Journey to Love
Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
An hour later, Sergeant Major came back and said, “I'm sorry, Derek, I should have let you know sooner. Jeremy woke up. He was awake for a short time, but he was awake. He finally recognized me. But, he is very confused about where he is, how he got here and so on, but he's awake. He can't remember anything about the attack, of course, but then Dr. Richardson says that's not surprising and he may remember it later or again, he may not. Only time will tell. He is very optimistic Jeremy will make a complete recovery.”
“Did he say anything about Jayden?”
“Only that he is still holding his own. Given the severity of Jayden's injury, he says that's a good sign.”
Two days later, Dr. Estaban had me up in a chair in the morning. I was completely exhausted by even that small activity, but an orderly had me up again in the afternoon with the same result.
Later, when Dr. Estaban came to check on me, I asked about seeing Jayden. “You may see him day after tomorrow if he is settled in a regular room and if you promise to stay just a few minutes and come back and go to bed. Mr. Wilson—Derek—he looks pretty bad. It will be a shock regardless of all I could tell you. Just keep in mind, he is at the very least holding his own.”
I was, of course, excited when I was rolled to Jayden's room, but crashed when I saw him. As Dr. Estaban said, I really wasn't prepared to see my beautiful Navajo as he was. In fact, there was very little that could be seen. His head was completely covered by snow-white gauze, his face by a mask, his upper body was covered by tape as he, too, suffered broken ribs. One arm was covered by a cast. I took his free hand and brought it to my lips, working hard to hold back the tears. I hoped the ones who hurt this beautiful man would be found.
What had Jayden ever done to deserve what life had dished out to him—being thrown out of his home, put on the street, forced into porn and prostitution, now this, being beaten nearly to death? Death might even be preferable to what lay ahead. What if he didn't wake up? What if his body lived month after month, year after year as a vegetable? Would he want that? Would I want that? Of course not! I finally had to go before I broke down completely and I didn't want to do that in case he knew what was going on. I kissed his palm and his finger tips and said, “Jayden, my beautiful Navajo, fight for Jayden, fight for me, fight to spite the animals who did this to you.” I squeezed his hand, kissed it once again and the orderly wheeled me back to my room.
The next day, I was wheeled to Jayden's room, spent fifteen minutes in the morning and afternoon holding his hand, telling him how much I loved him and urging him to fight. Dr. Richardson assured me he was holding his own, but his own didn't look good. The third day when I went in, the mask was gone and I could see Jayden's face. It had been badly bruised, but the bruises were beginning to fade. There was one small cut on his cheek which had been sutured; I was sure by a plastic surgeon because the needlework was the best I had ever seen. Jayden looked so peaceful, but maybe that was because he was in a coma from which he might never return—well, that was my greatest fear.
The following day, Dr. Estaban had left orders for me to begin walking morning and afternoon. I was to walk half-way to the nurse's station and back—maybe twenty, twenty-five feet. For safety, I had a harness held by an orderly. It would have been a belt, but there was to be no pressure on my abdomen. I longed to walk to Jayden's room, but knew I could not manage it at this point. I was still wheeled there and spent a half-hour morning and afternoon with him. The third day he was in the regular room, I finally had kissed Jayden's still lips and there had been no response. No response! As I was wheeled back to my room, I wept. I was very depressed and as soon as I was in my room, I sobbed.
After I got control of myself, I walked back to Jeremy's room which was only one door down. He was very excited to see me because he had been told he would probably be discharged in three or four days. I was excited for him and told him I'd probably be released about the same time.
Sure enough, Dr. Estaban told me the next day I would be discharged Friday afternoon, the same as Jeremy, if today's scan and another to be done Friday morning looked as good as he anticipated. I told Jeremy and then walked to Jayden's room for the first time. I told Jayden the news and as I talked to him, held his hand. I wasn't sure, but I thought he tried to squeeze my hand when I squeezed his. I didn't tell anyone because I wasn't sure and figured it might be my wishful thinking.
When Dr. Estaban and Sam came in the following afternoon, he had the results of the previous morning's scan and was pleased. “Looks good, Derek. Looks good. Sam, I suggest you get a place ready for this young man at home. He's leaving Friday after one more clean test. I have asked that it be done early, but I don't think you'll object, will you Derek?”
