West Otter Lake
Copyright© 2013 – Nicholas Hall
West Otter Lake – Chapter Twenty-Four - "Love never reasons but profoundly gives; gives like a thoughtless prodigal, its all, and trembles then lest it has done too little." – (Hannah More)
Vaguely aware of my surroundings, drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to discern reality from the mad, confusing chaos about me, my ears, and hence my mind, were bombarded with a cacophony of sounds, noises, shouts, sirens, and physical and mental disruptions. My last conscious awareness, the final voice I heard shortly after someone said, "We have to get you out of here; the cops don't need to find you here," was Leandro, pressing his lips to mine, caressing them with his soft, sweetness, whispering, "Conner, I love you more than life itself," giving me a reason to fight and emerge from the darkness slowly enveloping me.
My mouth was dry, seemingly parched by a desert sun for some reason, and my throat sore as I gradually entered the world of the living once again. Standing by my bedside, a nurse adjusting some bottles hanging nearby and somehow attached to me, said to someone else in the room, "He's finally waking." Memories of bright lights, clicking wheels, and an authoritative voice ordering, "It's time to wake up, Wesley," disturbed me and caused me great insult and distress. I'd resisted the insulting reference to me with my father's name until, with exasperation, I managed to croak, "Fuck him all to hell – my name's Conner!"
Whoever was demanding I awaken, became silent, evidently confused and unable to ascertain if she had the right patient. As far as I was concerned she was either confused or ignorant; I hoped for the former since I was in her professional care and really didn't want to leave my fate to someone who knew nothing of the medical practice of nursing. In the background, I heard my cousin Craig state emphatically, "That's his asshole father's name! This is Wesley Conner Johnson, Jr., who, for obvious reasons, prefers to be called, `Conner'."
"Water, please!" I wheezed and was rewarded with a sip of the cool liquid through a straw held by the nurse who'd been adjusting the bottles previously. The cold, damp, refreshing elixir slowly trickled down my desiccated gullet, bringing me relief and some modicum of satisfaction.
A door opened and in seconds, Drs. Marc and Chris were at my bedside, checking me, poking, peeking, prodding, nodding, and murmuring to each other in satisfaction at what they were discovering.
"We're not your doctor, Conner; she's Dr. Carlton, an excellent surgeon and trauma specialist. Dr. Carlton will be in in just a few minutes to check you out. Before you ask," Dr. Marc continued, "according to Dr. Carlton, part of the team that operated on him, Luis is going to be fine and should recover from his wounds. He's still in intensive care. Ollie wasn't hurt and don't ask about anyone else; okay?"
I looked at Dr. Chris and he winked at me, emphasizing the implications of the warning his brother had given me and I nodded my understanding back. I wanted; I needed, Leandro, but not at the risk of exposing him to the authorities and possible deportation. If he was deported, it'd be years before he could ever gain immigration status. The only way he could return then, was to cross the border illegally again.
They left and another face appeared; Dr. Carlton, who, with the utmost gentleness and concern, poked, prodded, and listened. My left shoulder was bandaged tightly and my left leg was in a cast. She explained I'd received two bullet wounds; one just below the clavicle in my left shoulder and the other half-way between the knee and ankle, breaking my leg in the process. According to her, if all went well, I should be out of here in a week.
"Where's here?" I croaked.
"North Central Regional Hospital and Trauma Center – Parsonville."
Hell, I didn't know they had a trauma centerr; I thought it was just a hospital!
"I need to talk to my cousin Craig for a minute, okay?"
"Not just yet," came a voice from somewhere else. For God's sake, how big is this room? It seems to grow every time someone else talks. I don't think there were this many at Lincoln's bedside when he died, if the portraits depicting the event are anywhere close to being accurate.
A uniformed trooper and a plain-clothes police officer stepped up to my bedside, making their faces and bodies visible to me. The trooper smiled, introduced himself and the other officer, and asked, "If you're up to it, we'd like to ask you a few questions?"
He didn't wait for me to say "Aye, yes, no, or kiss my ass" but immediately began probing my memory of events the day before. To say I was reluctant would be an understatement, but I knew the sooner I got it over with, the sooner I'd be able to visit with Craig and take a nap besides. There was little I could tell them except hearing the shots, Ollie's scream of anguish, running to the porch and seeing Luis in Ollie's arms, a masked person pointing what appeared to be gun at me, being hit, and the masked man flinching, dropping the gun, and limping away!
