#52weeks52stories: Week 20
Word prompt: mania
Word Count: 1570
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Adrenalin and exhaustion warred inside Sally Bennett. She was dead tired. Just a few hours ago she was a patient in this same hospital, making deals with her doctor to escape the confines of her hospital bed and go home.
To face life without her husband; to understand why he’d attacked her and Graciela Ramirez; to understand how he ended up dead on the floor of Graciela’s bedroom.
Now everything had changed.
Frankie wasn’t dead, nor was he her attacker.
But according to this doctor, she could still lose him.
Fighting the mania in her mind, Sally swallowed deeply, pushing the burning bile back into her empty stomach.
“Dr. Stanley, please. What does that mean? How serious are his injuries?” She clutched at her stomach. “How did he get injured?”
“Mrs. Bennett, I cannot say for certain how your husband sustained his injuries. I can tell you from the bruising on his hands and face he was involved in a physical altercation—a fight—and ended up on the floor. As he tried to stand, he was hit with a large, heavy object twice, fracturing his skull.”
Sally swayed and teetered on her feet.
Carolyn screamed out, “Mom!”
All the detectives raced to catch her, but Brian Holland reached her first.
She struggled to stand on her own but found she couldn’t and leaned against the brawny police officer. Tears streamed down her face as she turned to Gavin Marks.
“The man. The man in the morgue. Did he do this to Frankie?”
Wary of admitting how little information they had in the case… now cases, but knew she deserved the truth.
“We don’t know ma’am, but it is the leading theory due to his resemblance to your husband. He must have been trying to switch identities but until we can find out who he is, it’s just a theory.”
She turned back to the doctor. “Take me to him?”
“Of course, just understand his appearance is unsettling.”
He opened the door to the critical care suite behind him and Holland escorted the distraught woman into the room, closely followed by the Bennett children.
Sally froze in her steps at the foot of the bed, covering her face with one hand in horror.
With the head of the bed elevated, Franklin Bennett appeared to be napping, but the large pressure dressing covering half of his head and dipping to just above his right eyebrow told a different story.
Purple bruises near his left eye and on his chin stood out against his ghostly pale complexion.
Officer Holland tried to maneuver Sally around the bed to the only chair in the room, but she pulled free, navigating around humming and beeping medical equipment to get to her husband’s side.
She bit her lip to muffle her sobs as she slid her hand under the snapped sleeve of the hospital gown and pulled it free.
Her chest heaved in a combination of relief and agony seeing the crossed rifles tattoo on his upper arm.
Sally raised her hand, tentative at first, but then smoothed his right brow.
The sebaceous cyst was there.
This was her Frankie… and he didn’t even know she was in the room.
She looked across the bed at Dr. Stanley, her eyes full of sorrow.
“There’s nothing you can do?”
He responded, keeping his tone low and even.
“It is a life-threatening injury, and to be honest with you, Mrs. Bennett, I’m surprised he’s made it this far.”
He motioned to Frankie’s hands and face.
“The coloring of his bruises leads me to believe his injuries were sustained seventy-two to ninety-six hours ago.” He paused. “He… lost a lot of blood. But I believe the position of his body and the cooler seasonal temperatures played a part in keeping him alive. That and he has the heart of a lion.”
She looked down at the love of her life in awe. The heart which almost failed him two years ago was now the only thing keeping him alive.
She reached out to caress his cheek before realizing Dr. Stanley was still speaking.
“Excuse me, Dr.?”
“I said his blood pressure is the issue. It’s far too low for your husband to make it through surgery right-”
“What? Surgery? For what?”
He sighed, glancing over his shoulder at the three detectives standing in the doorway before continuing.
“As far as we can tell, Mr. Bennett’s brain activity is normal and that’s a miracle in and of itself. But bleeding in his brain has caused swelling and pressure. If we don’t get that pressure released soon… there will be brain damage and it will be permanent.”
Sally swayed on her feet and sagged against the bed. Brian Holland was ready this time, having moved the chair to the side of the bed.
