Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Lazarus Effect--- Part Five


The shrill staccato of the phone startled Sara Goldberg as she wiped down the last of the tables in her café. Her stomach dropped with the same weight of the wet rag she let fall to the table as she crossed to the counter to answer. For the past nineteen months, her husband Yacov had been stationed in Hebron, as part of his extended service in the Israeli Army. A late night call could only mean bad news.

“Shalom” she answered shakily.

“Sara! Sara! My father’s on his way to hospital. I wouldn’t have called so late but I didn’t know who else to call. There’s a policeman standing here waiting to take me to Sinai but can you meet me there? I’m afraid to be there alone. I’m—”

Hearing Hannah’s voice, Sara had started to breathe a sigh of relief, until her words sank in. “Hannah, please slow down. Your father’s taken ill? The police are there?”

“No. He’s been attacked. He was meeting Professor West in the park. I don’t know what happened. Sara, I just can’t go to hospital alone.” Hannah’s voice was hoarse and the tears were still flowing.

Grabbing her purse and keys, Sara had already begun turning off lights in her café. “I’m on my way. Do I need to come get you or should I go straight to hospital?”

Hannah took a deep breath. “The officer’s here to take me. I’ll meet you there. And can you please call Grace for me?”

“Absolutely. What else do you need me to do for you?”

“Pray, Sara. Pray for my father.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll meet you in Emergency.”

Sara could hear Hannah holding back a fresh wave of sobs as she rang off. Impulsively, she filled a bag with a handful of muffins and grabbed several bottles of juice and water before setting the alarm and locking the shop. This could be a long night and Hannah would need her strength.

Before starting the engine of her worn Accord, Sara dialed Grace. She knew her friend dreaded late night phone calls as well, having received news of sudden death of her father in Boston in the middle of the Jerusalem night. Grace picked up after only two rings.

“Grace, it’s Sara. Something’s happened to Kahlil el Said and Hannah’s asked us to meet her at Sinai.” She knew that even if Grace had been sleeping, she was one of those people who sprang instantly into full consciousness with the ringing of the phone.

“Kahlil. What happened? Is it serious? Of course it is, or you wouldn’t be calling.” There really is such a thing as a dumb question, she thought. “How’s Hannah?”

“She didn’t say much, but it must be bad. An officer came to her door and offered to take her there himself. All I know is that he was meeting Art in the park and now he’s on his way to Sinai.”

“Where are you? Should I meet you there, or do you want to swing by?”

“I’m at the café. I can probably get there quicker if I go from here, but I can come there if you’d rather not drive.”

“Don’t be silly. I’ll meet you there. Where’s Art? Is he with Kahlil?”

“I’ve no idea. Hannah was too upset about going hospital alone to say much more.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll see if I can reach him for details.”

“I told her we’d meet her at Emergency.”

“Will do. Be safe.”

“You too. I’ll see you soon.”

As Sara started the engine and made a quick U-turn towards the hospital, Grace, now in her car, left messages at both Art’s flat and on his cell, wondering what he had gotten himself into this time.

Ray Simpson tried unsuccessfully to creep about the tiny three-room flat without waking his roommate, Grayson Johnson. He’d been lucky to find someone to share the rent and luckier still that the guy was so laid back he didn’t make a nuisance of himself.

Ray’s sleep deprivation rivaled that of a medical resident. If he played his cards right though, he’d come out with the same Dr. in front of his name—only it’d be for Archaeology not Medicine. Most days he felt like an indentured servant and didn’t look much better. He’d never been an athlete and avoided exercise much the same way he avoided eating anything remotely resembling fresh produce, which resulted in his looking very much like an overstuffed rag doll—softly padded and the color of muslin. No matter. He was basically enslaved to Patrick Stone anyway.

No one else had even applied for the assistantship, and now Ray understood why. But then, his credentials hadn’t gotten him much more than a cartload of standardized rejection letters from virtually every major program on both American coasts. Bottom line, they were stuck with each other because they, each in his own way, desperately needed the other.

Ray tried to remind himself that the misery would end soon. He only needed to survive the summer, make enough money to pay for one more dissertation semester, and impress Stone just enough to get a passable recommendation in his file. All that really meant was being at Dr. Shrew’s beck and call 27 hours a day. He supposed he’d had worse gigs—transferring the school library’s card catalogue to disk, for example—than playing step and fetch it for one of Yale’s tenured professors. And he had to admit that the work had, at times, been pretty interesting. Especially making replicas of artifacts for Stone’s lectures.

