CHAPTER 61 - THE OTHER SIDE OF GRIEF
I didn’t know what to do, where to look, what to say. I just ... I felt awful. Because, in the end, I was relieved.
It’s horrible to say, but I was relieved. Because my best friend was still alive. He looked terrible, it was a miracle he was still breathing, but he was still alive. Physically, at the very least. Because psychologically, emotionally, Jake was a wreck. And no wonder.
To calm him down and convince him to let paramedics take care of his wounds, we had to tie him to the bed, no kidding, and even that barely sufficed. The ambulance’s driver and I had to keep him still while he kept shouting. He refused every cure, every attempt the paramedics made at trying to patch him up. He only kept shouting her name, trying to go to her. It was a miserable sight.
I’ve never seen Jake like this. I’ve seen my best friend through the worst, but this ... this surpasses everything, even that awful night when he had that accident. He was out of himself, and believe me, that’s an understatement. Because for the first time in our 29 years of friendship, I saw Jake cry.
Jake cried not simply his heart out, he cried his whole soul out, his whole being. Having gotten rid of the paramedics, he dropped against the wall, bleeding and wounded, and cried, cried, cried. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do. What do you say to someone that’s just lost the love of his life?
It was somewhat easier the other times. I suppose because we were little, so we didn’t really think too much. But now ... after all he’s been through, after all that’s happened. I’m scared, you know. This time I’m truly scared. Because he may have resisted throughout these years, but this ... this is what’ll kill him for good.
I kneeled before him, shaking my head to the paramedic that wanted to try and stitch him up. “Jake, you need to go to the hospital.” I said calmly.
He shook his head, his hands dug in his hair, tears flooding. He couldn’t even speak, as shattered as he was. My own heart clenched for him. He didn’t even acknowledge the whole crowd of cops and paramedics around us, he simply didn’t care. And how could he? Silvia was his world, his universe. Upon losing her, Jake lost not just himself, but every chance of recovery.
“Jake ...” I called, daring to reach out for him, but he slapped my hand away. “Jake, please, let them cure you.” Nothing. “Jake ...” He might have opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn’t. Hell, he could barely even breathe. His sobs were suffocating him, his sorrow was devouring him whole, and I had no idea how to help him. “Jake, please ...”
“Go away.” He wept out, his voice hoarse.
“You know I won’t. Please, let me help.”
He shook his head, which he barely help up as it was. “You don’t understand ...” Jake sobbed. “She ...” He couldn’t speak, tears swallowed his voice as he dropped his head back against the wall. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how he felt. I know for a fact, that if I were in his shoes, if I’d just lost Serene, I’d react the exact same way.
But it remained that he ought to be cured, or else his wounds would kill him, too, and her sacrifice would be in vain ... hence, heaving a deep sigh, I called the two cops I asked the paramedic to talk to, and together the three of us seized Jake, immobilizing him, so that the paramedic could inject him a sedative. It was the only way.
While watching the cops lay down Jake in the ambulance, I inhaled deeply. I wish I could say this is an unprecedented sight, but ... let’s be honest, I’ve known Jake all his life, he and ambulances have bonded pretty well over the years. It was the first time they ought to sedate him, though. And I’ll never, never, for the life of me, forget the sight of my best friend crying.
He didn’t cry when his father committed suicide, he didn’t cry when his mother died while holding his hand. To him Silvia meant ... much more than any of us could ever even fathom. We all knew he loved her, we just never realized how deeply.
I’m scared, guys. I’m so goddamn scared. Because now, it’s more than me against windmills. Now it’s me against the love he nurtured for her, and if I know him one bit, he’s going to try to join her soon enough.
“Please, make sure he’s guarded 24/7.” I told the ambulance’s driver while the paramedics worked on my best friend.
“He’s fine, he’s sedated. We’re bringing him to-”
“No.” I looked him dead in the eye. “You don’t understand. He just lost the love of his life.” I sighed. “She died in his arms.”
The man eyed me intently, then turned to look at Jake, who’d been knocked out by the sedatives. “You think he might try to ...”
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I know him. I know he’ll do it.”
“Okay. We’ll tell the hospital staff to keep a close eye on him, but ... I think his wounds will keep him unconscious for a while.”
I nodded, and the man left to take his place at the driver’s seat once his colleagues told him they could go. I raked a hand over my face, and heaved a deep, deep sigh. This is going to prove much worse than anything we’ve ever been through.
