The author reserves all copyright privileges. The work may not be reproduced, except for personal use, without the permission of the author, and may not be linked to any pay sites.
Dedication: To my friend Ry, who inspired this story, and to Don Hanratty who encouraged me to post it here.
Thanks to Bill, Bill H. and to Jojoe who have all had a hand in helping me with this story.
I like e-mail. And I write back if you don’t beat me up too bad. LOL. JET@aol.com. John Tucker.
RON AND BRYAN
Chapter Thirty Three
Everyone sat there stunned.
“What happened?” Rich asked as he remembered, Dorothy, the wonderful housekeeper who had taken such good care of him after his accident at the Grand Canyon.
“I don’t know all the details.” Ron responded. “ Apparently she felt a pain in her chest and called Parker. By the time he got to her, she was unconscious in a heap on the floor of the kitchen. He called an ambulance, now she’s in critical condition in the hospital. I hope you understand that I have to go to her. She has been with us for years, since long before my father died. My mother hired her when I was just a small guy. She’s like family.”
Everyone nodded in understanding.
“I think we need to get back to the ship soon. Scott, my friend, it’s been so good to see you again. Let’s keep in touch.”
“I’ve enjoyed it too, Ron,” Scott replied. “Give my best wishes to Dorothy too. I remember her well, and will pray for her recovery.”
The men quickly finished the last of their desserts while Ron went to pay the bill. In a few minutes, he was back and everyone stood up to leave. Saying goodbye to Scott and exchanging hugs with him, the men left for the ship together.
* * *
“I want to go with you,” Matt said as they entered the master suite of the yacht.
“I’d like that too babe, but somebody has to stay and play host to our friends.
“But, Ron I’d really like to go!”
“The answer is no!” Ron responded sharply, “I thought I already explained why.”
“Ok, have it your own way,” Matt said in a hurt voice. “You always do!” He turned and left the stateroom in tears. He had discovered a part of Ron that he had never seen before.
‘Damn,’ Ron thought. ‘Can’t he see I’ve got enough on my mind?’
He finished throwing a few things in a small bag and left the cabin in search of Matt, but he was nowhere to be found. Ron heard the sound of a jet aircraft making its final approach to the airport on Anguilla as he stepped onto the main rear deck. Alan and Bryan were standing there, watching the sleek aircraft descend.
“Alan, Bryan?” Ron said approaching his two friends. “I’ve upset Matt. He’s mad at me for leaving him here. I was an ass about it too. Now I can’t find him, but I really do have to leave. Please tell him I’m sorry. I want this cruise to go on as planned. I’ll catch up with you in a day or two, as soon as I’m sure that Dorothy is out of danger. Help Matt too, if you can.”
“Sure Ron, we understand. We’ll do our best,” Alan answered.
The men stepped up to Ron and each gave him a warm hug.
“We’ll take care of everything. Call us as soon as you know something,” Bryan said with reassurance. “Don’t worry about Matt. Just see that Dorothy gets well. Give her our best wishes.”
“Thanks, my friends,” Ron said with a grim smile. “Tell everyone that I’ll be back as soon as I can… goodbye, and… thanks.”
“Bye,” they said as Ron headed for the ship’s elevator. It would take him to the top deck where the helicopter awaited to take him to the airport.
The sound of the helicopter rising from the ship made hearing difficult when Matt appeared on the rear deck.
“Is that Ron leaving?” he asked Bryan in a loud voice.
As the noise diminished, Matt said as tears reappeared, “I didn’t tell him that I love him.”
“He knows, baby. He knows,” Bryan said as he wrapped his arms around Matt.
Matt’s tears ran down his face, adding new streams to follow the ones that had just begun to dry.
“He was such a dick, and I was no better. I acted like a selfish kid,” Matt blubbered.
“Hey, babe,” Alan said joining Bryan’s hug. “It’ll be ok. It will pass. I’m sure you both regret what happened. Ron saw us on the way off the ship. He was upset that he couldn’t find you. I’m sure he wanted to apologize in person, but he asked us to tell you that he’s sorry. He’ll be back before you know it. In the meantime, we’re here to help you.”
“Thanks, guys. You are wonderful friends,” Matt said, braving a small smile.
* * *
The corporate jet, with RET on its tail hit the runway at McCarran airport in Las Vegas at 4:54 A.M.
