don't think so. When they admitted you, you still had money in your wallet and your pants pocket. I'll leave that to the police though. They'll want to talk to you when you're up to it."

"When did this happen?"

"The night before last. We've had you on sedatives to keep you from feeling too much pain. That's still to come, I'm afraid."

"Oh goody," I croaked. Again the straw magically arrived at my mouth and I sipped more water.

"What do you remember of that night, Mr. Prentice?"

"I remember taking my lady friend home and driving back to my apartment. Nothing after that, though."

"Do you remember your address and phone number?"

I recited them, knowing they were correct.

"Do you have any next of kin here in Yuba City?"

"No ... no one. I work at Big Valley Box. I'll need to let them know what happened to me."

"We'll look after that for you. What about friends. Whom should we contact?"

I gave them Johnny Gordon's phone number and then, I knew there was one other person I need to inform.

"Please call Mrs. Yolanda Michaels. She lives on St. Mary's Road. She'll be in the book," I gasped, having used up just about all the energy I had.

"Fine. We'll have someone contact them. In the meantime, the good news is that you seem to be fine as far as memory goes. I'm sure your head doesn't feel good thanks to the banging it got and the pain suppressant we've been feeding you. We'll start to wean you off that as soon as we can."

"Okay. Thanks." That was it. I was slipping away again. Too much work to stay awake.

I woke in the middle of the night. The room was dark, but I could make out shapes from the light coming through the venetian blinds. My door was closed and it was silent. I was sweating and I knew I needed to pee. I couldn't find the call button. I didn't want to wet the bed. I went to touch my penis and hold it closed when I discovered a tube leading from the tip. A catheter. I relaxed and let go. It was painful, but it was a relief.

The dreams were back again. The shiny boot. What the hell was that about? It didn't connect to anything. I knew who the lady in red was. That was Yolanda, and I wasn't imagining it when she kissed me or when she asked me to call her. Those weren't dreams. Those were memories. Very nice memories. Eventually, I drifted off again, conscious of more chest pain now. Broken ribs, I remembered.

The pretty young nurse had been replaced by an older, stouter woman when I awoke the next morning. Breakfast looked pretty unappetizing. I was hungry, but I didn't usually start my morning with Jell-O, something that might have been Cream of Wheat and tea. I complained to the nurse. She gave me a dirty look, admonishing me that this is what was called for, and it was all that I was going to get. So much for customer service.

According to the big clock on the wall it was ten o'clock when I got my first visitor.

"Good morning, Mr. Prentice. My name is Detective Sergeant Lofthouse. I was hoping you might be up to answering a few questions."

"I'll try. I don't know what I can tell you, though. I don't remember much that happened that night."

"I understand. Perhaps it would be better if I told you what we know."

I nodded carefully.

"As far as we can determine, you were attacked sometime near Friday midnight. You weren't discovered until the next morning when one of your neighbors found you lying beside your car, unconscious. He called 911 and they brought you here.

"Your wallet and keys were still in your possession and your car hadn't been touched, so robbery didn't seem to be the motive. That leaves other possibilities, of course. Can you think of anyone who would want to do this to you?"

"No ... no one. I didn't think I had any enemies."

"Okay. Where were you that night?"

I explained the dinner date, the dancing, and bringing Yolanda home before heading back to my apartment.

"Is Mrs. Michaels married?"

"No ... I mean ... she's a widow. Her husband was killed in Afghanistan."

"Maybe a jealous ex-boyfriend, trying to warn you off?"

"I'd be surprised. She's been pretty much on her own, trying to keep her kids and home together. She hasn't had time for a boyfriend."

"Until you came along?"

"I guess. I've been helping her out with things. You can ask her. She'll tell you."

"Anything else you can think of?"

"I'm sorry, Detective, it happened so fast. I didn't get a look at him."

"Him? You think there was just one assailant?"

I closed my eyes, trying desperately to remember. "That's my impression. I don't exactly know why, but I think it was just one big guy."

"Big? You think he was big?"

Again, I tried to recall what was going on in those few semi-conscious seconds. "Yeah. Big hands, big feet. Wait ... big feet in big boots. Big polished boots." I now knew where the image of the shined boots came from in my dreams. It was virtually the last thing I saw before I passed out from the attack.

"What kind of boots? Hiking boots? Workman's boots?"

"Combat boots. Big, black, polished combat boots."

"Well, that's something. A start, anyway. Anything else? Did he say anything when he was attacking you?"

"I think he did, but I couldn't make head or tail of it. He was warning me, I think. That's what I thought it sounded like. But, I don't remember any words that come to me right now."

"Okay, Mr. Prentice. You've done a lot better than I expected. If you can remember anything more, I'll leave my card and you can call me. If I don't answer, just leave a message. I'll be around."