In response to their queries trying to relate the current event to that which occurred earlier with Craig, I could offer no assistance. I was pretty certain there wasn't a connection and told them so. For some reason, that didn't seem too satisfactory to them. It appeared to me, they were determined to seek a link between the events, but I feared they were pursuing the wrong dog in this fight. Finally, after damn near exhausting me with their persistence, the plain-clothes cop wanted to know if I'd been threatened in any manner within the past six months or so. A flag went up in my mind; he'd been talking to Ollie or the Twins and concerning Wesley, Sr's. behavavior at Grandma Johnson's funeral! I don't know why they just didn't cut to the chase to begin with rather than waste my time with all of the other bullshit!
"Yes, my asshole father, Wesley Johnson, Sr. He was quite upset at my Grandfather Johnson and Grandmother Johnson's funerals when he learned I'd inherited the Resort and was sole heir to the estate. As far as I'm concerned, he's a worthless piece of shit! Subject closed as far as I'm concerned; find him and ask where he was yesterday. His answers should be more than interesting. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm tired," and closed my eyes, clearly a signal to GTFOOH (get the fuck out of here).
I awoke to someone touching my face and a warm head resting on my shoulder. Opening my eyes, my brother's smile greeted me. Ollie's eyes danced with glee and he giggled,
"Hi, Big Brother; did I ever tell you how much I love you?"
With my good arm, I pulled him closer. "Every time you smile at me," and brought his head to my lips so I could kiss his forehead.
"You okay, Ollie?"
"Yeah and so is Luis; although he'll be laid up for a while."
Ollie paused and softly, almost reverently, murmured to me, "He saved my life, Conner. He stepped in front of me and took the bullets that asshole meant for me. God, Conner, I was so scared; I thought Luis was going to die, but Dr. Marc wouldn't let him."
The police, including the plain-clothes cop, questioned him and the Twins, in the presence of their grandmother and Edward who, apparently was now representing the whole damn family. It's nice having doctors and a lawyer in the family; well, almost in the family. After all, their father married my brother's grandmother, so doesn't that make them family?
"I told the cops I thought it was Wesley but I couldn't see his face. I was too busy holding Luis. Guess what else, Conner?"
"You just shit your pants you're so excited!"
"No, you silly goose, I just farted!" and giggled again.
"The Twins hit the son-of-a-bitch three times with their slings; once in the head, once in the knee, and they think, the ass. I guess he bled like a stuck pig according to Cedric and Loren."
That explains what I observed after I was hit.
"Can I go see Luis now? They only let me in every two hours. Dr. Marc insisted I get to see him."
I kissed him goodbye and told him to give my best to Luis and asked for Craig to come in.
Craig and Loren stepped into the room and pulled up chairs by my side.
"Okay, Craig, what the hell happened and where's Leandro?"
They both grinned like mules eating shit and looked over their shoulders to insure we were alone before Craig answered. "He's fine; tucked away while we're here, somewhere safe chosen by Edward and chomping at the bit wanting to see you. He sends his love."
Mae's sister and her husband were going to stay on to help her and Cedric, according to Craig, until I returned home. Craig and Leandro were handling the office and the Lodge while Cedric wanted to know what all had to be done to ready the Resort and campground for winter. Edward sent his family on home and would remain until the questioning and main part of the investigation was over. Loren was tickled pink when he told me the Twins were heroes, along with Luis.
"That's about it, Conner. Loren has to go back to work and you and Luis have to recover."
That might've been all as far as Craig was concerned, but I wanted to know what happened between the time I passed out and ended up in the hospital, so I pressed him on it.
"At first, I thought it was a classic cluster fuck," he sputtered. "There were bodies and blood and people shouting. Loren pushed me down on the porch and lay on top of me while he added to the din by shouting `gun!' Shit, I knew that much, I think he just wanted to wiggle his dick in my butt. I saw the guy with the gun drop it when something hit his face and then grab his knee. Twisting my head a bit, I could see the Twins come from behind the Lodge, sling shots in hand, followed by the troop of young Wilsons who'd been with them earlier. Wilson's began to appear from everywhere; Drs. Marc and Chris were the first ones there."
Dr. Marc, quickly assessed the situation, concluded Luis was in the most immediate need of attention and focused on him while sending Dr. Chris to attend to me. Both men called for their medical bags and began tearing away clothing to get at the wounds. Dr. Marc also called for his brother Jurell, the pharmacist, to help him with Luis. Luis was losing blood and both began doing what they could to stabilize him. With the help of his wife, a nurse, Dr. Chris applied compresses to my shoulder and immobilized my leg with a rolled up newspaper in order to prevent further injury to it.
