Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause

Author: Joel T. Kant

Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 1, 2019

Chapter Title: John's Realization

Chapter Number: Two

Copyright: (c) March 1, 2019


John lay on his stomach on the hospital bed. A doctor bent over him, then peeled off a bloody bandage. The doctor spread something liquid and cold with a sharp antiseptic smell on his back. This room was an ordinary hospital emergency room, not an operating room.

A uniformed police officer popped his head in, "Is John Falkowsky conscious? I need to get a statement in case he dies!"

The doctor snorted, "He's in no danger of that. Just a small cut on his back from shrapnel that never got into any organs."

Glancing over, John himself put in, "I've never been unconscious, Officer McCormick."

The doctor confirmed, "I just used local anesthetic."

Officer McCormick said, "Chief Clymer and I have been talking to his girlfriend, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend out in the waiting room. They report John was strapped down tightly to a board before being put in the ambulance."

"That's standard procedure if a back or neck injury is at all suspected," the doctor lectured. "We play it safe. We already ran John through the MRI. His injury was just as minor as it appeared."

John turned his eyes toward the door and said, "Hello, McCormick."

The doctor said, "My patient only needs two stitches. Can't this wait?"

John put in, "I..."

The doctor ordered John, "Don't talk when I'm putting in stitches."

McCormick said before departing, "I'll be in the waiting room with your brother, Vicky, Christine, and the Chief."

The stitches, just as they were supposed to, stopped the bleeding. After they were in, the doctor applied a fresh new bandage. It was much smaller than the bloody one he had removed. The doctor gave John a prescription to be filled later at a drugstore. It took some time as the doctor gave detailed instructions on the medication, with various possible side effects and warnings. The doctor warned John that he was likely to be stiff and sore for several days. Pain would be from bruising and strained muscles, not an indication of undetected serious injury. The doctor then let John leave. A nurse came with a clean shirt. She said that the police had taken the bloody one as evidence.

At last, John walked into the waiting room just in time to hear Vicky calling Officer McCormick a monster. As soon as she saw John, she forgot McCormick. She ran over gave John a kiss. He could taste the saltiness from her tears.

John warmly smiled at her and announced, "I'm fine. Just two stitches. The back board was just a precaution."

Vicky glared over at Officer McCormick, "This police officer just came and told us that much. I thought that made him a good guy, but then he asked me nasty questions. He believes you and Fritz blew up your own SUV for publicity!"

McCormick shrugged and said "Nothing personal, ma'am."

John directed a response to Vicky, "It's McCormick's job to ask these types of questions, whether he believes I'm guilty or not."

Vicky gave John a quizzical expression and remembered, "You usually have a short temper."

"I've been working on that. Besides, I'm not angry at McCormick. Fritz and I've known him for years, and he's just doing his job. I am furious at the man who planted the bomb."

McCormick remarked, "Fritz had recorded the guy in the SUV on his phone. We have a very good image of him."

John remarked, "Really? That's a good clue."

Vicky put in, "I saw the image too when Fritz was showing it to the officers. The guy had what seemed to be a healed broken nose."

McCormick nodded at Vicky and remarked, "That could help us find him."

John gingerly touched his back, then said, "I'm sorry about Gordon Fink dying, just like Iris did."

McCormick said, "He's not dead."

John asked in complete astonishment, "Really?"

McCormick responded, "Gordon Fink will be in surgery for a while yet, but he's expected to live."

John declared, "I'm glad he's not dead, even if he is an incompetent fool. Where's my brother and Christine?"

McCormick replied, "They were here until a few minutes ago. I told them what the doctor said about your injury being so minor, so they left. They're heading back to the crime scene. Chief Clymer himself is escorting them. Fritz is going to assist with the investigation for some federal agency or other, but it's not the F.B.I. When'd you two join the Feds?"

John replied, "Who told you we worked there?"

"Fritz did. He talked on his phone first where I guess he got permission from some guy he called Dr. Ruby, then pulled an official I.D. card. The chief was really impressed. I'll bet you got one too," McCormick answered.

John reflexively touched his pants pocket with his wallet, but instead pulled out his smartphone while saying, "Let me check my phone."

John looked at his phone and scrolled through the text messages that showed they had come in encrypted format, then whistled and remarked, "I guess we're working in collaboration with the Port City Police."

Officer McCormick said, "So that explains you two. I couldn't figure out why Fritz dropped out after only a year studying Criminal Justice at Port City U. A prof had him do a couple ride-alongs with me for credit back then. Fritz had a knack for this work. If he'd stuck with college, he'd be close to graduating and joining us by now. Instead, that dropout Gordon keeps applying. We keep telling Gordon to go finish college, then we'll consider him. Instead, he is calling himself a private detective and put out an ad. He won’t be doing much of that until he recovers from this."