The flight had been long and tiring. Ron had called Margaret once the plane had gotten to cruising altitude. Margaret said that she had talked to Parker who remained at the hospital, but the doctors had indicated that there was no change in Dorothy’s condition. She was holding onto life by a thread. Margaret also told Ron that the ambulance had taken Dorothy to the Sumerlin Hospital, since it was the hospital closest to Ron’s home. Margaret asked who was with him. When he replied that he was alone, she just replied, “Hmmm.”
‘Now what the hell did that mean?’ Ron wondered to himself, a bit agitated.
Ron thought about calling Matt, but seeing that it was past midnight, he decided to wait until morning when he had some news about Margaret. Ron knew that the next port of call for the yacht was Antigua, just a short distance south from Anguilla. The following night, the ship would steam to Jamaica, considerably closer to Las Vegas than their previous two stops. He hoped that he could rejoin the cruise there.
Ron fidgeted impatiently as the sleek jet sliced through the night sky at its maximum cruising speed. Ron listened to music over the cabin stereo and looked through some magazines from a rack where the crew kept the latest copies of several periodicals he normally enjoyed. It was a futile effort to occupy him. Ron couldn’t keep his mind off of Dorothy and his disagreement with Matt.
After more than an hour into the long ride, Ron got up and made a double martini. He drank it to dull his senses, not for enjoyment. Making another and drinking it too quickly, he began to feel light-headed and pushed back the leather-covered chair to a nearly horizontal position. Ten minutes later he had drifted off into a fitful sleep.
* * *
Ron’s Mercedes raced up the western beltway toward his destination. It was still dark but the glow of the rising sun outlined the valley’s eastern mountain ridges. The lingering effects of the martinis plus the lack of sleep, resulted in a deadening anesthesia that made the entire experience unreal. Ron hoped that there were no emergencies on the road as he was sure his reaction time was suffering. He shook his head, attempting to rid himself of his drowsiness, then sipped the last of the coffee that the steward on the plane had forced into his hand as he departed the aircraft. He was thankful for the attention from the young man, but knew that his gruff acceptance of the coffee had not left that impression with the cute guy who was only trying to help and look out for his employer.
‘Another apology I need to make,’ Ron thought as he took the Town Center exit leading to the hospital. ‘I wonder what’s wrong with me?’ he questioned in his mind. ‘I’m snapping at everyone.’
The silver sedan swung into the driveway entrance to the hospital and Ron quickly found a parking place in the nearly deserted parking lot. He barely noticed the early morning chill as he hurried toward the emergency entrance. Entering the building, he found Margaret sitting in the small waiting room browsing through a magazine. He was surprised; he had expected to find Parker, if anyone.
“Hi Margaret,” he said to his secretary as she looked up. “How’s Dorothy?”
“She’s hanging on and in Intensive Care,” Margaret answered. “Her heart stopped three times last night, and they had to restart it. She’s doing better now though; she has been stable for the last three or four hours.”
“Have you seen her?”
“No, not yet. They said that we could probably see her this morning. I imagine that the struggle just to stay alive has been very hard on her. I expect that her recovery will be, at best, very slow.”
“You know how much she means to me, don’t you?” Ron said, now almost in tears. “She, Scott, Will, you, and a few of my distant relatives are just about all that’s left of my old family. If she will only get well, she will never have to work again.”
“Ron, you know that’s silly. Her greatest joy is taking care of you. You are like a son to her. I’ve never seen her happier than in the last couple of months when she had you, Rich and Jack to fuss over. She couldn’t stand to be put out to pasture. We’ll just have to be sure that she doesn’t do any more than she is able. But first she’s going to need a lot of rest.”
“Margaret, I hope you’ll help me to make sure that she wants for nothing, and if I get distracted and don’t pay enough attention to her, please plant your size 12s on me where it won’t normally show.” Ron smiled weakly. “You know, I’ve really just learned how important people are. Oh, I knew that people need to be motivated and praised and all that, but I have only recently come to understand that people are all that’s really important. All the rest is just survival and decoration.”