Though his eyes burned and his fingers felt like they’d been running violin scales for the last 9 hours, he couldn’t settle down enough to sleep. Stone had been particularly irascible this afternoon—so much so that Ray had turned off the ringer on his cell phone and left it to vibrate among the mess of sheets and blankets on his bed. He had more than enough to do for his task master. He’d finally completed the matter of the moment. Anything else could wait until tomorrow.

Zeke Johnson looked up from the handheld football game at the apartment building across the street. Still no sign of that Stone guy. He’d changed positions more than a dozen times, eaten through three boxes of Cracker Jacks and beaten his all-time highest score twice since setting up surveillance. This tailing stuff was supposed to be cool—exciting—like it was on TV. The cops on Law and Order never made it through a whole cup of coffee before the perp showed up.

He hadn’t agreed with his folks at all about moving to Jerusalem for the impending Rapture. He’d been perfectly happy working the rodeo circuit back home in Texas. It’d been Luke who’d convinced him that even if the world didn’t end, they might as well get out from under Mama and Daddy’s wings and have an adventure or two beyond the interchangeable arena’s they’d visited with the rodeo. Trying to rub the pins and needles out of his left foot, he realized, not for the first time, that his big brother definitely didn’t know everything.

For starters, the food here made the slop they’d eaten on the road back home look like Mama’s Sunday dinner. Even McDonald’s tasted funny over here. Then there was football. Around here, football meant soccer—like in England or something—and when they could find the rare game on a satellite TV, it was always pro. No chance of catching the Aggies on any satellite channel in Jerusalem, no sirree. He was ready for some adventure already, but as he’d just reported to Brother Lawes, not a dang thing had happened since he’d struck up his first innocuous pose under the olive tree.

Bored with the football game, he dialed Luke’s cell.

“Yo-oooooh” he yawned into the phone when his brother picked up.

“Yo yourself. Man, is this a cool gig or what? I told you coming over here would be better than the Rodeo!” answered a breathless Luke.

“Are you trippin’? I’m so bored I wouldn’t mind muckin’ out a few stalls right now. This Stone guy ain’t nowheres around.”

“Well, if he’s anything like West, I’d get ready to roll Z, ‘cause I’ve been all over J-town and back this afternoon!”

“You’re kiddin’ man, right? I mean, no lie, I haven’t done anything but eat Cracker Jacks, play football and cuss the day we got on that stupid seven-four-seven.”

“No. I’m not playin’ Z, this West guy has been plenty busy. First I followed him down to some official building—the IAA or something—and then I had to haul it up to some church in Bethany, then back down to his place and then over to the park by where they keep the Dead Sea Scrolls—and here’s where things got weird. I see the guy go in to the park, and then, like a minute later I see him come running out, and before I can figure what he’s up to, an ambulance fires in, and then some cops come right behind ‘em, pulling their ride up on the curb! Just like TV, Z!”

“Dude, this is the circuit all over again. I always got the half-dead bull—and you always wound up looking like the Marlboro Man” Zeke whined. “You know, I wish we’d never—whoa Nellie. There he is. The guy really exists. Gotta fly Lu’.”

He’d spotted his mark weaving down the block towards the apartment building. The dude was muttering and flapping his hands like he was crazy or something—and he kept looking behind him, over his shoulder. Zeke took two steps back into the canopy of the tree’s branches and watched while Patrick Stone made his way through the doorway of his building, up the common stairwell, barely visible through the frosted hallway windows, and into his apartment where he systematically turned on all of the lights as he peered anxiously out of his own windows. This might not be so bad after all, thought Zeke, as he traded the football game for the binoculars he pulled out from the depths of his backpack.


Art was surprised, relieved and grateful that the trip to the police station had been brief and, as these things go, fairly uneventful. Though he’d never found himself in quite this kind of bind, he had expected to be detained until morning, interrogated mercilessly and perhaps even denied basic pleasantries like the fresh juice they’d offered. Instead, the efficiency of the Jerusalem Police became crystal clear from the moment he’d set foot in the station.

After Officers Leibowitz and Reiss introduced Inspector Jonah Katz, he in turn graciously showed Art to the men’s room so he could freshen up before they began. Returning to the stark hallway, they made their way not to an interrogation room, but to the Inspector’s office where he began by asking Art if there was anyone he wished to call before they began.