“Hardly. Early Friday is a minute after midnight, right?” I smiled at him and Dr. Estaban laughed.
The scan wasn't made at midnight, but it was not long after since I was back in my room and asleep before 1:30am. Dr. Estaban came by on his morning rounds and said he had issued orders for my release to be ready and all he had to do was make a phone call after he saw the results of the scan.
As soon as I showered and had breakfast I went to Jayden's room and told him I would be going home, but would see him every day. When I told him, I gave his hand a slight squeeze and I was positive this time, he gave me a slight squeeze back. Dr. Richardson walked into the room shortly afterward and this time I told him I was positive Jayden had responded to my squeezing his hand. He took Jayden's hand in his and said, “Jayden, can you give my hand a squeeze?” He held Jayden's hand for a long time while just looking at him. When he finally released it, he looked in Jayden's eyes and did some things to him I didn't understand and finally said, “Derek, I don't know. Maybe he gave my hand a slight squeeze. There are some signs he is just asleep and others indicating he is still in a coma. I'm ordering some tests today and maybe I'll know more tomorrow, maybe not.”
Brad and Mom had taken off half a day Friday and arrived mid-afternoon. I was very glad to see them. They, together with Levi, Telvin and Penny, had numerous conference calls making plans for Jeremy's and my return. Drs. Richardson and Estaban told them that while Jeremy and I were well on our way to recovery, we would still need a great deal of care for the next few months. “For example, no stairs for at least a month. Jeremy will need help showering since he has a leg cast.”
After talking with the doctors, Sam and Sergeant Major had discussed arrangements with the others and they had decided Jeremy and I would need to be on the first floor, which was a problem since we had rented the four downstairs rooms. Penny suggested she move upstairs and Jeremy and I share her room. The doctors didn't think hospital beds were necessary and the room had a twin bed already, so a second one was moved in, handrails were installed in the bathroom and rehab equipment put in the living room. A few other modifications were made to accommodate us and, more especially, Jayden when he got to come home. In spite of the fact that it likely would not be used long, Sam suggested putting in a ramp and I asked if they couldn't put in a lift instead. “A ramp takes up so much space,” I had reasoned. Sam had said, “It's your house and your money,” and had a lift installed.
Both Jeremy and I would be in rehab for an hour each morning and afternoon with Sam taking care of us. He finally realized our recovery was not something that was going to happen in a few days—of course he had known that from the beginning, but was hoping it was otherwise. Accordingly, he had taken a leave of absence from the rehab center and would be focusing on my, Jeremy's and Jayden's rehab.
Dr. Richardson had insisted that Jeremy come from the hospital in an ambulance and apparently Dr. Estaban took a clue from him and ordered that I do the same. When he told me he said, “No, it’s not necessary, but easier and I see no reason for you not to have the very best. After all, you deserve it.” It was only later that I learned our university health insurance was paying for most of our treatment and the university was picking up any extra. The lawyers were calling all the shots for the most part and the law suits were still piling up.
As much as I wanted to be home in our apartment, it was good just to be back in the house. Both Jeremy and I were mobile, if slow, and had the run of the first floor. After we had been home less than a week, Sam decided we could even try the back yard. I don't know how well we could have handled the steps or a ramp, but with the lift, we had no problem. I was using a walker and Jeremy was still on crutches, but we could at least get around a bit outside.
Of course, with an hour's rehab in the morning and one in the afternoon, our day was broken up. Jeremy had an additional hour of speech therapy as well. His head injury had affected his speech. I spent an hour at the hospital with Jayden in the morning and again in the afternoon, talking with him, telling him what was going on in the world, how much I loved him and begging him to wake up.
I never got any more than a 'maybe' squeeze in response from him. Thursday, a week after I got home, Dr. Richardson called and asked when I would be at the hospital in the afternoon and I told him. “Plan to come by my office,” he said, “I'll have the results of a test I started a couple days ago which may give us some information about what's going on with Jayden. I suspected something, but I have never seen it before. Well, I'll see you this afternoon.”
It was after 2:00 when I arrived at the hospital, I went directly to Dr. Richardson’s office. He had left a note for me saying he would have me paged when he could see me. I had been with Jayden half an hour when his phone rang. It was Dr. Richardson asking if I could come to his office. When I got there, he was leaning over a table looking at a long chart with three different-colored squiggly lines on it. “Derek, glad to see you looking so good. How are you doing?”
