Jonathan Tyne regains consciousness after emergency surgery
In this scene from Act III of Affirmative Action Jonathan Tyne, whose legal name is now Michael Ware, is recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound. He was shot in the stomach by a would-be assassin named Sergey Ivanovich Pechora, a Russian mobster sent to kill Tyne by Francesco Tosca. During the exchange of gunfire at Catherine Duvall’s condominium in Bend, Oregon Tyne fatally wounded Pechora with a 20-gauge shotgun. Pechora fled the scene and made it as far as his automobile before dying. The bullet, fired from a .22 Magnum splintered the upper-landing oak-banister handrail before striking Tyne; luckily most of its energy dissipated. Far worse than the superficial bullet wound, a 4-inch by 1-inch wood splinter was driven into Tyne’s abdomen, pierced the peritoneum and lacerated the anterior branch of the renal vein. Tyne was bleeding internally and almost bled to death.
Tyne also killed another man that night, a far more dangerous man than Pechora; a professional assassin from Venezuela named Jorge Humberto Argueta Otálvaro. Tyne shot Argueta Otálvaro three times before the man knew he’d lost the element of surprise. While all this was going on Catherine Duvall was barricaded in her bedroom with Tyne’s pistol talking to a 9-1-1 emergency operator. Unfortunately, the hit team had reported four false diversionary emergencies at far distant parts of Deschutes County making it impossible for help to arrive in time. Jonathan and Catherine were left to fend for themselves.
I could publish the chapter containing the shooting but to do so would give away too much of the story. However, if at least five of my regular readers request me to do so, I will publish that scene in a forthcoming post. Enjoy.
It was mid-afternoon when Tyne woke. His first awareness of his surroundings was the steady, reassuring pinging of his own heartbeat coming from the monitor on the left side of his bed. A thick cable snaked down from it to somewhere under the sheet and blanket that covered him to his chest. He raised his right hand and saw the electrode attached to his wrist. Glancing down he saw another on his left wrist. He followed the cable to a concentrator on his chest and counted ten thin leads in and one thick one out. One by one he touched the six electrodes attached to his chest. They had him hooked up for electrocardiography, he concluded. He touched the bandage on his stomach, tentatively at first. He was tender but the pain was bearable. They must have doped me up with painkillers, he thought. Then he saw the IV needle embedded in the back of his left hand and he was sure. He pushed the blanket down and the sudden chill told him he was naked under the sheet. They had not gowned him. He drew the blanket back up to his chin.
Another glance at the monitor told him it was 2:47 P.M., but was it Saturday or some other day? The blinking time-display had caught his eye. He scanned the display and found the date. It was Saturday, which meant he’d been unconscious for almost twelve hours. He wondered why he didn’t have an urge to pee. He reached for his willy and found the Robinson catheter protruding from its tip. He was very familiar with these; as part of his military medical training he’d been taught how to insert them in the field and after he was wounded he’d worn them for weeks when he was non‑ambulatory. He hated them with a passion. His eyes followed the orange latex tube to the bag hanging on the monitor stand. It looked like it held about 400 ml of urine. He kneaded the bag looking for any traces of pink – any sign of bleeding – and found none he could see.
The first reassuring thing he saw was Catherine wearing sweats, sitting in a chair next to his bed, apparently asleep, her legs drawn up under her, her chin resting on her fist, an open book in her lap. He couldn’t resist reaching out and touching her thigh, the cable just long enough. She immediately opened her eyes and smiling, said, “Well, copping a feel are we? That’s surely a good sign. Quick, how much is 9 times 37?”
Tyne took only a second or two and then said, “Three hundred thirty-three. Why?”
“How about 179 divided by 14?”
Doing division in his head took a little longer but Tyne said, “Twelve and 11/14ths.”
“The surgeon who worked on you said your blood pressure had dropped so low there was a remote chance you suffered brain damage. I was doing my own quick and dirty test.”
“Did my heart stop?”
“He said not. I guess that training you had in the Navy wasn’t all that good, huh? Or maybe it was too long ago?”
“I guess. Did they give me blood?”
“Shit. Now I have to worry about HIV.”
“I asked. They assured me they have the risk of contaminated blood under control.”
“Famous last words.”
“You didn’t tell me you speak French?”
“Vietnamese and Spanish, but not French.”
“Sorry, I thought I had.”
