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Ten Years Later
THE RAIN CAME down hard, hammering the roof of the Governor's Mansion, splashing against the sides of the buildings along Capitol Street, and forming shallow pools spreading across the pavement. Alfred Wynn drove his Mercedes in what most would consider a reckless manner, weaving around the slower traffic, slashing through the puddles, the sleek vehicle's tires throwing wide sheets of water out to the sides.
But he knew what he was doing. He knew he was absolutely safe under the conditions—the amount of water his tires cut through, the drag that the water caused, the weight of the Mercedes resisting the pull. He knew all these facts without even thinking, and the speed he could drive safely up to the very mile an hour.
A flashy diamond ring on his hand and his large frame encased in an Armani suit, he gave the appearance of someone who knew what he was doing in his business life, too. Obviously rich, the look on his chiseled, square face was one of complete confidence, absolute total confidence; the confidence that came from knowing all there was to know—and being able to instantly assimilate it all into complex thought that served whatever purpose he desired.
He didn't show a sign of panic when out of the corner of his eye he caught the image of a furniture transport truck running the red light at the intersection he should have been safely passing through. All he did was raise his arm against his face for protection, a primitive, instinctive gesture that came from somewhere deep in a part of hismind he had almost forgotten was there.
And then there was the thunderous sound of the truck's front slamming into the steel of the Mercedes' side.
* * *
At that moment, on the top floor of the tallest office building in the city, two large men in their mid-forties, dressed in nearly matching tailored suits, sat across from each other near the end of a long conference table. The larger man suddenly flinched. The other man's mouth gaped.
"What ..." he started, "... a truck ..."
Then their faces swung as one toward the far wall, as if they knew where the collision between the Mercedes and the truck had taken place, many stories below and several blocks away—in the direction they were looking.
* * *
Two miles away, Spence Stevens turned his aging Ford Bronco toward the rear of the main teaching hospital located at the center of the sprawling 160-acre University Medical Center complex. He parked out of the rain by stopping under the protection of the second floor of the hospital extending out over the emergency department entrance. But he was already soaked. His white shirt clung to his shoulders like a T-shirt damp with perspiration from a game of hospital league basketball. Even his jeans and sneakers were damp. A droplet of water trickled out from under his hair and moved slowly down his face. He used his knuckle to wipe the drop away, pushed open the driver's door, and stepped outside. Rolling his damp shirt sleeves up his forearms, he came around the front of the Bronco and walked toward the emergency department doors.
As they slid back and he walked inside, an older couple standing in a small waiting room off to the left stared his way. The woman smiled at his appearance. Ahead of him, a tall security guard standing beside the next doorway leading into the heart of the department looked at the wet clothes and smiled, too.
"Left my raincoat at my apartment this morning," Spence explained as he passed the man.
"No kidding," the guard called after him.
As he continued across the floor, doctors and nurses dressed in surgical scrubs went about their business around him. An older cardiologist, wearing a suit and tie and standing at the nurses' station off to the left, looked at him, staring at the wet attire for a moment, and then went back to writing orders in a chart. Dr. David Lambert waited in the corridor past the rear of the department. The aging pathologist wore a white knee-length lab coat over slacks, a dress shirt, and bright red tie: about the only combination of clothing Spence could ever remember seeing him in. Always the red tie. In fact there was almost nothing ever different in the old man's appearance, Spence caught himself noting for at least the fiftieth time in the few years since he had been a medical student and Lambert one of his professors. Lambert's slight build had not seemed to vary a pound over that period of time, his thin neck always making his shirt collars look too big. And, most memorable, he was still possessed of those ever alert, piercing dark eyes that seemed to stare right into you and know all there was to know about you. Not many things could make a beginning student so nervous as meeting Professor Lambert for the first time and being a recipient of that piercing stare. Lambert smiled as Spence walked up to him and stopped.
"You swam?" the old man questioned, looking at the wet clothes.
"Forgot my raincoat," Spence repeated.
"Good thinking, son," Lambert said as they shook hands. Then the old professor looked across his shoulder down the hallway in the direction of the morgue. "Can you believe he carried a donor card?" he asked, remarking on the peculiar fact that the man delivered there earlier that morning, a man guilty of at least two prior murders and a record of abusing others all his life, could otherwise be so caring as for such a bequest to have been found on his body.
Shaking his head in amusement, Lambert turned down the hall, and Spence followed after him.
* * *
With the elevator stopping for passengers at nearly every floor, it had taken the two men four frustrating minutes to get from the suite of offices on the top floor of the office building down to the lobby area. When the elevator door opened, they pushed past an old man starting to step outside. He stared after them as they hurried toward the building's entrance, but didn't say anything. They were large, obviously strong men, both of them a good six-feet-two and well over two hundred pounds, and it would be foolish to cause a scene with a pair already proven to rudeness at the least. And their tailored suits and shiny shoes spoke of wealth and power. The shoes especially, the old man knew. He was a shoe salesman. The shoes were Vallys—easily a thousand dollars a pair. He didn't need any problems.