“Fine. I still get tired quickly. After an hour rehab, I'm really exhausted.”
“Not surprising. I'm pretty bushed after an hour in the gym and I haven't been through what you have.”
“Well, I would have said a gym's a lot harder than rehab, but I now know better,” I laughed. “My dad becomes a monster when he becomes a physical therapist.”
“I'll let you in on a secret. I did some checking on your dad, well, actually on both your dads. I guess they have a good reason for staying in Stanton because either or both could be making piles more money elsewhere or, for that matter, teaching at a number of schools including the medical school here. They are top notch. They are the reason I am giving some serious thought to how to proceed.
“I wanted you to come down thinking you might be able to help me out. Take a look at the two charts I have spread out on the table. I don't expect you to have any idea what they are or to be able to interpret them, but I want you to compare the two. Take your time.”
I looked at the two charts. Each had three lines, red, blue and purple labeled EEG, EOG and EMG respectively. They, obviously were not the same, but someone had marked off areas and labeled them 1, 2, 3, 4, REM. The lines in REM section were much longer in the bottom chart as was the area under 4. The lines under areas 2 and 3 were much shorter on the bottom chart. After studying the charts further, I could make no other observations.
“Well?” Dr. Richardson asked.
“Of course I have no idea what I am looking at, but it seems to me the two charts are measuring the same thing and since someone has labeled spaces along the line, I can see there are great differences in the length—I don't know what the length represents ...”
“Then the times are different for whatever is being measured, but otherwise, the charts measure the same thing and are similar.”
“Very good! Now let's unroll more of both.” Dr. Richardson unrolled charts further and I saw that the upper one had five other areas similar to the first. The bottom chart had six and then a very long line labeled 2 and another series as the first started. Without saying anything, Dr. Richardson had me roll up one end of the bottom chart while he unrolled more. The same cycle was repeated—long line under 2 followed by another cycle of six 3, 4, REM as the first. He rerolled the charts and said, “Have a seat.” I sat in a chair in front of his desk and he asked, “Coke, juice, water?”
“A juice would be welcome so long as it's not grape.”
He handed me a red grapefruit juice and opened one for himself. “Derek, what can you tell me about those charts?”
“Ignoring for the moment the question of the very long area 2 lines on the second chart, I'd say they both are recording the same thing which occurs, it seems, in cycles of five or six. The cycles, except for duration are the same in the two.”
“You are a good observer, Derek. I happened upon that observation quite by accident. A couple times when I saw him, Jayden's eyes were moving rapidly and he seemed to be paralyzed. I decided to check that out, but it seemed a matter of luck to find him in that state. I hit upon the idea of connecting him to an electromyograph, or EMG to measure muscle activity. When I spoke to a medical tech about that, he asked why I didn't just use the regular set-up they used for sleep studies along with the EMG. He said he'd connect an electroencephalograph or EEG to measure brain activity and an electrooculograph or EOG to measure rapid eye movement or REM. He was very excited when I saw him later and said, ‘Doc, I think I will have a surprise for you in a day or so.’ When I was next in Jayden's room, I saw the machines were still connected and spoke to Paul, the tech, about neglecting to remove them as he was leaving the hospital. ‘No neglect, Doc, intentional. Talk to you in the morning.’
“The following morning, he brought me the bottom chart you were looking at. The three lines represent three twenty-four hour periods. Paul just handed me the charts and said call him when I had a minute. It was lunch before I had a chance to look at the charts and I did as I was eating lunch. Nothing struck me at first and then I felt as though I had been hit in the head by a brick. I called Paul and he came right away. 'Paul, do these charts say what I am reading in them?' He nodded. Derek, I have never seen this before and, frankly, I don't know what to make of it, but Jayden is not in a coma or at least not in a regular one. He is asleep.”
“Yes, asleep. He's not following the usual pattern—the upper chart you saw is actually that of Paul sleeping in the sleep center here. It is a perfectly normal and to-be-expected chart. Jayden, as you saw, spends a much longer time in REM sleep than would be expected. He also spends a long period in stage 2 sleep which is like a meditative state. REM is closest to being awake and active except, in fact, many of your muscles are paralyzed. Jayden's 'normal' night's sleep is followed by a very abnormal coma-like 'day.' In short, Jayden's asleep much of the time. Can you help me out here?”
