TRIUMPH OVER EVIL

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Chapter 19

“The dinner was a tremendous success,” JM said, as he watched the elevator’s floor indicator rise in number.

“I’m so happy for you, and proud of you.” Barbara squeezed his hand, and gave him a look of approval.

“Thanks, darling,” he said, as he released her hand, before placing his right arm across her shoulders.

“I have something to tell you, but I need to use the bathroom first,” Barbara said, as they entered their room.

With hands in coat pockets, and leaning against the window, he watched as the snow drifted to the street below. “La Guardia is probably closed.”

Barbara poked her head around the bathroom’s doorway, as she brushed her teeth. “Are you speaking to me? I didn’t hear what you said.”

“I was just thinking about the airport. It’s probably closed, because of the snow. I would be surprised if any planes were flying tonight. When you’re finished in the bathroom, we’ll ring home.”

The sound of breaking glass from the bathroom surprised him.

Are you okay?” he asked, before scurrying to the bathroom.

Barbara was leaning on the washbasin, crying. Small amounts of foamy toothpaste were nestled at the corners of her mouth, and lying at the bottom of the washbasin was a broken drinking glass.

What’s wrong? Did you cut yourself?” JM held of her hands, in search of injuries.

“I’m … so … sorry.” Her crying had intensified.

He placed her left arm over his shoulders, before putting his right arm around her waist, then in a manner similar to shuffling, he led her to the bedroom. Once seated on the edge of the bed, he wrapped her in the hotel bathrobe to keep her warm. She was wearing only underwear.

Placing his right arm around her waist, he looked at her wet and tired featured face. There were many unasked questions in need of answering, but he knew patience was required. All he could do was wait for her composure to return.

“I’m so sorry!” She looked at him, as if asking for forgiveness. As tears flowed down her cheeks, and in broken speech, she told of the events, as she knew them.

Have you heard any more from the police?

“No. Ring them, or ring home. I’m going crazy!” Her hands trembled as she wiped at tears with a tissue.

Neither phone answered. JM silently agreed with Barbara’s assumption that something was surely amiss.

The Harrison Avenue police informed JM they were returning with a key, and when further information was available, they would call.

He tried not to think of the possible scenarios at home, but it was proving difficult. Like Barbara, he was thinking the worst. The only distraction available was to watch television for news of resuming flights.

Barbara, blanket-covered, began to doze.

“They’re saying planes aren’t allowed to leave, the snow is too heavy. All we can do is wait. Let’s hope the news from the police isn’t bad,” JM said, as soon as she roused.

Although they were trying to think positively, the waiting was punishing.

JM sprang from his chair on hearing the light tapping on their door.

Standing in the corridor were two large men, each wearing an overcoat. They did not need identifying. Their builds and stature gave them away, detectives.

They introduced themselves, and then entered, but JM’s thought process was somewhere else. If they are visiting us this late it cannot be good news.

It was unlike him not to remember names, but with thinking of Katherine and Sophia, he was unable to recall theirs.

Has anything happened to our daughter?” he asked in an imploring manner, before sitting on the bed with Barbara.

Although offered seating, the detectives declined.

“I have some news of your daughter and another woman from your building, but I need to ask a couple of questions, if I may? Is your daughter’s name is Katherine? And do you know of another woman . . . Mrs. Kowalski?” the older detective asked, after referring to his small notebook.

“Yes, but what’s happened?”

He relayed the details given by the Boston police, but in sympathy deliberately omitted the gruesome details. Before he was able to continue, Barbara suddenly rose from the bed and hurried to the bathroom.

He then said, as he looked in the direction of the closed bathroom door, “They were taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital and are being operated on as we speak, but it could be some time before more information’s available.”

“When --” a noise from within the bathroom cut short JM’s question.

Lying on the bathroom floor was an unconscious Barbara.

A medic was monitoring Barbara’s vital signs as she lay on a stretcher, while being transported to Bellevue Hospital. JM sat near, but not in shock to the same extent.

We abhor violence. So why were we thrust into this vicious world? With that thought having just passed through his mind, the card from the senior detective he suddenly remembered. A searching hand in his coat pocket produced the card containing the contact names and phone numbers of the Boston detectives.

After Barbara was treated and settled, the doctor on duty said, “We’ve sedated her. It’s best if she remains asleep.”