“You said the Navy taught you Vietnamese. Is that where you learned French?”
“No, high school and college.”
“Figures. Your accent is awful.”
“That’s because it’s the accent of Cochin China… Nam Kỳ, southern French Indochina. Sister Linh, my French teacher at St. Ignatius was from a Dominican order near Can Tho. It served me well when I was over there but I know it sounds strange anywhere else. If I lived in France or French Canada… heard it spoken every day, it’d get better. In a year I’d be fluent again but with a more traditional accent. My Spanish is much better… because I have Mexican friends in John Day.”
He paused for a couple of beats and then said, “If you come with me we could go to France instead of Spain?”
“Why did you want me to hide your backpack from the police?”
She was still ducking that question. “Did you?”
“Of course, but why?”
“I’d prefer they not know my birth name. Were you asked to show ID?”
“Not yet.” Catherine moved her chair closer to Michael’s bed and gripped his hand, fiercely. She leaned close and whispered, “There’s a cop outside who wants me to tell him when you’re awake and can talk. Also, your nurse made the same request. Can you talk?”
She laid her head on his chest and listened to his heart. “Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub… sounds pretty strong now but we almost lost you. Oh Michael, life with you is such a challenge but life without you would be unspeakable.” Tyne saw her squeeze her eyelids tightly closed but not before a tear escaped and trickled down her cheek.
He tangled the fingers of his free hand in her hair and said, “How about a kiss, to show me just how much you would miss me?”
She kissed him passionately on the mouth, her tears wet on his face, her tongue in his mouth, nothing at all like the exuberant but passionless public kisses they’d occasionally exchanged during cabaret performances, more like the way she had kissed him the previous night, before the shooting started. For a fleeting instant, and only for an instant he wondered whether they really had made love… or whether he had imagined they had. The smell of lavender in her hair and the feel of her warm breadth on his face told him they had. He felt himself responding in the old familiar way, the tightening in his groin and the involuntary reflexive movements, two to be exact; a not-so-subtle flutter that raised the blanket just enough to be noticed. He knew Catherine had noticed it too as she moved her head at exactly the same time. She pressed her hand to the spot and said, “Why you horny little devil. I do believe you’ve got an erection. Amazing… with all that dope they pumped into you… and a catheter as well. All I did was give you a little peck. Is that all it takes?”
“That wasn’t just a little peck but your being in the room is sufficient… all by itself.”
She reached under the blanket and grasped his penis. “You are erect, and not just a little. You’re ready… but there’s not much I can do for you with that tube stuck in it. Sorry bucko, you’ll just have to wait.”
“Pull it out.”
“You heard me. I said… pull it out.”
“Are you sure? Maybe I should call the nurse?”
“Just pull the goddamn thing out.”
She began pulling on the tube, tentatively at first but when it moved easily and he didn’t complain or even wince she moved with more assurance. She draped it over the collection bag and began fondling his penis.
“With all the shit I’ve been through the last thirty-six hours I need some TLC. So, woman of my dreams, show me what you can do.”
“What about me? What about all the shit I’ve been through?”
“Catherine dear, I’m wetting my pants to respond to your needs; any and all succor, aid and comfort that another human can provide, but as you can see, I’m plugged into the electrical grid. So, unless you can climb into this bed without dislodging all this circuitry, you’re the one who will have to wait. No… on second thought, better not. If I do to you what I want to do we could short out the hospital’s power… make the whole town go dark? So, stop whining and show me how good you can be.”
She screwed up her face in a smirk, and he thought she was going to say something, but then she began kneading his balls with one hand and his penis with the other. In a moment he was erect again. “Tell me if I’m hurting you?”
She withdrew her hands and moistened her fingers with saliva. Then she kneaded and squeezed and stroked his willy until she felt several strong contractions. Tyne kept his eyes closed and said nothing through the encounter until the very end when he blurted out something unintelligible, but his breathing and the way he arched his back surely told Catherine she was giving him a great deal of pleasure. The sheet absorbed most of his ejaculate, but not all. “No permanent damage that I can see… and you’ll be pleased to know, no blood in it,” she said. She was licking the remainder from her fingers when the door opened and a nurse with an anxious look on her face entered the room.
“What’s going on? Oh… I see.” Catherine, blushing from ear to ear, quickly covered Michael but not fast enough to escape the nurse’s eagle eye.