I thought for a few minutes and could think of nothing. “Afraid not, Doctor.”
“It's just very strange. It as though he is going through a night that is almost normal then enters into a meditative state, but then his day is coma-like.”
“Meditative state? REM sleep where his brain is as active as if he were awake? Maybe I can help you out after all or know someone who can. This will likely sound a bit weird to you, Dr. Richardson, but you are aware Jayden is not exactly your average white man, I suppose.”
“Well, I have noticed he looks, well, not Hispanic, but different. Maybe Indian?”
“He's pretty close to a full-blooded Diné or as others would call him, as I call him, Navajo. He apparently is someone special and is a Keeper of Secrets. Well, he's being trained to be a Keeper of Secrets. People would call him a medicine man, but think shaman and you would be closer, although such do healing and I have witnessed some pretty miraculous ones. Anyway, he has done two what I suppose would be called vision quests, and has recalled them to me—I'm also a part of this Keeper of Secrets schema, role unknown. Meditative states and active states with a 'no time' period would describe them somewhat. On the last one he thought he had been gone for just over four days, but had been gone over a week. During the quests, he fasts. I don't know what is going on now, but I suspect it is possible that he is OK and will return one of these days. I think we will be pretty surprised when he does.
“I do want to contact the elder who has been training him, well, enlightening him kind of training. These are inadequate words, but the best I can do. I will certainly let you know if I find out anything. Oh, you do need to know contacting the elder will not be easy. I'll have to get together with a fellow at school who is a ham radio operator and he will contact Dr. Kathryn Joseph on the Diné reservation and relay a message to her PA, Richard, whose wife, Lupe, will contact the elder as soon as she can. Convoluted, but then that's the way it is out there.”
“Derek, I know there is a story here and I want to hear it. Meanwhile, I want to have you work with Paul so you can read the sleep pattern and when he is in light sleep, speak to him as long as he remains there.”
“Sure, delighted. By the way, you free this evening?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
“If you're interested, drop by my place for supper—it will be with an interesting bunch of people—and afterward we can talk about Jayden. Very informal as everyone except my dad will be students. If you would like to shower there, I think you would find our shower adequate. Come when you wish, but supper will be promptly at 7:00.”
“I always have a change of clothes here and would love to just come over directly after I get off as I live in Virginia Beach.”
“Great! I will see if I can locate David who does the radio thing and try to contact Kathryn.”
It was after 3:00 when I reached the house and the first thing I did was tell Melyssa we would have a guest for supper. I asked if she had seen Jeremy and she said he was out back. I found him and Penny in the glider swing. I walked over, stepped up on the platform and sat opposite them.
“Looking good, Jeremy,” I said. “Feeling ok?”
“Feeling great after a good, long nap. I think Sam is out to finish off what someone started. An hour rehab is killing me. Speech therapy isn't physically exhausting, but emotionally it's a killer.” Jeremy didn't have to explain why he was in speech therapy as getting out what he had just said took effort. “I know what I want to say and exactly how to say it, but it doesn't come out correctly, or I know what I want to say, but can't find the words to say it. Fortunately, some things can be said other ways,” he said, leaned over and kissed Penny on the cheek. “How's Jayden? Any change?”
“No change, but Dr. Richardson may be onto something.” I then told him what Dr. Richardson had noticed and how the charts gave a visual indication of it. “I need to get in touch with David Reese again.” I had his number in my cell phone and called him, but the call went to voice mail. I left my name and number and asked him to call.
David called shortly after 5:30 and I asked if he could get me patched through to Kathryn somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00. “Let me know when and I'll get to your place.”
“No need,” he said. “When I get her, I'll give you a call on your cell and you can use the house phone to talk to her. No problem. How's Jayden doing?”
“Physically, so far as everything except the head injury goes, the doctor says he's doing fine. He had a long way to go, but he's made progress. The head injury? He's still out of it. He appears at first glance to be in a coma, but I just learned today that may not be what's going on. His brain activity shows he’s simply asleep about half the time. It's very confusing, David.”
“No doubt. Hey, I heard that warrants for the arrest of thirty additional people involved in the attack on the aquatics team have been issued.”
“Good. I guess I missed that.”
“Well, I kinda was eavesdropping, kinda, so keep it quiet for a while, but I thought you'd like to know.”