Ollie continued to sob Luis' name, rocking back and forth on the porch step where he'd taken refuge when Dr. Marc began administering to Luis. Ollie repeated, as almost a litany, "don't die, Luis, please don't die; I love you!" Ollie's arms, lap, and shirt were covered with his boyfriend's blood, but he was uninjured, other than being stabbed through the heart by the fear of losing his friend, his lover, his soul-mate.
Mae and Cedric, as well as the rest of the Wilson Clan, ran toward the Lodge at the sound of the shots and frantic calls for "medical bag" and "more help." Cedric, running up to Dr. Marc, rapidly assessed the situation and stepped in to bring order to chaos. Assured 911 was called and medical help was on the way, with a few direct, but calm orders, he moved everyone else away from the scene. A quick reconnoiter of the crime scene by his trained eyes and military experience convinced him law enforcement would want the scene as uncontaminated as possible and would want to talk to witnesses as soon as they could while events were fresh in their minds.
Mae, looking for the Twins and Ollie, spotted Ollie on the porch step, and feared the worse when she saw his blood covered torso. Once close enough, she was able to see it wasn't him who was wounded but Luis. She stepped up, wrapped her arms around her grandson, trying her best to comfort him. As she held him, she continued to look frantically for the Twins.
Terell and Treyvon, standing by the corner of the Lodge, eyes filled with tears, slingshots hanging limp in their hands, clutched each other with a free hand, in a silent desperation and fear of losing contact and the security one twin brought the other. They looked so small and alone, even though they were in the company of those Wilson grandchildren their own age who'd been with them target practicing. Mae quietly asked Lenora to go to the Twins and take them inside the Lodge, away from the confusion near the porch.
Cedric spotted the gun on the ground and the blood trail leading to the woods and shouted for Deshone to come over and keep everyone away from the area while he followed the blood trail toward the woods. He stopped when he heard the sirens wailing in the distance as more than one emergency vehicle began descending on the Resort.
Craig and Loren, up until this point, still on the porch, heard the sirens also and shouted for Edward to come join them. Taking Leandro by the arm, they told him he had to be hidden because the cops would be asking a lot of questions and they couldn't take a chance of him being sent back to Mexico. Loren assured him I was being taken care of just fine. Edward hustled Leandro off to his motor home; from there, they had no clue. As Leandro walked away he told Ollie to go to the hospital with Luis and me since I was Ollie's brother and Luis' guardian.
State troopers, county sheriff's deputies, DNR Warden Roy Wagoner, and two U.S. Forest Rangers all arrived at the Resort about the same time as two ambulances staffed with EMT's. Dr. Marc, in his 911 call, informed the operator there were multiple gunshot victims so she dispatched the ambulance crew from Otter Lake and one from Parsonville. Dr. Marc continued treatment on Luis in the ambulance and left. Dr. Chris stayed with me as I was transported in the other ambulance. Craig and Loren brought Ollie to the hospital while Mae stayed with the Twins while the cops questioned them.
"The police have your father, Wesley, Sr., as the prime suspect, but no one can positively identify him as being there since the assailant's face was covered. Whether or not they have fingerprints from the gun they found is unknown yet. I don't think they'd tell us even if they did. Cedric thinks, if the Twins did damage him like they thought, the bastard will be holed up somewhere tending to his injuries or long gone from the area by now."
"If it was Wesley," I conjectured, "he could be in any number of hunter's cabins or hideaways somewhere in the forest. He knows these woods as well as anyone from what Eddie Winters told me one time."
As much as I would've liked to continue our conversation, I was growing tired and begged off on any more. Craig and Loren turned to leave, but in doing so, Craig said softly, "Leandro waits patiently for you; don't worry, all will be well."
I knew in my heart it would be, but the specter of Wesley returning to haunt us loomed foremost in my mind. We wouldn't be rid of that menace until he was well and totally put away in some maximum security prison or dead! But, what if I was wrong and the attempt on our lives was related to the incident with Craig and the shots fired at the wrong people because of mistaken identity or surprise at being seen?
To be continued
Thank you for reading "West Otter Lake – Chapter Twenty-Four -"Love never reasons but profoundly gives; gives like a thoughtless prodigal, its all, and trembles then lest it has done too little." – (Hannah More)
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