Gently gripping Sally by the shoulders, he pulled her backward until he had her in the chair.
Darrin, Carolyn, and Joanie were huddled at the foot of the bed, each with a hand touching their father. The officer got Carolyn’s attention, gesturing for her to take his place with her mother before he stepped away, joining the detectives in the doorway.
Sally didn’t notice the activity around her. With her gaze focused on her husband’s face, she addressed Dr. Stanley again.
“Is he scheduled for surgery?”
“No. We’d lose him on the table.”
She slumped in the chair and suddenly realized Carolyn was at her side. She gripped her daughter’s hand, looking for strength.
“So, what’s going to happen to my husband? He’s just going to die?”
“That’s not going to happen if we can help it, Mrs. Bennett. He’s made it this far because he’s a fighter.” He pointed to the multiple I.V. poles attached to the bed. “We’re giving him fluids, antibiotics, vitamins, and that is his third unit of blood. We have three more on standby. Once we get his blood pressure up and stabilized for one hour, he goes into surgery. The two top brain surgeons in our area have examined him and are just waiting for our call.”
A spec of optimism began to bloom in Sally’s chest.
It wasn’t the end of them… yet.
“Dr., I’d like to donate blood for my dad.” Darrin didn’t bother wiping the tears from his face.
“Yes, all of us will,” Carolyn added after exchanging looks with her sister.
“Of course, I’ll get someone to take you down to the lab for typing and matching.”
He stepped back from the bed and pulled out his phone, but Sally stopped him before he could dial.
“Until then, Dr…. until then what happens?”
“We wait, Mrs. Bennett, and pray for the best.”
She stood. Returning to Frankie’s bedside, she slipped his limp right hand between both of hers and bowed her head. Carolyn moved closer bowing her head too.
Darrin and Joanie joined hands at the foot of the bed and followed suit.
Dr. Stanley brushed past the detectives in the doorway and they followed him into the hallway.
“Doctor, what are Mr. Bennett’s chances?”
He turned to Gavin Marks.
“Det., I really-”
“Just tell us what we’re working with…please.”
The doctor removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes before responding.
“I’m being cautiously optimistic when I say 25-30%, Detective”
“But he has a lot going for him… no life support needed and he’s not in a coma.”
“What? He’s not?”
“No. Mr. Bennett has responded to testing in every way… except for waking up. I’m encouraged by his strong brain activity and strong heartbeat. But the clock is ticking and the window of opportunity to save him is down to 6-8 hours.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
Brian Holland stepped back down the hall, peering into Franklin Bennett’s room. His family still stood around him with their heads bowed.
Pete Hill scrubbed his hand through his salt and pepper buzz-cut.
Gavin Marks leaned against the wall, hands shoved deep into his pockets. Marks’ head was also bowed, but he was deep in thought.
Ganson finally said what they were all thinking.
“If he doesn’t make it, we may never find the answers we need to solve our cases.”
“It’s time for some good old-fashioned police work, gentlemen.”
The law enforcement officers all exchanged knowing smirks.
“Your trial by fire continues Holland. Tell Lothern to do another search on the name Gary Sievers but include a search for the last name alone too. Ask him to pay special attention to smaller towns and to put names on the info requests… make someone sit up and take notice.”
Holland pulled out his cell and stepped away.
“What are you thinking, Marks?”
“The answers are staring us in the face. I think once we confirm the identity of Sievers or whomever he is, everything will fall into place. We’ll solve our case, your case, and there’s a real chance we could learn the identity of the Senior Citizen Rapist.
Let your captain know we’re working together, Ganson, then we need to pay a visit to your crime scene.”
The detectives never got back to the apartment where Franklin Bennett was found that night.
An alert patrolman spotted a late-model Ford reported as stolen abandoned two blocks from the Ramirez home.
A routine retrieval and impound became evidence when an inspection of the vehicle’s contents turned up a name on the priority list.
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