"Thanks. Good luck. I hope you get this guy. I'd love to know why he would pick me out for this. Maybe it's just a case of mistaken identity," I suggested.

"Maybe ... we'll see. In the meantime, relax and get well. I'll keep you up to date."

"Thanks again," I offered. He seemed to be very thorough, and there was some hope he might be able to find the guy that attacked me.

He'd barely cleared the door when my next two visitors arrived. Yolanda and Meg. They approached me, trying desperately to smile, but I could see Yolanda's lips quivering. I reached out to her, and she took my hand.

"How are you, Aaron? I was so scared when I heard what happened to you," she said, her face a mask of concern.

"I've been better," I joked with a smile. Hi Meg. Nice to see you both. Where are the kids?"

"In school," Yolanda answered with a strange look.

"What day is it?" I asked.

"Monday. It's Monday." I could see more worry on her face.

"Oh yeah ... I forgot. I was out of it for a couple of days. I kind of lost track of time."

"What happened? We were told someone beat you. Is that true?" Yolanda asked, still with that worried look.

"I'm afraid so. I have no idea who, though. As I told the detective, I didn't think I had an enemy in the world. I'm wondering if it isn't a case of mistaken identity. If it is, I'm going to have to get a disguise," I cracked. That got a smile from Meg, but not from Yolanda.

"Relax, Yolanda. I'm not on anyone's 'Most Wanted' list. The police will get to the bottom of it."

She didn't seem convinced.

"I guess this means we won't get to go dancing for a little while," I said to her.

At least that brought a smile. "No ... but when you're better we will," she promised.

"The children will want to visit you, Aaron," Meg said.

"I'd love to see them. That would be good medicine all by itself. Just like having you two here today. It's a great motivator to get well. That ... and hospital food."

"Maybe I'll smuggle in something for you," Meg suggested.

"Mother! You'll get us in trouble and then we'll be barred from visiting." She sounded half serious.

"Oh ... can't have that," I said. "I'd rather suffer the food than not have you two lovely ladies come and visit."

I saw a sarcastic smirk on Meg's face, but Yolanda was smiling.

"Deanna has been very upset that you were hurt. She's very worried that you're not going to live. I've been trying to reassure her, but I think if she saw you, she'd know you'll get better," Yolanda said.

"She's a sweetheart. You have done a very fine job raising those two youngsters."

"I'll bring them with me this evening. We won't stay long, it's a school night."

"Thank you, Yolanda. I'm feeling better just knowing you and your family are here. It's good for the spirit."

That afternoon, I had a couple more visitors. Johnny Gordon showed up just after lunch time, and we shot the shit about what was going on at the office. It seemed that the girls had rallied to my support, and everything was in hand. I didn't know whether that was good news or bad. Maybe they didn't need me after all.

My boss, Doug Howell, dropped in just after five that afternoon. Again, he was concerned about my future health, but I think I put his mind at ease. It might take a bit of time, but I was going to be okay, according to my doctor. We talked about the attack and what might have caused it, but neither of us could come up with a working theory on that.

I was having trouble getting comfortable. True to his word, Doctor Davis had been gradually weaning me off the pain medication. Unfortunately, the discomfort level was going up in direct proportion to the reduction in "Joy Juice." It was my ribs that were the worst, naturally. Every time I tried to move, I was reminded of their damaged state. And I wasn't anxious to take any deep breaths.

To compound it, my back hurt like hell, a consequence of the damaged kidneys, my doctor announced. I had a ways to go before I was going to be able to look after myself. Fortunately, this was only day three, so I shouldn't be in too much of a rush.

As a consolation for my limited activity, my room came with a TV and a remote control. I discovered quickly that daytime TV was truly Newton Minnow's "Vast Wasteland." What was true nearly fifty years ago was no less true today. I became a "news junkie."

It was just after seven that evening that Yolanda led Deanna and Kirk into my room. Deanna had tears streaming down her face, and she broke away from her mother to rush to my bedside. She grabbed my arm and buried her face in it, thankfully not putting any pressure on my ribs.

"Mommy said a bad man hurt you. I was scared. You aren't going to die, are you?"

"No, sweetheart, I'm not going to die. I'm going to get better so I can come and visit you. Then we can go out when you ride your bike in the park, and we can go to the zoo."

Kirk was looking at me with a strange face that I couldn't decipher.

"Hi, Kirk. How are you?" I guess my voice sounded a bit week. I deliberately didn't try to talk normally because it hurt. Damn near everything hurt.

He strode over to my side next to Deanna. "Did you beat that guy up, Mr. Prentice?"

"No, darn it. I didn't get a chance. He got me from behind when I wasn't looking."

"That's not fair," he said with fervor. "That wasn't a fair fight."

"You're right, Kirk. It wasn't fair, but the police are out looking for him. If they catch him, they are going to arrest him."