“Have you told him yet?”
“How? He’s barely ever conscious.” I sighed, rubbing the bridge of my nose.
“Colin, you need to tell him. It’s the one thing that will get him back on his feet!” I knew David was right, but ...
“She’s in a coma, David.” I pointed out. “A coma that might be irreversible, doctors say. I can’t just get his hopes up, and then ...” I shook my head. “No. We need to focus on helping him heal. Then if and when ... we’ll tell him.”
“You gotta be kidding me ...” he scoffed. “Colin, he’s not gonna heal! Not this way!”
“They’re force-feeding him and force-curing him, so ... he will. He will get better.” I want to believe he will. I’m sorry for Silvia, I really am, but I need to focus on my best friend.
“This is insane ...” David laughed cynically. “You guys are insane. What does his uncle say?”
“What do you think? He’s the one that signed the papers.”
David furrowed his brows, I bet just as confused as I was when I first heard it from Mr. Watson’s lips. “The papers?”
I sighed, leaning against the window as I watched a nurse do a routine check up on my best friend. “Jake has been declared, legally, unfit to plead. Therefore his next of kin, aka his uncle, has legal authorization to make decisions on his behalf.”
“Why isn’t Serene his next of kin?”
“Mr. Watson legally adopted Jake and Serene before their mother committed suic-before she passed away, Jake was 16 at the time, so it did apply to him, too. Therefore, legally, Mr. Watson can be treated as Jake’s father, hence, next of kin before his sister.”
“And he’s the one that’s opted for treating him like a psychiatric patient?”
It’s hard for someone from the outside to understand the Watson family, I see that, but in times like these, all these questions are unnerving. “He’s not a psychiatric patient. They’re just ... more careful when it comes to his predicament.” That includes 24/7 surveillance and specific measures applied to him.
“He’s in a psychiatric department, Colin. Should I think you guys are considering locking him up in an actual asylum?”
I snapped to him. “Jake is not crazy.”
“Then why do you act as if he were?”
“We’re not ...” I sighed. “David, you can’t understand these things. You don’t know him, you don’t know his family ...”
“No ...” he looked me dead in the eye. “All I know is, that you’re keeping away from him the one cure he has. And I don’t understand why. All I know is that you’ve got his comatose girlfriend downstairs, yet he’s here, convinced she’s dead. Does that sound like a smart move to you?”
It isn’t. But there’s nothing I can do about it. His uncle makes the decisions, and even if try to talk to Jake, he doesn’t even listen. Hell, he doesn’t even hear me or anyone. It’s like he’s in a whole different dimension, one I can’t reach. I sighed, leaving my forehead against the window as I watched my best friend. He lies there, in that bed, all day, doesn’t close one eye, doesn’t speak a word. If he eats, it’s only because they feed him through a tube. God, he’s tied to the freaking bed because we all fear he might do something drastic if we let him. David is right, we’re treating him like a psychiatric patient. “I need to speak to him.”
“You just said he-”
“No ... not Jake.”
“What can I do for you, Colin?” Always that business tone, I hate it. Yet I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life being his inside man, his lackey. If Jake knew I’ve always kept his uncle up to date about his deeds, he would never trust me again. In my defense, I only ever did it to protect him. I could only ever help Jake if I had his uncle’s support, don’t you think? Money buys everything, and Mr. Watson has a lot of connections. It’s how he could discover where Jake and Silvia were in the first place, how he could so easily help police put away Sokolov and his associates ... perks of being the most powerful businessman in whole Boston.
I didn’t even sit, I stood before his desk, across from him. “For starters, you could visit your nephew at the hospital.”
Mr. Watson arched an eyebrow at me, his hand freezing before he could sign whatever paper. He dismissed his assistant with just one look, and she scuttled away. “My nephew?” Mr. Watson began, as if savoring the words in his mouth. “I have people that keep me updated on his conditions, Colin. I know how’s my nephew faring.”
“So you know he’s nowhere near recovering.”
“Doctors say it’s going to take time, but his wounds will heal, and-”
"Emotional recovery, Mr. Watson. And psychological.”
He sent me a glare, meant to warn me that he doesn’t like it when people cut him off, but I’ve known the man all my life, and even though I know what he’s capable of, I couldn’t care less. “That is not up to me, Colin. There’s only so much we can do. The loss of a beloved one is wrecking, but Jake knows how this works. He’ll pull through.”