His first instinct was to call Grace, but he didn’t want to disturb her at this late hour. He quickly did some math in his head and decided that whether or not it would come to needing an attorney, he’d best ring his friend Harry Scholer, a DC attorney. Paging through his cell phone directory, he found the number and hit talk. After close to a minute the line began ringing through the wind tunnel of the overseas call. After five rings, the lawyer’s voice mail picked up. Of course. Harry was probably at the gym or already back and in the shower. Given his audience, he left a brief, matter-of-fact message, minus any of the panic that was steamrolling anew through his stomach. Trying to sound nonchalant, he asked Harry to return the call as soon as humanly possible.

Once he ended the call, he agreed to retell the story to the Inspector. It hadn’t changed since he’d reported the evening’s events to the officers on the scene, something they solemnly noted to their superior. That done, the Inspector, again, gracious in his tone, asked if Art minded being fingerprinted for elimination purposes, after which he’d be free to leave for the hospital to check on his friend. Art agreed and together he and Reiss headed for the booking area. Reiss was all business while completing the cards, but when they finished the last print, he looked up and smiled. “If you want to wash up, Leibowitz and I would be happy to give you a ride to the hospital, Professor. We know that Mr. el Said will need all the support he can get, while he’s there.”

Surprised and a little heartened, Art washed up and took the officers up on their offer. It was still close to midnight when they deposited him at the main emergency entrance to Sinai Hospital. He was about to ask the kind looking woman at the information desk for the whereabouts of his friend, when he caught a glimpse of Grace turning the corner at the far end of a hallway.

“Grace! Dr. Levine!” he called before he realized he was shouting in a hospital. Luckily no one even turned, much less chastised him. Grace whipped around. “Art? Is that you? What happened? Where have you been? Why didn’t you call me? How’d you get here?” she practically shouted back.

He caught up to her, waving a hand in protest. “Easy does it. What are you doing here? How’s Kahlil? Is Hannah here? How is she?”

“Come. Come. I’ll take you to her. She’s with Sara in the family waiting room. Kahlil’s still in surgery. Hannah called Sara and Sara called me, and none of us, not even Hannah, has been told what happened, so start talking Mister.”

“Why don’t I wait and just tell the story once, after I check in with Hannah and see if there’s any new word on Kahlil. OK?” Art could feel the stress of the day begin to attack his every move. His head hurt, his limbs ached, and his stomach still had that horrible churning sensation.

“Fair enough. They’re right in here.” Grace opened the door to a small room sparsely furnished with a lumpy couch and a handful of folding chairs scattered around a plastic patio table topped with muffins and bottles of water and juice. Hannah was sitting in one of the folding chairs, blotting swollen eyes, while Sara, kneeling beside her tried to soothe her in low, even tones. They both turned hopefully when the door opened, expecting the surgeon’s report. Instead, upon seeing Art with Grace, Sara stood and Hannah ran to him, tears beating a rugged new path down her cheeks.

The message light, beckoning from the kitchen counter, caught Harry’s eye as he crossed from the side door to the refrigerator for his post-workout shake. He’d skipped the gym in favor of a quick jog this morning. After twenty years in a lucrative law practice, Harry had decided to fuel his true passion—biblical archaeology—and founded the American Society of Biblical Archaeology. The career shift had allowed for a much needed lifestyle shift, one that now accommodated an exercise regimen and a similar level of intellectual stimulation without the toxic side effects of stress and high blood pressure that had begun to take their toll on his middle aged body.

Taking a few gulps, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and considered the blinking light. It was barely 7 am. Most of his ASBA colleagues kept collegiate office hours—which meant this call, if not a wrong number, probably was for Harry Scholer, Esquire. He pressed the play button and heard his old friend Art West through the speaker. Though he registered the words, he focused more on Art’s voice. He didn’t sound right—too formal, yet too cavalier. Before the message played itself out, he dialed Art’s cell.

Art picked up on the third ring, sounded strained. Harry dove right in, “Art, Harry. What’s going on over there? I just walked in and found your message—you don’t sound like yourself.”

“Harry. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. If I sound funny now it’s because I just finished giving blood. I may be in a bit of a pickle and I wanted to check in with you. How dusty is that JD of yours?”

“You need legal advice on giving blood? Doesn’t that fall more into the “do unto others...” category?”