The nurse, a woman of about Catherine’s age – her nametag said she was Marjorie – moved to the side of the bed and pressed a stethoscope to her patient’s chest. She then lowered the blanket and sheet exposing the bandage covering his incision.
Looking daggers at Catherine she said, “Who gave you permission to withdraw the catheter?” Before Catherine could answer Tyne said he’d taken it out. In fact, he did not want the goddamn thing put back in. If he needed to pee he wanted to get out of bed and pee standing up. Also, he told her, he wanted to be up off his ass and able to walk around the halls and corridors so that he was less likely to throw an embolism.
“I can rig it so you can walk and still wear the collection bag?” No, he insisted; unless you’re continuously analyzing the stuff he didn’t need it. She listened to this tirade but chose not to respond. Instead, she loosened the adhesive and checked his stitches. When she finished redressing the wound she said, as she wiped a small glob of semen from his belly, “The patient’s heart rate was a nice, steady fifty-eight per minute and suddenly it spiked to over ninety. His BP spiked up twenty points as well and those stitches could have come loose. I’d refrain from certain… ahem, activities… for a few days if I were you two. Please also remember, you’re not in a private room. There’s another patient present.”
“What’s in that drip?” said Tyne.
“A mild sedative, apparently not strong enough, pain killers and a blood thinner. Your vitals are good but with surgery like you had, there’s always a possibility of pulmonary thrombosis. We don’t want that,” glaring at Catherine, “now do we?”
“Please go easy on the pain killers. I have a pretty high pain threshold and I’d just as lief not have to deal with any hospital-induced dependency.”
“I’ll let the doctor know.”
She started to leave and Tyne said, “nurse, how much blood was I given?”
“One unit of packed red blood cells and one unit of fresh frozen plasma.”
“From the same donor?”
She examined his chart and said, “Yes.”
“What are the chances it was infected with the HIV virus?”
“About one in one-and-a-half million. We don’t use blood that hasn’t been tested for both the HIV virus and Hepatitis-C.”
“But isn’t it true that blood products from a donor infected immediately prior to giving that donation could contain the virus at a concentration level too small to be detected?”
“You’re very well informed? Yes, it’s possible… but very unlikely.”
“Does my chart show the date of that donation?”
The nurse again checked his chart and said, “Yes, it does; August 4th in Seattle.”
“So, that means if it was infected a blood test today would reveal the presence of the HIV virus that might have been undetectable in August; isn’t that right?”
“Yes, it would.”
“Would you mind drawing blood and this woman has a right to know the results… don’t you agree?”
“I’ll just be a moment.” She left, muttering under her breadth but loud enough to be heard: “The arrogant nerve of some…”
Tyne had been trying to keep a straight face through the nurse’s inspection. Now he broke out laughing and Catherine did too. “So, did my technique meet with your approval?” Catherine’s ever-present sarcasm was alive and well.
“You were wonderful.”
“I thought you might feel the need to instruct me… you know, like you did with that knuckle thing.”
“I never said or even implied you don’t know how to give a BJ. I merely said you weren’t doing it the way I prefer. If it wasn’t just a one-time thing… if we’re going to be together from here on, isn’t it appropriate I give you feedback… so it can be as good for me as it’s possible to be? I expect you to tell me when I’m not doing what you want… or not doing it as good as I could. Isn’t that the way it should be?”
“Un-huh… if you say so.”
“You damn well do too. You told me none of your other lovers ever told you what they wanted.”
She paused a beat and then changed the subject. “You’re not really worried about the blood, are you?”
“We have to be sure… don’t you agree?”
She sighed and finally said, “You’re right… we have to be sure.”
The same nurse returned and quickly and efficiently drew a sample of Tyne’s blood. As she left she winked at Catherine and said, “don’t worry dear, he’s not infected.”
Catherine kissed him one last time. “To be continued,” she said, and went to the door and spoke briefly with officer Prater. Glancing on the other side of the curtain Catherine noted the boy in the next bed was paying close attention to the adult happenings on Michael’s side of the divider. The cop made a call and thirty minutes later the Hispanic cop who had shown them Serge Pechora’s body arrived to question him. Before he arrived a different nurse, a candy striper, came in pushing a wheel chair and she hustled the other patient out of the room. The cop, now dressed in a well-cut dark blue suit and maroon tie, knocked on the door but entered without waiting for permission and got right down to business.