The two disappeared into the heavy rain falling outside the building.
From a few blocks away came the sound of the bells atop St. Peter's Cathedral. It was twelve o'clock in the city of Jackson, Mississippi.
* * *
The morgue was fifty feet wide by a little over twenty feet deep, with most of its rear blanked from sight by a tall wall of metal body drawers. A small work area to the right of the drawers contained a white porcelain sink, a washing table, and the stocky body of Tommy Small, lying on his back on a gurney. Shorn of the bloodstained jeans and shirt he had worn when rolled into the morgue, he was naked except for a towel laid across his stomach and tucked up under his wide hips like a loincloth. Dr. Lambert, his thin, straight white hair hanging down across his forehead, stood on one side of the gurney. Spence, now wearing a black disposable full-body apron over his damp jeans and shirt, his hands clad in a double thickness of latex gloves, stood on the other side. In addition to the two jagged holes where police bullets had exited Tommy Small's chest, the left eye, partially protruding from its socket, showed where a round had entered his head from the rear and lodged itself just behind the orbital socket. The force of the shot had caused the cornea to disintegrate, leaving a slight amount of clear-colored pulp at the corner of the eye.
"The right one was usable for a transplant," Dr. Lambert said, sliding a pair of glasses with thick lenses from his lab coat pocket. "You're the only person I know who would be interested in the other one."
Spence hoped the optic nerve wasn't damaged. From the angle the shot entered the head it didn't appear that the trajectory of the bullet itself would have done any damage. But the concussion could have severed or damaged the nerve beyond use even in his experiments. He lifted a scalpel from the stainless steel instrument cart next to the gurney.
His first incision was at the very inside corner of the eye, as close to the bridge of the nose as he could get it.
* * *
On Capitol Street, only one car at a time was being let through the eastbound lanes at the scene of the accident. The Mercedes' side was caved in and the furniture truck's cab had ridden up on the sleek car's top. Firemen standing in the driving rain were using hoses to spray the gasoline away. There was no ambulance in sight.
The two large men stared through the windshield of their Mercedes, brought to a crawl in the slowly moving traffic. As the car neared the intersection, the larger man slowed it even more, lowered his window and leaned his head outside toward a young fireman directing a wide spray of water under the truck.
"Where did they take him?"
The fireman glanced across his shoulder but hadn't quite caught the question.
The Mercedes suddenly stopped. The man threw open the door and stepped outside into the rain. "Where did they take him?" he snapped.
A police officer directing traffic through the intersection stared at the man. The fireman hesitated a moment, then said, "The truck driver wasn't hurt. He—"
"The one he hit, you fool!" the man shouted. "Where did they take him'"
The young fireman's lips tightened. He started to come back with an even louder voice. But then realizing he must be facing someone important considering the way the man was acting and the Mercedes he drove, he held his tongue. He had just received his position on the fire department a month before. He certainly didn't need to jeopardize it.
"They took him to University."
As the man slid back inside the Mercedes and it sped past the policeman directing traffic, the fireman stared after the car. As he saw the policeman glance at him, he felt a little embarrassed at having taken the abuse he had. Powerful figure or whatever, he wasn't certain now. But there was something he had sensed in the big man's demeanor.
* * *
Spence dug the scalpel farther down inside the orbital socket and past it, cutting carefully, ever deeper, around the optic nerve, into the brain.
Dr. Lambert, eyes blurred behind the thick lenses of his glasses, smiled his approval at the dexterous movement of the sharp blade.
"You learned well," he said. "You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger."
Spence glanced at the older man. Lambert wouldn't be a bad model to emulate when it came to working with a scalpel. And not only when he was younger. His skill with operating instruments put him more in the mold of a neurosurgeon than a pathologist. There couldn't be anyone who was more skilled by steadiness and hand-eye coordination—and that intuitive feel that a person, who was going to be a skilled surgeon possessed long before he entered medical school.
Of course I'm biased about anything that has to do with Dr. Lambert, Spence thought. He knew that started just after finishing the second year of his neurology residency, when he began to think about making his career one of research rather than joining one of the private practice groups in the city. "You're crazy," everyone had said. "Only two years from beginning a private practice that will set you up for life—and you want to give that up for a researcher's salary and a state pension that will hardly pay off your house before you die." Only Dr. Lambert had said that if research was where he wanted to be, the hell with what anyone else thought. By that time Spence already knew where he was headed, but it was nice for the old doctor to add his encouragement. And he did so repeatedly after that, right up to the day Spence remembered ending his residency and starting work in research the very next day. He smiled a little at his next thought.
"What?" Dr. Lambert questioned, looking across Small's body.
"I was thinking about how you helped talk me into research. I was just wondering what I'm going to be thinking of you about the time I start drawing my pension."
"Hell, son," Lambert said, "the others will have their millions, but you'll have the good feeling." There was the inkling of a smile at the corners of the pathologist's lips. "Of course not much else," he added.
Spence lifted the eyeball, complete with the optic nerve ending in a clump of severed brain tissue, into view.