“Well, yes. I mean no. I mean, I’m giving blood because my friend Kahlil el Said—you remember him, the antiquities dealer—was attacked tonight, and I found him. We were meeting for one of our chats and when I got there—what? Oh, thank you.—sorry, the nurse just brought me some juice—anyway, he’d been shot and I was taken in for questioning and fingerprinting and—”

“You what? Art, please tell me you didn’t say anything without some sort of council there.”

“Well of course I answered their questions. It was all very amiable. The officers who came to the scene both knew Kahlil, they sent a car for his daughter, and after taking me to the station they even gave me a ride to the hospital. They didn’t really interrogate me—we just had a chat in the Inspector’s office.”

“Arthur. You know better! Where do things stand now?”

“I don’t know really. I’m still at the hospital—this only happened a few hours ago. I have nothing to hide, I mean, it’s not like the gun was mine or anything.”

“Gun? What gun?!” Harry groaned.

“I didn’t know it was a gun when I pulled it out—“

“You didn’t know it was a gun?”

“No. No. Kahlil was lying on something, I just wanted to make him more comfortable. I—“

Harry groaned again. “Art, for once, words elude me. You bet you’re in a pickle. Go home. Now. Stay there. Don’t say another word to anyone—especially not the police. I’ll catch the first plane over. Try to get some sleep and I’ll call you when I land. Will you do as I ask, please?”

Art wasn’t sure what exactly he’d done wrong, but he knew that Harry didn’t scare easily. “Okay. I will. I just don’t know—“
“You’re right. You don’t know. That’s why you called me.”

“Thanks Harry. Have a safe flight. I’ll see you tonight?”

“I’ll do my best, but it may take an extra day. Let me see what I can do.”

“I owe you, Harry.”

”Yes, you do. But one thing at a time, friend. Hang in there.”

“Will do.”

Harry hung up the phone and shook his head. He could already feel the blood rising in a way it hadn’t in years. Well, he’d been hoping to fit in a trip to the Holy Land later in the summer. He hoped there was a empty seat on the next Jerusalem-bound flight out of Regan International.

Grace’s clogs echoed in the hospital hallway as she made her way back to the waiting room. She rarely called in favors, but had taken advantage of her long-standing relationship with Sammy Cohen and woken him up with the request to organize any O-positive donors within the IAA, and had done the same with the academic dean at Jerusalem University. Both men immediately forgave her the lateness of the calls when they realized that the esteemed Kahlil el Said needed not only their prayers, but their blood, and promised to do what they could immediately.

Wondering if she should offer to contact the Imam at the el Said’s mosque, her thoughts turned back to Art. She adored the man, she really did, in a collegial way, and she greatly admired not only his fortitude when it came to research, but to his faith as well. As a Christian, Art embodied what she considered to be the most essential teachings of Jesus—an openness of spirit and love. It was these same qualities though, that often gave him a naiveté incongruous with his intellectual wit. Listening to his earlier explanation she’d realized that she’d known him long enough to hear between the lines—there was something big he wasn’t sharing and she couldn’t wait to drag it out of him.

Reaching for the doorknob of the waiting room, she heard his voice behind her.

“Yes, Bill. That’s right. O-positive. We sure do appreciate it. Anything you can do. And again, I apologize for calling so late.....Sure will. Thanks again—you’re a real blessing. Goodnight.” Art looked up as he ended the call. “That was Bill Brown over at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies. Met him while I was in seminary. Hate that I hadn’t had a chance to meet up with him yet this trip, but knew that he’d not only rally the troops over there for Kahlil, but that he’d start a prayer chain for him as well.”

“Good work. I just spoke with both Sammy and Jack Samuels over at the University. They both send their prayers and said they’d be sure to get some donors over here. Now tell me, what really happened out there tonight?”

Before he could answer, they were joined by a tall thin man in scrubs. “Excuse me, please.” He motioned towards the door handle Grace still held in her hand. “Oh! Excuse me. Are you Mr. el Said’s surgeon?”

“Yes I am. Steven Schwartz. And you are--?”

“Dr. Grace Levine. Friend of the family, as is Dr. Arthur West here. We’re both academics.” She wanted to be clear about their monikers and avoid any confusion or concern on his part that they might be interfering MDs. “Hannah’s inside. We’re all anxious to hear your report.”

“Very pleased to meet you. After you...” He said, holding the door.