"Will they put him in jail?" he asked, wide-eyed.

"Yup. For sure! Then he'll be sorry," I said in a half grin.

"Mr. Prentice, can I tell you a secret?" Deanna asked.

"Of course. I'm good at keeping secrets."

She leaned into me and whispered in my ear. "My daddy used to call me DeDe. You can call me that if you want." The tears had ceased, but the tracks were still visible on her angelic cheeks.

"Thank you, Deanna. But if I call you that, won't everyone know our secret?"

She looked around the room and turned back to me. "It's okay. Mommy knows about it."

"All right then ... DeDe it is."

I got a thousand watt smile for that, and I gently squeezed her hand in thanks. She couldn't possibly know how much she lifted my spirits just being there. I looked up at Yolanda, and she had a smile a mile wide as she listened to us. I had the feeling she was as energized with this visit as I was.

"So DeDe, what's Kirk's special name?" I asked, not wanting to leave him out of the conversation. He had been listening, but not saying much.

"Daddy called him Captain Kirk. He was too little to know much about it. Daddy said it was the name of a guy on TV."

"Oh yeah ... I think I know who he meant. Captain Kirk was a very brave man who commanded a star ship in outer space."

Kirk beamed with pride.

"What about Mommy? What was her secret name?" I asked, knowing I might be on dangerous territory.

"It's a funny name. Daddy called her Yoyo. Isn't that funny?"

I caught a glimpse of Yolanda, and she was flushed pink with that revelation. I, on the other hand, had something confusing my thought patterns. I quickly lost track of our talk. Something had been said that triggered a memory -- a memory from that Friday night. I fought to catch up to the conversation.

"Are you going to be in here a long time, Mr. Prentice?" Deanna asked.

"I don't think so. Maybe two more weeks before I can go home. I don't know for sure."

"How long is two weeks?" Kirk asked.

"Two more Sundays," I replied. "Not very long."

"Children, that's enough for now. You're tiring Mr. Prentice out. Why don't you wait in the hallway for me? I'll be right out in a minute," Yolanda said.

"Bye Mr. Prentice," they said in unison. I said my good-bye and watched as they trooped out into the hallway.

"God, those kids are something. You don't know how much better I feel having you and them around."

Yolanda moved over to the bedside. "I hope you're going to get better soon, Aaron. Mother and I have already made arrangements to look after you when you're released."

"You have? What kind of arrangements?"

"You'll be staying at Mother's until you're completely mobile again."

"I can't let you and your mother do that. That's far too much of an imposition," I stated fairly emphatically.

"Aaron ... it's payback time," she grinned. "For all those things you did for us that we didn't ask for, now we can do something for you that you didn't ask for. Understood?"

Trapped in my own plot. I tried to laugh, but it hurt so much that it took the humor out of the situation immediately. "All right. I know when I'm beat. But at least I didn't do what I did for you when you were in a weakened condition."

"I'm not so sure about that ... but we'll go into that later." She was smiling again, and then leaned down and kissed me. That feather-light, sweet, soft kiss that I remembered from our parting on her front steps.

"See you tomorrow," she said as she walked out the door to the hallway. The only part she missed was the "Call me." I was living that dream all over again.

The night nurse arrived an hour later and I remembered what I wanted to ask her.

"Nurse, there's a card from a police detective on the little table. Would you please take it and call him and let him know I might have a bit more information about my attack?"

She agreed and I thanked her.

Meg was my only visitor on Tuesday morning. Yolanda had a job to finish by deadline, so she wouldn't be by until this evening.

"I understand I'm going to be your house guest when they let me out of here."

"Yes. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't had a man in the house since Philip died over ten years ago."

"I still think I'm imposing on you, Meg. You hardly know me and you're opening your house to me."

"Oh, I think I know you well enough, Aaron. If my daughter had room, you'd be staying there, you know."

"I would?" That caught me by surprise.

"Oh, come now, Aaron. Surely you've noticed that all that effort you put into wooing her has paid off," she smirked.

"Meg ... I ... I didn't put any effort into wooing Yolanda. I mean, it was never my intention to pursue her. Everything seems to have happened by accident." I wasn't convinced that Meg believed me.

"Aaron, I'm sure you believe that, but let me assure you, it was an amazingly successful campaign. It was so subtle that I don't think Yolanda even noticed you were seducing her."

"Dammit, Meg!" I snapped, immediately regretting it as once again my ribs gave evidence of their damaged condition. I closed my eyes and willed the pain to lessen. It took some time, but eventually I could open them and try again to reason with this stubborn woman.

"Meg ... I think Yolanda is a wonderfully brave, attractive young woman. I admit, I want to date her. But it didn't start out that way. She needed help ... that's all there was to it. I never set out to seduce her, as you put it."

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