“First of all,” I objected, taking a step closer. “He hasn’t lost her. The beloved one you talk about is three floors below him, lying in a coma.”
"Irreversible coma.” He corrected. “So she’s basically dead. At any rate, her brain is.”
“And you think he shouldn’t know that?”
“To make him go through the loss twice?” Mr. Watson scoffed. “I know you and my nephew tend to think I’m the evil ogre, but I only have his best interest at heart.”
“And you think that letting him lose himself in grief is gonna help?” I bit my lip. “Mr. Watson, we both know Jake. We know what he’s capable of ... what’s he’s tried to do more than once. Do you really want to see him succeed this time?”
“I don’t understand how telling him that his girlfriend is one unplugging away from a comatose life could help.”
“You could at least tell doctors to ease on the sedatives.” I sighed, rubbing the bridge of my nose. “Mr. Watson, Jake is not a psychiatric patient, yet you’re letting them treat him like one.”
Mr. Watson eyed me intently, that patronizing gaze of his that used to scare me when I was a kid. He took off his glasses, and put them down. “Colin, as of now, my nephew is a psychiatric patient. At this stage, he has indeed mental problems. Clinically, he his a masochistic sociopath that nurtures a death wish. That is why he is kept under control 24/7 and not allowed to leave his room. Also, I regret to remind you, but schizofrenia runs in the family.”
“Don’t bring Michael into this.” I spat. “It was only one isolated case.”
“They’re brothers. It makes it very likely.”
I slammed my hand onto the desk, tired of his poker face. “Jake is not schizofrenic. He is grieving! For the love of God, he’s convinced he just lost the one woman he’s ever loved! That’s bound to take a toll on him, especially after all he’s been through!”
“That’s exactly why he is unfit to plead, Colin. His mental conditions aren’t stable. He could be a threat to himself and others.”
This is ridiculuous. I gritted my teeth. “I know you had him declared unfit to plead, but-”
“That means exactly that. He has mental problems, therefore he is unable to make his own decisions.”
“For now. But-”
“A person that is unfit to plead is, as a matter of fact, a psychiatric patient, Colin. Didn’t they teach you that in Law School?”
I sighed. This man is impossible. “Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think that’s the best route to help your nephew.” I bit my tongue not to say it, but I had to. “And to be honest, it seems to me you’re only doing all this out of a business interest.”
“Excuse me?” He raised his voice, predictably getting riled up. He’s so like his nephew, both hot-headed.
“I don’t mean to disrespect you, sir, but ... we both know that, over the years, Jake has overlooked a big fat detail about the family business.” I left my hands on the back of the chair, just not to let him see they were clammy. “He’s never wanted anything to do with the company, therefore he failed to consider that, as a matter of fact, he is not your heir, he is your associate. He won’t come after you, he should have governed the company right alongside you.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, kid. You think I would-”
“Has Jake ever even taken a look at his father’s will? Does he know that Mr. Alexander Watson left his share of the company to his son? Does Jake know that, when he turned 21, he should have become CEO of Watson Holdings alongside you?” It was a long shot, but I had to try. I can’t just leave my best friend to be treated like he’s insane, while in fact he’s only grieving. If this forces his uncle’s hand, then so be it.
Mr. Watson stared at me intently, clearly mad, yet not showing it. He always gotta have that poker face. “Seems like Law School did you good, Colin. You’re finally growing a backbone.” He shook his head. “But are these the tricks your mentor at the law firm teaches you?”
“I’m not blackmailing you, sir. I’m only stating facts.”
“My nephew has never wanted anything to do with the company, but I’ve been forcing him. You think that’s the attitude I would have if I intended to be the sole king of our own kingdom?”
Okay. Time to play hard. I gripped the chair, clenching my jaw. “Does Jake know about the ... other business?” His eyes widened just enough to tell me he hadn’t seen that one coming. “Does your nephew know that doctors diagnosed you only 18 months to-”
“That’s enough!” He snapped, leaping to his feet and slamming his hand onto the desk. “My health is not your concern, Colin!”