JM placed his right hand on the doctors left arm. “My daughter, Katherine Harris, and a woman by the name of Mrs. Kowalski, are being operated on in Massachusetts General Hospital. They are both having emergency surgery. Please, could you ring and ask if they are okay. My wife and I would appreciate it.”

JM’s appeal struck a chord with the doctor. “I’ll make a call. As soon as I hear anything, I’ll come and tell you. I could give them your phone number. They may contact you direct.”

“Thanks. Could you tell them it’s urgent?” He gave his cell number.

He was sitting in a chair, leaning forward, his head resting on crossed arms as they lay on Barbara’s bed. His cell phone rang at 2:15a.m.

“Is this Doctor Harris?”

He was dreading the coming news. “Yes.”

“I’m Doctor Morgan. I am not the operating surgeon for Mrs. Kowalski, but I assisted. She is in ICU. Even though she has been through a terrible ordeal, and her injuries are serious, she should make a full recovery. However, it may take a while.

JM, stunned the news, asked, “Do you have any information about my daughter? Is she okay?”

“I’m not privy to her operation, but I was informed by the nurse in charge of surgery that everything went as planned, and she’s also in intensive care. I’ve been informed that you and your wife are in New York … is that correct?”

“Yes, but with the weather the way it is, there’s no flights.”

“You can see them anytime. No matter what time you fly in.”

“Okay, and thanks for the call.”

Just before sunup, a staff member notified JM that flights to Boston will resume by mid-morning, but a backlog with seating may happen.

JM sat Barbara near the enquiries counter at Massachusetts General Hospital while he made enquiries.

“My name’s Doctor Harris. Could you tell me what the floor Katherine Harris is on, please? Mrs. Kowalski is here also. Do you know what floor she’s on?” As an afterthought, he added, “We’ve just flown in from New York, and haven’t had time to go to a hotel. Could we leave our luggage somewhere safe?”

“I’ll make arrangements for your bags to be cared for while you’re here.”

“Thanks.”

The duty nurse of the intensive care ward guided them to Katherine’s room, but before entering, said, “Katherine’s surgeon will be available soon.”

The scene confronting them was harrowing.

Barbara covered her mouth with cupped hands, but they could not stifle her scream. “She looks like a ghost.”

“The nurse said she’s lost a lot of blood.”

The attached monitoring cables, along with the ventilator, blood infusion, and drips, gave the impression she was only just alive. Each held one of her hands as they stood either side of the bed. They could only stare. Her alabaster in coloured face showed no markings, belying her injuries. A sheet shrouded a support frame covering the lower half of her torso. The structure suggested something sinister.

Not knowing the full extent of her injuries, the waiting only amplified their emotional shock.

“When do you think the doctor will come?”

“I don’t know, but I hope it’s soon. I want to know how Mrs. K is. However, I cannot leave until they tell us about Katherine. I’m not placing her above Katherine, but from what the doctor said she’s in a bad way.” She would have fought tooth and nail to protect Katherine.

“I don’t understand how anyone could enter the building or our apartment without a key. Did we give the tradesmen any?”

“Not that I know. Mrs. K was in charge. Knowing her, she would not have given them one. If she had, she would have made sure of its return. She has always been one for locking doors. There is no point in speculating. We will know more when we talk to her. To be on the safe side, I will have the locks changed. That’s if the police will allow anyone into the building.”

Doctor Lance Gilmore entered and introduced himself.

He gave a summary of Katherine’s admission to emergency, and then described the subsequent operations Katherine required to her groin area. Although he was trying to be compassionate, he admitted, “I am surprised she survived such horrific injuries.”

Barbara doubled over in agony upon hearing of her daughter’s serious internal injuries. Her eyes went wide from shock, just as her mouth set free a groaning scream. Then her tears flowed.

Doctor Gilmore, prepared for her reaction, took her hands in his. “I can arrange a mild sedative for you.”

“No . . . I’ll be alright,” Barbara answered in a choking but still crying voice.

JM was also in tears for his daughter, and untapped they flowed down his face. Only a monster rapes! I am to blame. If I had not gone to New York this would never have happened.

“I’m sorry about having to tell of the gruesome details. The operations were successful. We were able to repair and suture the damaged areas. She has a large bruise to the back of her head. We can only assume the restraints caused the flesh wounds to her wrists. With time she’ll definitely make a full recovery.”

JM, thinking of his daughter’s ordeal, asked, “With the trauma she’s encountered, do you think she’ll be affected mentally. She’d have to be, wouldn’t she?