Margaret smiled thinking how much Ron had grown since she had known him. He had been through a lot of personal turmoil with the death of Stan, his college lover, the estrangement from his father who was dying at the time, and his wanton behavior afterward. Only when he recovered from the trauma did he begin to really mature. Even then his mad drive to amass wealth had been his single-minded purpose. Fortunately, he had built a circle of caring employees and had the good business sense to nurture their best qualities.
Even though she didn’t know it at the time, the real breakthrough had been his meeting Bryan on the internet. Ron began to witness the love that Bryan had for Alan. Even though Bryan was unattainable because of his commitment to his lover, Margaret knew that Ron had fallen for his new friend. Ron had been careful not to cross the line that Bryan had drawn and came to accept that Bryan could never be his, even though he secretly longed for the young man he had never met in person. Over a short time Ron began to see Bryan for what he really was, a man devoted to his mate, but with a heart that was bigger than could be contained even in the wonderful relationship he had with Alan. Ron wanted to be like that. That had been the beginning of a changed life.
All of the wonderful things that had taken place since Ron’s first face-to-face meeting with Bryan, were expressions of what Ron had learned. Margaret had felt honored that Ron would confide in her. She guarded the trust that he had given her. She knew that she would fight a room full of tigers for the man she called boss and friend.
Now she looked at the dejected man sitting with her. She had hoped that the cruise would restore some calmness to the frenzy that his life had become. Now he had to cope with Dorothy’s condition and potential loss. Being rich and finding a new purpose in life had it’s own price, she realized. She knew that this self-assured man was really in need of those he loved and those who loved him. They would need to be there to share and help in doing those great things that seemed to be his destiny.
Placing her arm around his shoulders she asked, “Ron, why don’t you go home and get a little rest? I will stay here and call you the minute there is any news. Your home is only ten minutes away.”
“No thanks,” he said. “The house would seem empty without her. I would never be able to sleep. I can’t leave until I know she’s ok. Let’s go find a cup of coffee; I’ll be alright.”
Margaret smiled, stood and offered her hand to the man whose eyes seemed glazed over in stark contrast to their normal sparkle. Ron took the proffered hand and, and they left the waiting room in search of the cafeteria. On leaving, they notified the receptionist of their destination, asking that they be paged if there was any change in Dorothy’s condition.
Sitting in the cafeteria, Ron nibbled on a sweet roll that Margaret had insisted he take, while she rambled on about employees and business items in order to fill his mind with something other than his current troubles. He hardly heard her and she knew it too, yet she knew that the small talk would fill the time until they received further news about Dorothy. After they had been there for nearly twenty minutes and they were finishing their second cups of strong coffee, they were approached by a man in a white smock.
“Hello, are you Ms. Margaret Hunsaker, and you Mr. Turner?”
They nodded, rising from their chairs.
“Please, sit back down,” the man said, “I’m Doctor Starr. I’m attending Dorothy Simms. Would you excuse me a minute while I grab a cup of coffee? I’ll then fill you in on Mrs. Simms’ condition.”
“Sure,” Ron said, his eyes brightening. “I’ll join you for another too.”
Ron rose and with an inquiring look at Margaret who shook her head in the negative, he joined the doctor in getting coffee. When they had done so, they returned to the table and sat down.
After taking a sip from his cup the doctor began, “Mrs. Simms has had a hard night, but she is going to recover.”
The relief was immediately visible on the face of her friends, especially Ron’s. A glint of the old twinkle returned to his eyes.
“She will need some time to recover, and I’m afraid that there is some permanent damage. With a little luck, she can live a long and modestly active life. We will know better when she regains her strength and we are able to do additional tests. I have changed her condition to ‘guarded’ and we hope to be able to transfer her to a regular room tomorrow.”
“How bad is the damage?” Ron asked?
“There is some heart muscle damage,” the doctor replied. “The blockage of her artery is gone and she is on blood thinning medicine so we hope that it will not continue to be an immediate problem. We think that the blood vessels are constricted in the vicinity of her heart, and that an angioplasty procedure will improve that condition. Of course it is too early to contemplate doing that until she has recovered strength. I would think it could be done in a week or two, if she continues to improve.”
“Thank you, Doctor Starr,” Ron said in relief. “Please make sure that she gets the very best care. Cost is no obstacle. Please feel free to call in any consultants or specialist that you deem appropriate. She means a lot to me. You can’t imagine how much.”