This time, Hannah and Sara were not disappointed when the door opened, revealing the wiry, worn out surgeon. “Miss el Said, I’m Dr. Schwartz. Your father’s in recovery now, and in a bit, we’ll take him to ICU. For the moment, he’s doing as well as we can expect. We only found evidence of a single bullet, which entered his body, here...” The surgeon indicated his own diaphragm. “ grazed his liver, before it shattered his spleen—which is what caused the majority of the blood loss and is why we sent the nurse down to inform you of the need for blood donations. We removed his spleen--something he can still live a normal life without, by the way—and barring any unforeseen infections, I feel confident that his insides will heal nicely.”

Hannah’s face brightened with fresh tears of relief and she started to speak. The doctor held up a palm. “Now about his head injury. He seemed to have taken quite a hit on the head—I’m told it may simply have been from falling. In any case, he’s sustained a large hematoma, or bruise. We didn’t see any collateral damage on the X-rays or CT scans, but there’s always a high risk of swelling with an internal head injury. As you know, our bodies have a tremendous capacity to heal, and to protect themselves. That said, I don’t want you to be upset when I tell you that he’s in a light coma. It’s something we expect with this kind of trauma, and right now there’s nothing to indicate that this is anything more than a temporary state. We’ll keep him in ICU for the next few days so we can watch him closely. You, as immediate family, of course will be permitted to stay with him for as much of the day as you’d like. We do ask that he not have any other visitors for the time being.” For the first time since beginning his report, he took his eyes from Hannah’s and, in turn, acknowledged Sara, Grace and Art, with a slight nod. “I can see you have an impressive support system already in place. Once we’re sure your father is out of danger, we’ll move him to a room where they can visit him without restriction, during the day. Unfortunately, until then, hospital policy only permits visits by non-family members to thirty minutes at a time here in the waiting room. Are there any questions I can answer for you at this time?”

This boy must be making a mother somewhere very happy, thought Grace. She didn’t know if she’d ever met a surgeon with such a gentle, unassuming manner. He’d not talked down to Hannah, or used a bunch of medical gobbley gook to describe Kahlil’s condition, and he’d made it pretty clear by the tone of his voice, that he didn’t exactly agree with the hospital’s policy towards non-family visitors. She felt good knowing Kahlil’s fate lay partially in the young doctor’s hands, and made a note to say that later to Hannah.

“Dr. Schwartz, thank you for all you have done for my father, and for being so kind to me. I have only one question—how soon may I see him?”

“I expect we’ll be moving him to ICU within the hour. I’ll send a nurse for you just as soon as we’ve got him settled in up there. Anything else?”

“About the blood—“

Grace interrupted her. “Hannah, Art and I have already taken care of that. After he gave his pint, he called Professor Brown over at the Institute and I rang both Dr. Cohen at the IAA and Dr. Samuels at the University. Between the three of them, I expect we’ll have the hospital restocked in no time.”

“Then, no. No more questions, Doctor. Thank you again.”

“I’m glad to have been of help.” He handed her a card. “My beeper number is on here—do not hesitate to use it if you think of any other questions. Often this time is so overwhelming that I’ve found it best to be available for my patients’ families. You may well forget everything you’ve just heard from me, so please, take me at my word, and ring if you have any concerns.” He flashed a genuine smile, and with a short bow, took his leave.

“What a charming man. Hannah, I feel very good about his caring for your father.” offered Grace.

“I do as well. And thank you all. For being here. Grace, Professor Art, for making those calls—for giving your blood. You are blessings from Allah.”

“We wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ll all be praying for his healing, as will the friends we phoned. You concentrate your thought and prayers on his well being, Hannah.”

“Hannah, do you want us to stay with you until you see him?” Grace asked.

“Why don’t I stay with Hannah, and you and Art can get some sleep. I don’t know how you’re still standing after the night you’ve had!” Sara said, more to Art than Grace.

And she didn’t know the half of it, thought Grace. And neither do I. Grace could see Art trying not to look too hopeful when he looked from Hannah to Grace for the verdict.

“Oh! Certainly. Yes. You’ve both done more than I could ever repay. That is, if you don’t mind staying a bit longer with me, Sara, just until...until...” Hannah’s voice began to crack again with tears flowing. “I don’t know what I’d do without him...”

“Hannah. Don’t you worry about that just now. You just stay focused on those positive prayers, remember?”

Nodding her assent, she thanked everyone again and ran from the room.

1 comment:

Dan Roth said...

Hey, I'm digging the book so far! (get it?) Anyway, it's "Reagan" National Airport, Regan was someone else apparently not airport-name-worthy.