CURVE BALL

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Chapter Seventy-Seven

Billy Dee pressed down on the gas pedal. He’d had been driving this crazy all night long. Thank God there was no traffic. He made it from his house to County Hospital in twenty minutes. He hated the place. The mass of humanity, the senseless injuries, and various diseases made him fearful and sad. He avoided touching anything.

“Shit.” He stood outside the front door for a few seconds trying to figure how to open it without gripping the handle. His hand was about to touch when someone walked out. “Thank God,” he thought. He braced himself for the turmoil, inside.

He eased his way through the crowd and found the admitting desk. He looked around but no one was there. Then he saw a computer. It was on. What the hell? He typed in Melissa’s name while keeping an eye out for admission’s staff. The information popped on the screen.

He took the elevator to the fourth floor. The nurses’ station was empty. What was going on? Where was everyone? He checked to see if any security guards were on duty. The floor was quiet except for the snores of sleeping patients and beeping machines. He walked down the corridor with his right hand resting on the butt of his gun. He passed room 404. 406 must be around the next hallway. As he turned the corner he saw the area was dark except for a nightlight. He gripped his weapon.

He hurled himself into the room. He stretched out his arms, pointed the gun at the bed, then the window, then the bathroom. The place was empty. His heart was hammering in his chest. He was too old for this. Did he misread the computer? Where the fuck were Majuski and Melissa? He scratched his head and closed in on the bed. He bent down to see if anything was underneath.

My God.

He went for the object. It was a service revolver similar to his. He bolted from the room. An exit sign at the end of the hall was lit. They took the goddam stairs, he thought. He surprised himself when he broke into a run. He threw open the stairwell door and heard the clatter of footsteps.

“Stay where you are.” He recognized Majuski’s voice. “I’ve got Rakow and the girl. It won’t take much for her not to make it, and Rakow ain’t too good either. Go back where you came from and everything will be good.”

Billy Dee edged up to the handrail and peered through the gaps in the stairwell. The three of them were two flights down.

“You’re out of luck, Majuski. Backup is on the way. You got no place to go. Throw your gun down and put your hands where I can see them.”

“Why would I do that? Holy shit… you’re not dead?”

Majuski kept his gun trained on Rakow and Melissa.

“I injected you with enough insulin… well you’re one fucking lucky dude. If you want them to be as fortunate get the fuck away.”

Majuski glanced up for a second. As he did, Rakow lunged toward him. A shot rang out. Someone screamed. Billy Dee raced down the stairs. He found Majuski sprawled on the step and not breathing. Melissa gripped the handrail. Rakow knelt by Majuski.

“What the hell happened?” Billy Dee asked.

Jack took rapid breaths. “When—Majuski--- looked---up--,” Jack stopped and grabbed more air, “I grabbed --the --barrel and as we struggled, the- gun- went- off.”

Doors opened on other floors and four security guards came running to the scene.

One of the guards asked, “What’s going on? I heard a shot.” His hand moved toward his weapon.

Billy Dee went slowly into his pocket and pulled out his badge. He held it up. “I’m a cop. Call 911, and don’t touch a thing,” he warned.

Jack grabbed his side and sank to the floor.

Billy Dee spotted blood on Rakow’s shirt. “Oh shit---”

Jack’s whispered his words. “I found Melissa’s room, Majuski was there,” Jack stopped. He balled his fist “He- shot- me –going- for- my - gun.” A small smile played on Jack’s lips. “Hey, one- for- two- tonight. Not bad… for - old baseball player.” He coughed. “The son-of –a bitch won’t –hurt- Melissa- you, or- anyone- else. I’m done… running.” He wheezed, “My father… saw hell… and survived.”

Melissa hobbled over, “You got to pull through, Uncle Jack.”

Jack gasped for breath.

“Nooo,” Melissa cried.

Jack rolled onto his back. His hand was at his side. The blood spread from the wound turning his shirt dark red. “Sorry about … interview I promised…,” he tried to swallow. He couldn’t. He motioned Melissa to come close. “I ---want to tell -- your dad…”

“What?”

He didn’t answer.

She looked at Jack then at Billy Dee. “Is he…?

Billy Dee bent over Jack and felt for a pulse. “I’m sorry.” He straightened. “My God.” He swallowed hard. He didn’t want to show emotion. He turned to Melissa. “Lean on me. I’ll take you back to your room.” He wrapped his arm around her waist. “You need to rest.” He eased her gently up the stairs and got her into bed. He stood over her. He should leave. The detectives would take her statement as well as his. And the captain back at the station will have his ass. But Melissa called him Uncle Jack.” Why?

“Do you want to ask me something, Billy Dee?”

He stroked his chin. “I do. I need to make sense of all this. What did Jack mean? And why did you call him ’uncle?”

A smile crossed her face. “My purse, god willing is in that drawer. Could you get it?”

“Sure.” He stepped over and opened the drawer.

“It’s still here,” and gave it to her.

She dumped the contents on the bed and rummaged through them.

“What are you looking for?”

“A goddamn envelope.”

“You’ve got a lot of junk in that thing. Let me help.”

She continued searching. “Here.” She handed a faded document to him.

“Hold on.” He fished his glasses out of his shirt pocket and put them on. “What is this?” He tried to read it. “This aint English.”

She took the paper back. “It’s a Polish birth certificate. My fathers. The name on it says ’Franciszek Rakowski. Frederick in English.”

He let the words sink in. “You mean…?”

“Rakow was shortened from Rakowski. Jack’s father, Pytor, changed the name after coming to the U.S. The war separated Pytor, my grandfather, from my dad. Pytor had gone to Germany after dad was born and somehow survived. After the war, he never found his first wife, Grunia, or his son, Frederick. Jack and Fred were half-brothers but never knew. I did a lot of digging for the interview with Jack that never happened.”

“Well, I’ll be…”

Melissa leaned back in her bed. “It’s a shame. They were good together. Their lives… who knows? Maybe Dad could have helped.”

Billy Dee glanced at the birth certificate lying on the bed. “Now that’s a story.”

“Yeah it is. My father once said Jack’s life was more like a movie. He was right.”

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