“You are welcome, Mr. Turner. By the way, are you the Mr. Turner of Turner Holdings and Turner Construction?”
“Yes,” Ron answered simply.
“I have admired your headquarters building down the road. I pass it often. I’m aware that Turner Construction built the hospital we’re in now too. It’s a fine facility.”
“Thank you, Doctor. I can’t tell you how glad I am that this hospital is fairly near my home. The location probably saved Dorothy’s life.”
“Oh, I’m sure of that. Her first heart stoppage occurred only five minutes after she arrived. Fortunately, that’s all behind her now. You will be able to see her when we return to Intensive Care.”
Seeing the doctor drain the last of his coffee, Ron asked, “Would now be too soon?”
“Now would be fine,” the doctor said, smiling. “Let me get a ‘to-go’ cup and we’ll go back.”
* * *
As the couple was escorted through the Intensive Care Unit and approached Dorothy’s bedside they saw that her eyes were open. There was a mass of tubes and sensor wires springing from her body attached to monitors, alarms and to bottles of fluid suspended from nearby hooks. She smiled weakly as she recognized Ron and Margaret.
“Hi,” she said in a raspy voice. “Ron, you bad boy, what are you doing here?”
Ron laughed, knowing now that she would be all right.
“Oh, I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d check up on my favorite mom.”
Dorothy beamed as she heard these words from the man she considered her son.
“I’m going to be fine. Now you just get out of here and rejoin your friends. Margaret can take care of anything that I need. Parker will help too. You know he saved my life,” she added.
“I’m sure of that my dearest lady, and I am eternally grateful to him. As for the other, I’ll probably go back tonight, if you’re a good girl and don’t give the doctors and nurses too much trouble. I’m surprised you’re not bossing them around already. Anyway, the doctor said we couldn’t stay, but we’ll be back this afternoon. Now you rest and get better. If you need anything, just ask.”
“Well, you could bring back my knitting. I’ve only been awake a half-hour and already I’m bored. I think I’ll take a little nap now though. Thanks for coming, both of you.”
“Sure! One order of knitting, coming right up,” Ron said grinning. “See ya later.”
“Bye,” Margaret said, finally speaking. “ Just let me know if you want anything. I’m sure that Parker will be back with us later, too. He was here most of the night.”
“Now git,” Dorothy ordered, giving them a little wave of her hand.
Ron and Margaret smiled and waved back as they departed.
As they walked down the corridor toward the parking lot and their cars, Ron looked at Margaret, the woman who helped guard his back in his business. He told her how much he appreciated her help and for her being there for Dorothy. He said that he was going to go home for a short nap, then would meet her at the office at one o’clock to go over a few business things before coming back to the hospital. He asked that she let the flight crew know that he would be ready to take off around midnight for their flight to Jamaica. He would call the Captain about their arrival so that the helicopter could pick him up at the airport for the short flight to the ship.
“Make sure you call Matt as soon as you get home,” she admonished. “I’m sure that everyone is worried sick.”
“Yes, Boss,” Ron quipped. “I’m sure that I’m going to have to do a little groveling too. He wanted to come with me, and I wouldn’t let him. He was pretty angry with me.”
“You mean man!” Margaret said, only partly in jest. “You better bring him back with you when you come home. I wanna meet the guy who has stolen your heart. I need to tell him all the bad stuff about you so that he knows what he’s getting into.”
“I’m keeping him away from you then! He thinks I’m perfect!” Ron paused, then said, “Well, almost perfect.”
Ron thought of the apology due his lover as the couple parted with a wave and walked toward their own cars.
* * *
Matt got the call just as he was exiting the shower. He had woken from a restless sleep, his concern for Ron and their disagreement foremost on his mind. He knew that he had acted badly when Ron insisted on leaving him on the ship while he alone returned to Las Vegas. Yet Matt could not help but wonder about their relationship. Ron had always been the dominant one of the pair. He spoke of their being equal, but they both knew that it wasn’t so. Ron was rich and had engineered much of his own success. Sure he had a great head start, but he could have coasted through life. Instead he had moved ahead, surpassing even the successes that his father had known. And while earning that success he had discovered his own great heart for people. Yet Ron had chosen an insignificant nobody for a partner. And now, that nobody was fighting with the great man. It was little wonder that Ron chose to go alone.