“Thanks, David, thanks a lot.”
Dr. Richardson arrived at 6:15 and welcomed a cold beer. “Doctor ...”
“Derek, I think we can drop the doctor here. I'm Kenneth and my friends call me Ken.”
“Fine. Anyway, Ken, I'm still not trying the stairs, but if you'll go upstairs, you'll find a bathroom off the living room. There's a shower there and you'll find towels in the closet. Make yourself at home. There's a hot tub in the bathroom in case you'd like to enjoy that as well.”
It was forty-five minutes before Dr. Richardson came down. He was dressed in jeans which showed off a really nice butt and a golf shirt that didn't hide his well-defined chest and back. I hadn't noticed before, but Dr. Richardson was hot! I gave him a second beer and took one myself—I was no longer on pain pills—and as we walked out back, he said, “So that's your idea of an adequate shower?” He laughed.
“I understand it's the second best in Norfolk. The contractor who did all the renovation here said only his was better.”
“Given the shower and hot tub, rehab has to go better for all of you. Your dad not here?”
“No, he left this afternoon to spend the weekend in Stanton. I suspect my dads will spend the weekend catching up on loving. But, back to the hot tub. Would be great, but there's the problem of the stairs. An elevator would be nice. We did have a lift put out back rather than a ramp.”
“Noticed that. Well, there's always those lifts which fit on the side of stairs. You just sit down and up the stairs you go.”
“Hadn't thought of that. I'm surprised Sam hasn’t. I’ll look into it.”
Out back, Jeremy and Penny were again sitting in the glider swings and we joined them. We had barely gotten seated when Levi and Telvin came across the yard and joined us, sitting on the platform of the swing. “Telvin, Levi, your remember Dr. Richardson?”
“Sure, Doctor,” Levi said, extending his hand.
“Ken, please. You recovered from the attack, Levi?”
“Sure. Any change in Jayden?”
“Beer?” Telvin asked.
“Help yourself,” I said.
“Well, I don't know whether there is a change or not. Well, there is, but I'm not sure when it happened. Derek and I were puzzling over it earlier. I more or less stumbled over the fact that Jayden seems to have a 'night' with the usual sleep stages, differing only in the length of the stages, followed by a coma-like day. Very puzzling.”
“David is contacting Kathryn and I'll speak to her about it. She'll also get in touch with the elder who is mentoring Jayden.”
Melyssa called us to dinner a few minutes to seven and we had a delightful dinner. Dr. Richardson fit right in and the table conversation was quite lively. We had just finished dinner when David called and told me just to pick up the house line when it rang and use it as I would normally. After I told Kathryn I was doing well, but didn't like rehab, she laughed. I told her there had been a development regarding Jayden and his doctor was here and would talk to her. They talked for almost an hour, much of which I didn't understand. Even with my studying medical books, a lot of the terms they used were unknown to me and I was hopelessly lost among all the acronyms.
When they finished, I took the phone again. Kathryn said immediately, “Derek, I think you are onto something. I'll go to the Pueblo tomorrow and talk with Lupe and maybe the elder and get back to Dr. Richardson. I can call from Page. How's Jeremy doing?”
“He's definitely on the mend, but it's slow. He really was broken up. Speech is still a major frustration for him, but I can see improvement already. Penny is a godsend. She is a wonderful woman and as soon as they pause for a minute, they'll realize they are in love. By the way, I heard today, unofficially, that there were a bunch of arrests in the offing. I really hope they have some way of pinning Jeremy’s and Jayden's attack on someone or someones.” We talked for a few minutes longer and she said she'd call tomorrow, probably late.
After I finished talking to Kathryn and gave Jeremy and Penny a summary, they went to Penny's room. Dr. Richardson and I stayed in the living room and he said, “Ok, I was promised a story.”
“I'll be right back,” I said, went to the dining room and got brandy and brandy glasses. “One of the things I learned during my work with medicine is a good story goes better with a good brandy, but that's chapter two of the story.”
I told Dr. Richardson how I happened to be on the Diné reservation, including how I met Jayden. I told him about how we had become great friends and then fell in love. I explained his being a Chosen One and that somehow or other I was as well, but that was about all I knew about me. “Ken, I am torn here. I have Jayden's letters describing his two quests, but they seem like they are sacred and yet, I think, they might help him get well. I hope you will read them remembering they are special if for no other reason than they are letters from a man who means more than life to me, but also because they reveal his soul.”