“Doctor Harris, I’m neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, so it would be wrong of me to diagnose your daughter and form an opinion. It would be better to wait until she recovers from her physical injuries before we think about her mental state. She went through an atrocity, so she’ll need plenty of rest before we can think about asking her questions.”

Barbara was quick to respond, “I’m a psychologist. If the indications are she can’t cope she may have to be treated with some medication while she’s recovering.”

“If she requires other medication, other than for her injuries, then you can be assured she’ll receive it. With you being a psychologist, at least we’ll know she’ll be in capable hands.”

“Would you happen to know of Mrs. Kowalski condition? She was admitted with Katherine,” JM asked.

“I am not conversant with her operation, but I will ask if her surgeon is on duty. If he is, I will inform the staff that you want to speak to him. His name is Doctor Schneider. If you have any further questions regarding Katherine, ask the hospital staff to contact me.”

A nurse then escorted JM to another room on the same floor. Unfortunately, like the encounter with his daughter, the sight unnerved him.

Sophia’s head was completely bandaged-covered, except for openings for her eyes, nose, and mouth. A ventilator supplied oxygen to her lungs while drips supplied much needed blood and morphine to her punished body.

She has certainly suffered, he thought, as he looked at her in disbelief. He turned and looked at the nurse. “Surely, this is not Mrs. K.”

His doubtful look led her to say, “It’s Mrs. Kowalski. Doctor Schneider will be with you shortly and he’ll explain her condition.” Her voice gave JM the impression she had seen it all before, even though the patient had serious head injuries.

As he stood at the foot of the bed, his grip had tightened on the bed frame. His knuckles were blue-white in colour. Who is responsible for this? One girl and one women are in hospital! In addition, each is in a savaged state! Inflicting these injuries on another human is incomprehensible.

Noticing his tears, the nurse placed her hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay to cry.”

JM gave her a wisp of a smile as he wiped his salty tears with the back of his hand, smearing the moisture across his face.

He sat on a chair near the bedhead, hunched forward. With his hands clenched together, and his elbows resting on his knees, he stared at Sophia’s bandaged head. Why did this happen? Who did these things, and how did they get into the building? He knew the riddles would need answers.

Doctor Schneider introduced himself, then explained what injuries Sophia had sustained.

“Besides operating on her broken jaw and multiple injuries to her face, she sustained a fracture to her skull. Probably from an impact. It caused swelling to her brain, but we have managed to reduce it. The paramedics assumed her head hit the floor, although that is not definite. It would explain why she has other bruises, and caused her head injuries. There is a large one near her ribcage and stomach area, and she does have some bruising to the middle of her shoulder-blade region. That’s more likely to have come from a kick, or hitting an object when she fell. The police will be able to give you more details. Oh, she has lost a couple of teeth. That’s about all I can tell you at the moment, other than to say she’s out of danger. I have other rounds to do, but I’ll call back later and check on her. If you’re still here and require further information, don’t hesitate to ask.”

JM had remained seated, but now held her right hand in his. He silently pledged to avenge them. If we stayed home, instead of going to New York, they would both be safe at home.

He walked from the room with Katherine and Sophia in mind, but he still had regrets. Going to New York was a mistake. I will never forgive myself.

“I’ve never hated anyone in my life, but whoever did this won’t get away with it. Two rooms, one woman, our daughter, and both are unconscious. It’s surreal!” he said, as he stood near Barbara.

As he described Sophia’s injuries and relayed Doctor Schneider’s comments, his anger for the perpetrator was still forefront in his mind.

“If you stay with Katherine, I’ll go and see her. Will you be okay?” Barbara asked, as she

lay her right hand on his left shoulder.

“I’m okay. I just need to unwind.” He now found himself in unchartered waters. Under normal circumstances he was mild mannered, not one for seeking revenge.

Even though Barbara had advanced warning regarding Sophia’s condition, the feeling of nausea swept over her at seeing the ‘mummified’ person lying on the bed. As she sat on the edge of the bed, she took Sophia’s right hand in hers and stroked it, gently. Telepathic thoughts of compassion and gratitude she tried to pass to Sophia.

“I’m having trouble trying to understand any of this,” Barbara said, after reuniting herself with her husband.

“I know how you feel, but I need to change the subject for a moment. I have been giving some thought to booking a hotel room, preferably somewhere close. When I do, why not take a taxi and rest up, or at least freshen up. I will stay here, just in case the doctors come with more news. When you return, I will go. What do you think?”