In spite of that, Matt knew that if their relationship didn’t progress beyond this present trial, that it would fail. Ron could accept weakness in others, but he couldn’t live with it surrounding him. Ron collected for his team people of strength, people of character. Matt couldn’t imagine Ron having a partner that was any less.
It was with this thought in his mind that Matt answered the phone.
“Hello, this is Matt.” He announced.
“Matt, this is Ron.”
“Listen Ron, I want to…”
“No, you listen first. I was wrong. I knew it almost as soon as I said it. I was too stupid to stop and think. I hope you will forgive me.”
“Ron, sure I’ll forgive you, if you’ll forgive me. I acted like a spoiled brat. I’ll make it up to you when you get back, hopefully real soon. How’s Dorothy? I hope that this call is good news.”
“She’s gonna be ok. She had a rough time, and there’s some heart muscle damage, but she’ll pull through. I’m planning on returning tonight and rejoining you in the morning in Jamaica. I may be a bit sleepy, but I should be there around the time you arrive. I am anxious to see you again. Oh, by the way, I promised Margaret that I would bring you with me when I return to Las Vegas after the cruise. She’s not happy that you aren’t with me now. Honestly, I’m not happy either. I hope you will say yes to coming here, but I learned my lesson. It’s your decision.”
“Sure Ron, I’d love to see your home and meet your friends.”
“It’s our home, you sweet man. I hope you like it. And any friend of mine who isn’t a friend of yours is gonna get scratched off the list, for sure. Listen I should go now. Have a really great day in Antigua. I’ll see you tomorrow in Jamaica. I’ll telephone from the plane to confirm our arrival time. Tell everyone hi, and please give them the news about Dorothy, will ya? I’m sure that everyone will be relieved.”
“Yes, I’ll tell them. I was just about to go down for breakfast. Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning. Just don’t forget I love you. I can’t wait to be with you again. Bye.”
“And I can’t wait to be with you either, Matt. Bye…. I love you!”
The phone went dead as Matt started to hang up. He turned to his clothing that he had laid out for the day.
* * *
After a short nap, a shower and a quick lunch prepared by Mary, Ron left for the office.
Upon arrival, he parked in his normal spot and rode the elevator to the main floor. He greeted all the staff people that he encountered on the way to his office. Margaret was waiting there when he arrived.
“Any further news from the hospital?” he asked as he stopped at Margaret’s desk.
“I called a half hour ago and spoke to the doctor on duty. She is improving rapidly. Color has returned to her cheeks. I think that if she had not been in such critical shape last night, the doctor would have sent her to a private room today. He’s not taking any chances of a relapse, though.”
“That’s great! And thanks again for all your help. Now, what do we have planned for today?”
“Well, even though it’s Tuesday, I thought you would like a “Monday briefing session.” Will and Jan are on their way, then Mr. Peterson will be in to see you when you are finished with them. We should be able to get out of here by four o’clock to go and see Dorothy. I hope you don’t mind if I go too.”
“Great, of course I don’t mind.”
“Good! Then here are your weekly reports and your messages.”
“Margaret! Didn’t you go home from the hospital?”
“Well, no,” she admitted.
“You’re naughty!” Ron exclaimed. “but I don’t know what I’d do without you. Look, take tomorrow off. All I ask is that you check on Dorothy. Since everyone is off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, it should give you a little extra time off. Oh, and remind me when I get back. We’re gonna plan a company cruise, and you’re going to be on it. The new yacht you didn’t tell me about is terrific! Well, I’d better get to work.”
“Right, boss.” Margaret said as Ron entered his office. He stopped, shook his head, smiled, then closed the door.
* * *
The silver Mercedes pulled out of the parking garage, heading for the hospital. Margaret was following behind in her own car. Moments later he pulled into one of the few empty parking spots there, got out and looked for Margaret. Finally seeing where she had parked, some distance further away, he began slowly walking toward the hospital entrance, giving her time to catch up. Casually looking around, he saw a man whose shape he seemed to recognize. The man made a sudden movement and he heard a shout of “Get down!” Before Ron could react to the command, he recognized the figure of Fat Charlie. That same second, the bullet entered his body. Two further rapid shots were heard.
He slumped to the pavement, unconscious, with blood gushing out of his wounds.
* * * * * *