“I will read them as though they are holy writ,” he replied and I believed him.
“There is a major problem. They are upstairs and I don't trust myself on the stairs and I don't know how to tell you how to find them quickly.”
“Think I might be able to carry you on level ground, but not up stairs. Think you could make it with my support?”
“I think so and we don't have to come right back down.” The going was slow, but we did make it.
Dr. Richardson said he had been impressed by the living room and bath and asked about the rest of my place. “Across from the living room is the library and, I think, my favorite room,” I said, opening the door. “It is strictly for study and reading. Well, I do play chess—poorly—in the library, but no TV, no movies, etc. Those are in the living room. The library gets a lot of use by study groups. The letters are in my bedroom.”
When we entered the bedroom, he stood looking at the photos. “Jayden is one handsome dude, Derek. You two make quite a couple. Makes you wonder about people who wanted to destroy him and you and what you have together. I'll admit, I am about as straight as they come, but I can see the love you two have for each other and how right it is. Some really excellent photos here as well. You did them?”
“Most of them from summer before last, but many of the scenic ones Jayden made last summer.”
“Then you weren't with him last summer?”
“No, last summer I spent in rural south Georgia.” I then told him about my time in Macon and Cuthbert. “Dr. Bailey, my biology mentor and Dr. Levey, my chemistry professor, were determined that I get an understanding of what I would be getting into when I more or less decided I'd work toward becoming a doctor and working in an underserved area. They, by the way, took me out of the pre-med track here and are plotting a course for me that avoids many of the hoops I'd have to jump through if I stayed in it.”
Dr. Richardson asked about that and I told him.
“Derek, I think they are being wise. I came from a very poor family in southwestern Virginia. I managed to get into Berea College in Kentucky and came out with practically no college debt. I was tentatively accepted by two medical schools. When I left medical school, I had a horrendous debt. Nonetheless, I started working in eastern Kentucky where doctors were few and far between. After five years, I had paid back very little of my debt and was offered an opportunity to specialize in neurosurgery and took it. It pays major bucks but, unfortunately, it means a large town or city setting. It is also a specialization in which burnout is high. After all, many of my patients would, in my thinking, be better off if they died. There's a good chance Jayden will come out of this in excellent condition but, had you asked earlier and had I been brutally honest, I would have asked if lying in bed as a vegetable was preferable to death.”
“I did ask that question time and again and always decided Jayden would prefer death and I would as well. Well, here are the letters. Do you want to read them here?”
“Derek, I know how much getting Jayden well means to you and if I needed further proof, your offer to let these letters out of your keeping would be proof beyond question. Alexandria, my beautiful wife, is in Washington this week at a conference on high school curricula. She's a strong advocate for a liberal arts approach to high school rather than a 'skim the book for facts' approach which seems the natural outcome of all the standardized testing these days, so I would return to an empty house and late is ok. I’d just as soon read these here, now, if that’s ok with you.”
“Well, Dad Sam left for Stanton mid-day, so the upstairs is free. If you like, you can stay over. That way, you can read the letters and we can talk some more.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I'll stay up here as well. Save us having to struggle back downstairs after the struggle to get up here. We can share a bed or you can have the bed and I'll take the living room couch which makes into a wonderfully comfortable bed.”
“Sleep in your own bed for a change. I'll manage on the couch.”
“By all means, do make it into a bed. I assure you it is a nice one as I have slept on it from time to time for one reason or another.”
“Jayden kick you out of bed?” he grinned.
“Hardly.” I blushed and grinned.
When Dr. Richardson had read Jayden's accounts of both his 'quests,' he put the letters down and was silent. I, too, remained silent. When he finally broke the silence, he said, “Derek, it kind of hits you in the face, doesn't it? The question is, what do we do besides just wait.”
“I like your idea of my talking to him in his shallower-sleep state, so we can try that and maybe the elder will be able to tell us what to do. I believe he is the key to Jayden's return.”
Next morning, Dr. Richardson said he guessed he'd have to head to Virginia Beach for clean clothes. “We should have tossed your hospital clothes into the washer last night,” I said, “but looking at you, I'm sure I can get you outfitted. Briefs or boxers?”
