Even though Dr. Schneider had forewarned her, Kathryn's heart lurched and her knees turned to jelly when she saw Duffy’s chalk white face. Simon, obviously aware of her emotional state, moved one of the chairs in the room closer to the bed. She put her head in her hands and breathed deeply. When she was calm, she took Duffy's hand and began to quietly reminisce about the times they had shared. Thirty minutes later, she sighed and turned toward Simon. “I didn’t know it was going to be this difficult.”
“Trauma is never easy.”
“Do you think Duffy is on the ventilator because of the collapsed lung?”
“That would be my guess. As I understand the condition, air seeps out of the lung into the cavity between the lung and chest cavity. It's possible to inject a needle into his chest and drew out the air. I assume that was done as part of Duffy’s surgery.
“Maybe in Duffy’s case, he’s on a ventilator for multiple reasons. Why don’t you make a list of questions you want to ask Dr. Schneider?”
There was a knock on the door and one of the nurse’s entered. “I need to add medication to Mr. Duffy’s IV.”
Kathryn stood and pushed her chair out of the way. “He hasn’t moved.”
“His vitals are good. That’s a good thing.” When she finished with the IV, she turned to Kathryn. “Can you tell me who I should give his personal items to. We don’t like to leave them in the room because items sometimes can be lost if patients are transferred to another room.”
“I will be happy to keep them for him until he leaves the hospital.”
“Excellent. I need to get a release form for you to sign. I’ll be back.”
She was gone less than five minutes. She handed Kathryn a clipboard with a form attached and a plastic bag. If you will, check off the items on the list to make sure that they are all there. When you’ve signed the form, bring it to the desk. By the way, his shirt isn’t there. The doctor had to cut it off of him.”
Kathryn took the items out of the bag and placed them on the chair. She handed the list to Simon. "Want to check them off as I call them off.”
“After reading the word billfold, she handed the item to him. “I’m surprised the agents didn’t take his billfold. You might want to check for phone numbers, or other information that will help the investigation.”
"I'll let Al go through it."
The last item was a small envelope that looked like a thank you note or invitation. When she turned the envelope over, she was shocked to see her name.
“Simon, there’s a note to me!”
She ripped open the envelope and read:
If you are reading this note I am no longer among the living. Do me a favor for old times’ sake. Please contact my lawyer. He has power of attorney for my estate. He will make any arrangements that need to be made. His name and phone number are below.
When you are able to pursue your dreams, remember my advice. Don’t hold back. Reach for the golden ring.
Remember me fondly,
His lawyer’s name and phone number were at the bottom on the note.
Richard R. Madison
She handed the note to Simon. “Should I give the note to Al?”
“Officers are human. They speculate when they don’t have facts. Duffy could have written that note for reasons that have nothing to do with Springer. My advice is to call Mr. Madison and ask for his advice.
“Now, you should try to get some sleep. Duffy isn’t going to wake up any time soon. You will want to be alert when he does.” He handed her a pillow.
She adjusted the sleeper chair and pulled the light-weight blanket over her shoulders. “I’ll try.”
She dozed on and off through the rest of the early morning hours. When she woke at six-thirty, Simon wasn’t in the room. After checking Duffy’s vitals, she crossed the room and opened the door. Al was playing Solitaire on his phone. “What’s wrong, kiddo?”
“Don't panic. There’s no problem. He’s stretching his legs.”
She signed. “Oh. Sorry I’m so edgy, Al.”
“Understandable. How’s your friend?”
“I think he’s getting weaker instead of stronger.”
“That's too bad.”
“He’s led a good, honorable life, Al. And now in his twilight years, he is in a hospital bed fighting for his life." She paused before adding, "Maybe he doesn’t want to live. What kind of life will he have if he recoveries?”
Kathryn didn’t expect an answer, and Al didn't give one.
At that moment, Simon rounded a corner and headed their way. He came bearing coffee.
A short time later, the day nurse entered the room to add medication to Duffy’s IV. Kathryn watched her face closely. Her look of concern confirmed Kathryn’s fears.
After the nurse left the room, Kathryn pushed her chair closer to the bed. She desperately wanted Duffy to know that she was okay. “Duffy, you are never going to believe where I ended up when I left New York. A lovely small town named Gardner, Missouri. The town is actually more of a village, nestled among groves of Ohio Buckeyes, River Birch and American Sycamores. The Missouri River is close by. In summer and spring, the locals drive over and have picnics at a small park located on the banks of the river.
“Not long after I arrived in town, I met a delightful woman named Nora. She hired me to work in her florist shop. Remember how much I enjoyed arranging flowers for Springer’s parties? Well, making arrangements for birthdays and anniversaries if even more fun. In hindsight, I don’t think the people at Springer’s bashes even noticed the flowers. In Gardner, the shop’s customer's responses were quite different. They gushed over the arrangements. There’s nothing more satisfying than sharing nature’s beauty with another person.
“You are in for a big surprise when you wake up. Maybe you won’t even recognize me. I had a make-over just as you suggested. Now, I have dark hair and eyes. I don’t wear the same style of clothes, and I have given up cosmetics. You’ll be happy to see that I’ve gained weight? You won’t be able to bug me about not eating enough.
“Mom misses my blond hair. For me, life has been easier hiding behind my new face. Now that I no longer have to worry about Wayne Springer, I will have to decide who I want to be, how I want to look and what I want to do with my life. This time around, I plan to follow a much different path. I know what is important. Who is important.
“Duffy, Thanks to you I’m content for the first time in years. Or, I will be when you are back on your feet.”
Kathryn’s eyes welled with tears when she felt a slight movement of Duffy's hand. Was that a squeeze? Seconds later, the alarm on the ventilator went off.