* * *
Siren wailing, the ambulance swerved off North State Street through the rain into the University Medical Center complex. The driver followed the narrow pavement circling around the helicopter pad toward the emergency department at the rear of the main hospital. The paramedic in the back of the ambulance, a slim female in her late twenties wearing a yellow rain suit, performed her life-saving actions almost by instinct she had done them so many times before—though she knew this time they were of no use. If nothing else, the inch-wide flat piece of steel driven into the Mercedes' driver's forehead just above his left eye told her that. It had been driven into the skull when the side of the Mercedes, which virtually exploded on impact, was hit by the loaded transport truck. A couple inches of the metal, jagged on one edge and smooth on the other, protruded above the skin. How deep it went she could only guess, but it was obvious it had gone too deep. The profuse amount of blood that came from a head wound had quit running out around the metal. There was no movement of the heart to pump the blood. He was in full cardiac arrest. He was asystolic in two ECG leads. She had intubated him, started an IV, and given him a total of five milligrams of epinephrine and three of atropine—all without results. Mr. Alfred Wynn, the forty-two-year-old senior vice president of Computer Resources Incorporated, according to the identification in his wallet, would be DOA at the hospital. He was already dead.
Then, directly below the protruding piece of metal, Alfred Wynn's eye opened.
The paramedic's eyes widened.
The blood began pumping out around the metal.
The paramedic jerked her head toward the readout on the electrocardiogram monitor.
* * *
The man driving the Mercedes suddenly tightened his eyes. He stared over the steering wheel through the top of the car's windshield as if he were looking for something in the heavy dark clouds overhanging the city.
"He was back," he said.
He looked across the seat. "John?" he said, a questioning tone to his voice, a tone that was almost never present in either of their voices.
John had seen the same thing. He looked toward the clouds. But that was only where his idle stare went as he concentrated. What he was seeing was inside his head. The image had come back, for just an instant, and blurred, and then it was gone again.
Now it was back again.
This time a clearer picture—a woman's face, her features twisted into an incredulous expression, looking down at Alfred's face. She had long blond hair tied back in a ponytail. She wore a yellow rain jacket over a light-blue uniform shirt ... a small hose running from Alfred's face toward a round, steel cylinder ... the scene bouncing.
The flash of the building off to the side.
The emergency room entrance.
* * *
The blond paramedic came outside the rear of the ambulance, reached back inside the blocky vehicle and pulled the gurney toward her. Its legs popped down to the concrete and the body of Mr. Alfred Wynn, strapped to a spinal board, came outside. Her partner, a male with his dark hair damp and draping across his forehead, had hurried out of the driver's seat to the rear of the ambulance, and now used the flat of one hand to pump on Alfred's chest while using his other hand to pull the gurney toward the open emergency department doors. The blond rapidly compressed the ambu bag, forcing oxygen down the endotracheal tube into Alfred's lungs. A pair of nurses dressed in blue surgical scrubs met the gurney, grabbing its sides and helping pull it hurriedly inside the department.
"He was gone," the blond paramedic said to one of them. "He opened his eye—he could see, I know he could see. No pulse. No cardiac rhythm, no breathing ... he could see."
As they passed through the doors into the department, a slim, unusually young resident in green scrubs met the gurney.
The eye popped open again.
The one beneath the section of jagged metal driven into his forehead.
The blond pumped the ambu bag with both hands.
The gurney being turned rapidly into a trauma room caused the body to shift. Alfred's arm began to pull out from underneath the webbing securing him in place. His hand moved toward his head. The resident grabbed Alfred's forearm.
With amazing strength, Alfred's hand continued on toward the piece of protruding metal. His fingers locked around its jagged edge.
The male paramedic caught the man's wrist.
"Stop him," a nurse wailed to the side of the gurney. "Don't let him pull...."
The embedded metal came out of Alfred's forehead with a noticeable squishing sound. His hand, holding the sharp section of steel, trembled. Blood gushed from the wound. Even the resident, stunned momentarily, stared at the blood.
The hand went limp.
The length of steel fell to the floor, clanging against the tile, and lay still.
Alfred's arm fell to the side, his hand hanging limply off the gurney.
A gray-haired black nurse, standing a few feet away, made the sign of the cross across her chest.
Posted January 11, 2001
once again charles wilson has written a suspensful technothriller. a bit of a slow starter, but once he gets going... the further i got into the book, the faster i was reading, and the more taunt wilson kept it. a good job.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2000
Charles Wilson has the insight to take medical technology and spin it into a fast paced thriller. Always original, his novels will keep the reader on edge until the last page. Great material for a BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 6, 2000
Charles Wilson is the master in the bieotech-thriller category. As good as his work is, he actually grows stronger with each new book. GAME PLAN is his best novel yet. Chilling, terrifying, GAME PLAN is a lightning-read with all too believable villains. If, for some reason, you haven't read all of his books, this will make you hunger to read every one of his novels. Take it out for a spin! You'll be delighted
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