Vicky protested, "Nobody told me why Fritz and Christine left with that other officer. They deliberately talked out of my hearing. Officer McCormick, you asked me all those nasty questions as though you thought John had committed the crime when all along you knew you were going to cooperate with him and Fritz?"

McCormick nodded, then pulled out a notepad and said, "Well, John, let's have your statement."

John went over the whole thing, including giving McCormick the license number still written on his hand. McCormick wrote that down. John continued, describing seeing Gordon fly through the air. John stopped abruptly. His face took on a thoughtful expression. His face began twitching.

Vicky said, "John, should I get your doctor?"

John held up a hand and said in a quivering voice, "McCormick, you said Gordon was alive despite being tossed around like that?"

"Yes, although injured badly enough to require surgery. Several broken bones and ribs. Whether he has back injuries is still uncertain, last I knew," McCormick affirmed.

John remarked, "From what I saw, Gordon had opened the door and was about to climb into our SUV. He must have been very close to the explosion."

McCormick nodded.

John asked, "How's our SUV?"

McCormick replied, "Totaled. With it ripped apart like that, I could see how it was armored and with a roll cage. That SUV being so tough might have limited the blast enough to save Gordon's life. Even with that armoring, your SUV is destroyed. Sorry to bear the bad news."

Vicky, who had not even lived in Port City or even the state of Maine when the Falkowskys' first car blew up as she had moved here to attend Port City University, asked a question that proved she knew what her boyfriend was thinking, "Officer, how torn apart was the SUV compared to their other car that got blown up a little over three years ago?"

McCormick said, "The SUV's worse. I think more powerful explosives were used this time. Pending further investigation, of course."

John shouted, "Iris Morrow couldn't have been in our car when it exploded!"

McCormick impassively said, "You've got to have been in denial, have repressed memories, or something. Even in the intense firebombing in Dresden, Germany during World War Two where intense heat melted bodies, something of the body remained. Port City is still here, so it obviously wasn't that kind of explosion."

"That makes sense to me," Vicky said.

John responded, "I saw Iris get in the car. I saw her get in!"

McCormick argued, "Iris may be alive or dead, but she certainly wasn't in that car when the bomb went off. If you saw her get in, she must have gotten out again."

John recalled, "The newspapers and TV news reported her death in the explosion."

McCormick informed John, "The Port City Police Department had orders to play it to the media that way from the federal government. National security stuff. I talked with people from the F.B.I. and C.I.A. I know the C.I.A. aren't supposed to be involved in stuff inside our country, but there they were. There were other agencies as well, a whole slew of them. I think the official that talked most of the time to Chief Clymer back then was the same big wig named Dr. Ruby that Fritz talked to on his phone today."

Vicky said, "I'm surprised police have to keep that kind of thing a secret."

Officer McCormick said, "We have to keep lots of things secret for various reasons, Victoria. You probably heard the President is coming to Port City to give a speech at the Convention Center. Fritz and John saved the guy's life from an assassin when still a candidate. You tell her about that?"

Vicky replied, "That assassin was proven to be the same guy that put the bomb in their car that killed...or did not kill...his high school sweetheart Iris Morrow. John and Fritz told me that. I'm not sure what to believe now, though. Won't the President not come to Port City since having as SUV just blown up shows it is a dangerous place?"

John said, "Last time while still a candidate, he just moved his rally from Port City, Maine down the coast to Portland, Maine. It wasn't enough of a change, though, because it was in Portland that Fritz and I stopped the assassin who had the sniper rifle."

McCormick remarked, "Too bad you didn't capture him alive. Only time in my entire career that I heard of a suicide pill. I've had people blow their brains out rather than surrender, but not take an actual suicide pill designed for certain death. Who makes those, anyway? Think we could go to that doctor over there and just ask for a prescription for a single pill guaranteed to cause instant and certain death? Doesn't seem to fit the Hippocratic Oath."

"Those pills aren't made in this country. Unfortunately, I've seen others," John said.

Vicky said, "Don't tell me you and Fritz carry them!"

John looked at her in surprise and responded, "Of course not! I meant in people we were trying to capture."

Officer McCormick said, "I hope this new car bombing causes the President to stay out of the entire state of Maine. John, if you need to, I can bring you home to rest, and take Vicky back to her dorm."

John touched his back, then said, "I think I'll be okay if I can just stay still. Is there someplace comfortable to sit at the station house?"

McCormick said, "The Chief's got a couch in his office."

"Let's go there, and I'll wait for Fritz to show up. I'm not too bad, but not up to wandering around the crime scene."

Vicky said, "You can go there if you want, John. I'll accept a ride to my dorm."

Chapter Three--Conspiring in a Motel Room

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