“It is when you lie to my best friend.” I stared at him, challenging, because that’s the only way to get anything from a man like Keith Watson. Keep your head held high and fight back. “You were only bringing Jake into the equation because you thought you were gonna die, so you needed an heir, and quick. Now you’ve defeated your illness, or almost, so you can keep on being the sole king of this kingdom, as you said. Jake is more useful to you as a psychiatric patient locked away in some hospital. That way you get his shares, so-”
“Jake is my son.” Mr. Watson spat, enraged and outraged, effectively taking me off guard. “I’ve raised him as my son, and I ...” he clenched his jaw, averting his gaze from me, but I was in time to see the tears pooling in his eyes. “Jake is a son to me, he’s my family. And I don’t care if you think I’m doing wrong, all I ever do is to protect my son.” Not nephew, but son. He said son. For the first time in 20 years.
I didn’t think he would take advantage of this situation, I only wanted to nudge the bull, try to persuade him he was looking at this the wrong way. But now, standing there, watching the almighty Keith Watson turn his back to me, go stand at his window, just to hide the tears he couldn’t control, hit me. It hit me hard. I suppose that in all this mess I never even considered his side of grief. I only worried about controlling my own grief to protect Serene. I didn’t consider ...
“I’m sorry.” I mentioned. “I ... I shouldn’t have said those things. But ...” I inhaled deeply. “Mr. Watson, I do believe this is not the right way to help Jake ...” I neared him. “The only way to give Jake a chance to heal, is by relieving his grief. He needs to know she’s still alive.”
“She’s not alive, Colin.” Mr. Watson claimed, his voice low, I bet to muffle the tears he’d shed. It’s awkward when these tough men cry. Personally I couldn’t care less about looking manly, but men like Jake and his uncle, it only takes the greatest sorrow to break them like this. “She’s in an irreversible coma. Her brain is basically dead.”
“Well, yes, but-”
“She doesn’t respond to cures. She’s only there because she’s plugged to those machines. She is, as a matter of fact, a vegetable.” He turned to me, hands stuffed in his pockets, now that he’d regained his poker face. “Do you really want Jake to see her like that? Do you really want him to spend his life at her bedside, even while knowing full well that she’s not going to wake up?”
I suppose he wanted me to think it through, but I didn’t need to. “All I want is to give him a chance.” I said. “Even the flimsiest glimmer of hope could help your nephew in this predicament.”
“You don’t understand, Colin.” He sighed. “He cannot see her like that. Because he made her like that.”
I frowned, taken aback. “What do you mean?”
Mr. Watson heaved a deep sigh, and turned back to look out of the window, from where he could admire half Boston. “There’s an ongoing investigation, a case specifically dedicated to Miss Banchi. Police has been trying to piece together how did things go and, it seems, it’s not as self evident as we thought.”
“The charge is attempted murder.”
“You mean ...” Oh, shit.
“I mean Jake was there, he fought her, and there are 48 witnesses willing to testify that it wasn’t a show, he actually hit her, repeatedly and violently. There are 48 witnesses willing to testify that it was Jake to kill his girlfriend. And he may have not succeeded, even though she lost consciousness, so he was convinced he had, but he was indeed willing to commit murder, they say.”
“But it was a boxing match or whatever they call it. He fought, she fought. Isn’t that what police pieced together?”
“Sokolov’s illegal fighting circle is considered a separate case, Colin. Prosecution is focused both on that and on Miss Banchi’s case.” He said. “The main hypothesis is, Jake held a grudge because she broke up with him and had an abortion he disagreed with, so he took advantage of the fact that they frequented the same fighting circle to stage a fight. Sokolov’s spectators are willing to testify just that. That in that cage Jake didn’t relent nor held back. They say it started as a normal boxing match, but then Jake went berserk ... he beat Miss Banchi to death, while the witnesses yelled at him to stop. Sokolov and his men will say that they tried to get in the cage and stop him a few minutes before the SWAT barged in, but it was too late. Police found Jake kneeled over her, in fact, his hands covered in blood that they’re trying to prove matched Miss Banchi’s, not just his.”
“That means ...”
“It means that they’re investigating attempted murder, Colin. Well, they’re not doing much of an investigation, really. Like I said, there are 48 witnesses and, apparently, motive.” Mr. Watson sighed. “If I am treating him like a psychiatric patient, Colin, is only to keep him out of jail. As long as he’s in that state, as long as he’s considered unfit to plead and unable to attend a trial, Jake cannot be prosecuted. But they will find a way. And you should pray your God that nothing happens. Because if she dies ...”
“Then Jake faces life imprisonment for first degree murder.”