“Good idea!”

JM’s cell phone search revealed a quality hotel nearby and, having explained to the receptionist their situation of having to travel back and forth to the hospital, she accepted his request for an open booking. With the police having to do forensics, he assumed returning home would be out of the question, at least temporarily.

“I will not leave here until you return,” he said, after giving his wife the hotel’s details.

“I won’t be long.”

“Don’t hurry … take your time? Please don’t forget the luggage on your way out.”

Barbara picked up her handbag and walked from the room.

JM again took the card from his coat pocket and studied it. Written in freehand were; Detective Sergeant Perez, Detective Andretta, and their phone numbers. He considered ringing one, but decided to wait for Barbara to return.

They will want to ask us some questions, and need as much information as possible. It must have been a robbery gone wrong, but I do not remember the detective saying anything about one. I may not have heard correctly. With everything that is going on, anything is possible.

Barbara returned looking refreshed, and wearing clean winter clothes.

Once having showered and in clean clothing he rang Detective Perez, but the advice he received from the station was to ring the following morning. Duty on a Sunday was restricted to few detectives. JM was not surprised. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared trance-like at his mobile.

Placing it on the bedside table, he then lay on the bed, hands behind his head. As he looked at the ceiling the thought to retribution entered his mind.

The ringing phone startled him. Having to wake hurriedly from a deep sleep he immediately thought his room and its surroundings as foreign, alien, but the aberration was temporary.

He could hear through the haze in his brain a woman’s voice coming through the phone’s receiver, “I’m Detective Perez, and I’m in the lobby. Could I come to your room, I need to ask some questions. Or would you rather I come at a more suitable time?”

His brain was still fuzzy. “Come on up.”

“Okay, but I won’t stay long.”

He was in the bathroom washing his face, and tidying his clothing, when the door chime rang.

The woman standing in the corridor was attractive, tall, with short blonde hair, of Mediterranean appearance, and slender, not at all what he expected.

Opening the door wide, he said, “Please, come in.”

“Thank you.”

“I just need to put on my socks and shoes. Could I make you a cup of coffee? I certainly need one.”

“Black, please.”

With his footwear in place, he set about boiling some water.

“Please, feel free to tell me to go. I’ll understand.”

“I’m happy you came, because I need answers. My wife and I are going crazy trying to fathom who would want to harm our family and how they got into the building. I rang your station and I was told you wouldn’t be in until tomorrow, so I’m surprised to see you.” He did not say it, but he was also relieved.

“I rang the hospital and was told you were here. I thought you’d like to know where we’re at with the investigation.”

“How did you know I was here, at this hotel?”

“Your wife told the nurse.”

She was sitting on the chair near the window, sipping the hot coffee, when she began her summation. He listened intently as she relayed in detail the evidence that had been compiled, but added, “It’s still early days in our investigation. We are still trying to determine how Mrs. Kowalski sustained all her injuries, but her head hit the floor could be their cause. It’s possible she was hit on the head with a blunt object, but if that’s so, she was hit more than once. It’s still uncertain how the intruder entered your building. There’s no sign of forced entry, which suggests he may have had a key.” With a sip of coffee taken, she continued, “The intruder went up to your apartment, after he’d taped Mrs. Kowalski’s hands and feet. He removed the tape from her mouth, but we’re not sure why? The first officer on the scene said it was lying on the floor near her. It appears as though she may have been unconscious throughout her ordeal. Also taped was Katherine’s mouth, and she had been tied to the bed. We think she was also unconscious. One person probably perpetrated it, but we suspect he may have known that you and your wife weren’t going to be in the apartment on the weekend. Can you think of anyone who may have had a spare key, or, more important, do you know of anyone who’d want to harm your family? We’re not putting this down as a robbery.”

“Barbara and I don’t know of anyone with a spare key, and the only one who may know is Mrs. K. As for someone harming my family, no-one comes to mind.”

“Has anyone made any threats to you, your wife, or your family?”

Bruno’s image immediately flashed into his mind, but he dismissed it as a phobia, a stupid notion not worthy of attention. He had not hurt anyone that I know of, other than his problem at work, and he certainly had not given any hint that he would harm us.

“There isn’t anyone I can think of, but I’ll ring if someone comes to mind.” Mentioning Bruno remained in doubt.

“I’d like to reiterate that anything that comes to mind, even something that may seem insignificant, could lead to an arrest.” She was trying to stress the importance of minor details.