“Trunks or boxer briefs.”
“Medium?” He nodded. I got a pair of trunks and socks from my closet. I thought Jeremy's shirts would be a better fit and called down and asked Penny to bring one up. “Pants may be a problem,” I said, noting Dr. Richardson was quite tall, taller, I suspected, than anyone in the house.
“No problem. No reason I can’t wear the ones I wore yesterday.”
We made it back downstairs, had breakfast and a second cup of coffee. Dr. Richardson made a point of thanking Melyssa for dinner and breakfast and thanked Penny for her hospitality before leaving. He had been gone only a few minutes when Telvin and Levi came over to check on me and Jeremy. We were all sitting in the living room shooting the breeze before Jeremy had speech therapy when the door bell rang. Penny went to answer it and ushered a uniformed policeman and a man in a plain dark suit into the living room.
“Gentlemen, I am Officer Spencer of the Norfolk Police and this is Special Agent Klein of the FBI,” the officer said and the two showed us their IDs.
“I'm Penny Alexander. This is Derek Wilson, Levi Epstein, Jeremy Willoughby and Telvin Saitov,” she said, pointing to each us as she spoke.
“Very good. We didn’t expect to find you together, so we’re in luck. We’d like to take a few minutes of your time. Derek, Levi and Telvin, I believe you three were injured in the attack on the aquatics team.”
“Jeremy, you were attacked later.” He nodded. “We'd like you to look at some photographs if you would. Just take your time and if you see anyone you recognize, point them out.” He placed four pages on the coffee table, each with twelve photos.
“May I pick the sheet up?” Jeremy asked before I could get out the same question.
I didn't expect to see anyone I knew, but as soon as I looked at the sheet, I saw Jayden's face. I immediately burst into tears and stumbled from the room and into the hall toilet. Agent Klein was right behind me.
“What's the problem, Mr. Wilson?”
“One of the photos there is of Jayden Fulton, my husband. He is still in the hospital in a coma. He was with Jeremy when they were attacked the day after the aquatics team was attacked. ”
“I knew that, but didn't realize his photo was in the photo lineup. The photos came from IDs collected the day the swim team was attacked, photos and videos we got from confiscated cameras and phones. We got student IDs and drivers' license photos for most of the names. We are trying very hard to find who attacked Messrs. Fulton and Willoughby. Frankly, the perpetrators face such serious charges that they may well be the key to identifying ring leaders and organizers. I am not privy to all the ins and outs of the political side of this, but I can tell you, there is a lot of pressure from above to find and prosecute those guilty.”
Back in the living room, I looked at the photos and saw one face I recognized. “That man,” I said pointing to a photo, “was one of those who first started throwing rocks at those of us who stood in silent protest. He was one, I think the first, who started shouting that we should be stoned.”
“You're sure?” Officer Spencer asked.
When Levi saw the same line up, he identified the same person.
I thought that was going to be it until Jeremy picked up the one sheet he had not seen. He started shaking, leaned over and starting retching. I grabbed a wastebasket for him as he emptied his stomach. Levi brought a wet cloth and water for him to rinse his mouth. When Jeremy got control, he said, “Sorry,” and pointing to a picture, the same Levi and I had identified, and said, “He was one of the four who beat me and Jayden!”
Among the other photos, Telvin identified one as having had a large stick in his hand when he, Telvin, came out of the gym just before the aquatics team was attacked.
“Only two have already been identified and one of them we knew about, so it may seem like little was accomplished, but we had no idea who was behind your beating, Jeremy,” Office Spencer said. “Dr. Richardson said Mr. Fulton was still in a coma and he had no idea when he would awake or what he might remember.”
“I had no recollection of being attacked,” Jeremy said, “but when I saw that photo, it was like I had a sudden flash, like I saw his face as he drew back a baseball bat to hit me. He is the guy and I know there were three others.”
“I suspect when we have one, he will give up the others. It is amazing how brave they don't become when separated. Thank you for your help and if you think of anything give us a call,” Special Agent Klein said.
Penny saw Jeremy needed to rest so she helped him from the room. He could have done it on his own, but why when you could be helped by someone as nice as Penny? They both still claimed they were just good friends and that they were but, as Sergeant Major said, “One of these days Jeremy's going to look at Penny and realize he is hopelessly in love.”
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