Monday, June 23, 2008
His Name Is John excerpt by Dorien Grey
The following excerpt is from the opening pages of my new Elliott Smith mystery series. I hope you'll enjoy it. (Please check out the video on my web page http://www.doriengrey.com)
His Name Is John
Zumaya Boundless (May 30,2008)
Waking up with a splitting headache and a throbbing shoulder, Elliott had no idea where he was. By clamping his eyes shut and reopening them, he realized that he was in a hospital room, though he had no clue as to how he'd gotten there.
The one thing he did know was that someone was in the chair beside his bed, watching him. Yet when he managed to turn his head to see who it was, the chair was empty. He was alone in the room. Except he knew he wasn't.
He drifted in and out of sleep, interrupted with annoying frequency by nurses waking him up to do whatever nurses find it necessary to wake people up to do. Mostly, they said nothing and achieved their objectives with expressionless faces. Whenever he awoke, he would glance over at the chair and feel whoever wasn't there watching him.
He gradually became aware—he had no idea how—that whoever was not in the chair's name was John, and got the distinct impression that John was, to say the least, confused and apparently unable to grasp the concept that he was dead. Elliott also sensed that John not only hadn't a clue as to how he died, but had no idea of whom he had been while he was alive.
Of course, on the subject of being confused, Elliott realized that he was hardly a poster boy for sharp thinking himself. He at first had no idea how he had ended up in the hospital, either. It wasn't until he saw Norm Shepard, an ER nurse who lived in his building, standing over him that he realized he was in St. Joseph's.
Norm smiled when he saw Elliott looking at him.
"Welcome back to the world of the living," he said.
Elliott glanced over at the chair. John, he sensed, was not amused.
"I had to come up to this floor for some charts," Norm went on, "and thought I'd check in to see how you're doing."
Elliott opened his mouth to talk, but somebody else's voice came out; and Norm quickly raised his hand to silence him. "No talk just yet," he said.
* * *
Over the next couple of days, every time he looked at the chair, Elliott knew John was there, watching him. When visitors stopped by--his sister Cessy was there a lot, as were several of his friends, and Rick Morrison, a guy he had begun dating a few weeks before the accident--most stood by the side or at the foot of the bed. When anyone sat down, Elliott knew John wasn't in the chair—apparently, even though he was now non-corporeal, he didn't like being sat on.
At such times, Elliott would sense him by the window, looking out at the traffic on Lakeshore Drive. He never got the impression John was particularly interested in whoever else was in the room.
How he himself had ended up in St. Joe's he learned in bits and pieces. He was told he had been crossing Sheridan Road at Wellington a few blocks from the hospital around eleven o'clock at night, on his way home from dinner with friends, and had been hit from behind by a car speeding around the corner. Thrown head-first into the curb, he'd suffered a severe concussion and badly bruised his left shoulder. He'd been unconscious or heavily sedated for a couple of days, and was cautioned that he'd look a bit like a monk for a while after his release, since they'd had to shave part of his head to stitch it up.
He did his best to convince himself that the head injury accounted for John's "presence," and that he'd just go away after a while.
But he didn't, and Elliott didn't dare mention him to anyone lest they decide to transfer him to the psychiatric ward for observation. He was nothing if not practical and logical, and John's intrusion into his life was neither. So, they kept their own counsel, John and he. And he still had the overwhelming sense that John was utterly confused over his current state and how it came about. And he also felt that since he was the only one who was aware of John, John looked to him for help, though Elliott had absolutely no idea of what he could do.
Then, one night just before he was scheduled to be released, Norm Shepard stopped by again after his shift. Since his first visit, some vague memories of and after the accident were beginning to return.
"I think I remember seeing you in the ER when I was brought in," Elliott said. "I guess I was in pretty bad shape."
"You're a lucky guy. It could have been a lot worse."
Elliott sighed. "Considering the alternative, I guess you're right," he said. Again, he was aware that John did not appreciate his humor. "But I vaguely recall they brought somebody in right after me, and you took off. I guess the other guy was worse off than I was."
"Yeah, you could say that. He didn't have a chance. Shot six times. It's a wonder he even made it to the hospital."
"Sorry about that," Elliott said, and he was. "Who was he? Did I see a couple cops come in with him?"
"Yeah, they brought him in. Found him in an alley less than two blocks from here. No ID on him, and he died without fully regaining consciousness."
"So, did they find out who he was?"
"I have no idea," Norm said. "We admitted him as a John Doe."