“I’ll be returning to the hospital shortly, so I’ll ask Barbara. She may think of something that may help.”

“I’ll be in touch tomorrow,” she said, as they walked to the door.

“Thanks for coming.”

It was not far to the hospital, but he suspected his not having returned would concern Barbara. The sun had already set. As he prepared to leave, he made a call to the reception. “It’s Doctor Harris, in 823. I have to return to the hospital tonight, so I was wondering if the kitchen could prepare something to eat for my wife and myself, and I will take it with me. It doesn’t matter what they prepare; some sandwiches will do.”

“I’ll place the order immediately. Would you like it delivered to your room, or would you rather collect it from reception?”

“I’ll pick it up on my way out.”

JM did not consider himself as a drinking man, but he thought, a shot of whiskey would go down well before I leave for the hospital. Extracting a shot-size bottle of the amber-colored fluid from the small fridge, he then poured its contents over two ice cubes dropped into a glass. I could take a liking to this, he thought, as he sipped the drink.

Suddenly his left hand slapped the tabletop. I forgot to ask the detective if we could go to their apartment. What was I thinking? That is another reason I wanted to speak to her.

His room phone rang.

“Doctor Harris, your sandwiches are ready. There at reception.”

“Thank you. I’ll come straight down.”

He swallowed the remaining whiskey and headed to the lobby.

As they ate their sandwiches, he gave Barbara a summary of Detective Perez’s conversation. He also told of not asking about returning to their apartment.

“With everything that’s happened, it’s a wonder you can remember anything at all.”

“I’ve omitted one thing though. She asked if I could think of anyone who would want to harm us. I said no. Well, I wasn’t exactly truthful,” he confessed.

Barbara remained silent, but she could already hear the name, even though not mentioned. She went clammy and ice cold almost simultaneously. Fear rose in her like a tide washing onto a deserted beach.

“I’m sorry to say this, but I thought of Bruno.”

The name made her feel ill. “I thought of him when the detectives in New York told us of the horror. He doesn’t have a key, so how could he get into the building? What made you think of him?” she asked, with disgust.

“I don’t know. For some reason his name suddenly came to mind.”

“Why rape our daughter and do those horrible things to Sophia? I feel sick whenever I think of him being in our home. I invited him in with the intention of helping him.”

JM did not believe in omens, but the image of Bruno coming into both their minds was too much of coincidence.

“The police will be back tomorrow to interview us, so I’ll tell them what we think.”

“We should. If it’s him, he should be extirpated,” she added emphatically.

That is not like her at all. She is normally gentle and caring, not someone advocating the taking of a person’s life.

“Let’s leave it to the police. If it’s him, he should be locked up, and the key thrown away.”

“If it is him, he doesn’t deserve to be alive. He has caused untold destruction to our family. I’ll never forgive him, or myself.”

“It’s not your fault … so please don’t think like that. You were only trying to help.”

The hours ticked over ever so slowly as they waited silently for any signs of movement from Katherine’s coma induced body.

Not knowing if Sophia had made any progress, JM felt it was time for another visit.

With Sophia still comatose, he decided to stay a while. She may need my help when she wakes up.

JM could hear a moan coming from off in the distance. An unexpected sleep had overcome him. On waking, he was witnessing Sophia attempting to move her unconscious body from one position to another. Not knowing how to help, he chose the safest option. Call a nurse.

“Mrs. Kowalski needs help,” JM said aloud, to a nurse standing near the end of the corridor.

At a shuffle, she entered Sophia’s room, examined her, then adjusted the monitor.

“She shouldn’t be in any pain. I’ve upped her morphine level, but only slightly. I’ll come back and check on her in half an hour.”

JM settled into the chair to await the morning’s arrival. The closest he came to sleeping was closing his eyelids. With doctors and nurses being a continual flow of traffic into and out of the room, he was sleep deprived.

The sun’s early rays were his signal for returning to Katherine’s room. “Has there been any changes with Katherine?”

“No, unfortunately.”

“Would you like some breakfast? I’m going to the cafeteria.”

“No thanks … I’m not hungry.”

“Okay. I need to stretch my legs.”

“How’s Sophia?” Barbara enquired.

“Not good. She was restless all night, but doctors and nurses did keep a close eye on her. Did they do the same with Katherine?”

“Nonstop. No sooner had one retreated from the room, another would walk in.”

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