When we stepped off the elevator, we were in the lobby for the surgical suites. Dr. Noble stood up as soon as we walked in. She greeted us and launched into an explanation.
"So Espen is doing pretty good. They are doing X-rays and an MRI right now and have him on local anesthesia instead of putting him under. They’re paying particular attention to his lungs and his leg. It will probably be another hour before you can see him and any time after that they’ll have a prognosis. And there is some very good news as well. If you remember he had another twig in his abdomen, well he coughed and the damn thing popped out. It had only pierced the subcutaneous level so there was no muscle or bowel damage."
"Hey that is good news." I concurred.
"I agree, but why didn’t they take him to the Emergency Room?" Claire asked.
"Well, they were all geared up to look at him here; it saves a lot of elevator rides because he was already stable and the imaging wing is here as well," replied Allison.
"Oh, okay that makes sense. I don’t know a lot about hospitals. I’m sorry if I sounded ungrateful," Claire offered.
"Don’t you worry about it, Mrs. Lindstrom; besides worried Moms get a lot of slack around here. It was probably confusing because it actually made sense. And that’s kind of rare in hospital administration." Allison chuckled trying to make Claire feel better.
"Thank you, and actually my name is Colby, I took it back after the divorce. But, in situations like this it helps if you go with the flow. We can fix the name issue on the paperwork after Espen’s out of danger," Claire suggested.
"Oh yeah, I see that on a regular basis. Everyone assumes that the child and the mother have the same name," Allison confirmed.
"Hey, this place has a great cafeteria for staff workers and cops, etc. Would you like to get some grub with me?" Allison offered.
"Oh, I think I better pass, I had just finished lunch when Rob here called me about Espen. I think I’ll find a soda machine and get something to drink."
"Well, I need to retrieve Brandon from the E.R. lobby and ask if he’s hungry, but I could definitely eat. I’d kind of like to wash up first," I ventured.
"Me too, this flight suit is pretty much glued on at this point. It’s like walking around in a crock pot. It gets cold in those birds when they’re in the air and the heaters are spotty at best," Allison groused.
Allison told Claire where the Break room and restrooms were and we walked to the elevator.
Allison and I took the elevator down to the first floor and, bless his heart, Brandon was sitting there playing with his phone and guarding my overnight bag.
"Hi Brandon, thanks for saving me a trip, do you feel like eating?"
"Not really, maybe a soda and some chips or something."
"Okay then, Espen and his Mom are on four, there’s a break room and restrooms up there and here’s some ones and some change and a twenty in case there’s a bill changer."
"Okay, but I still have plenty of cash of my own you know."
"I know, but you didn’t expect to be here and I‘ve never met a cheap soda machine," I told him.
He handed me my bag and started to hug me but then chuckled, "I’ll hug you twice when you’re cleaned up. I’m surprised they let you in here looking like that."
"Yeah, even Rose looked at me kind of sideways," I chuckled.
I watched Brandon start down the hall and he turned around and ran back. "Here’s your keys; I almost forgot I had them.
"Thanks, Brandon, I’m going to clean up and eat and I’ll see you up there."
He waved and Allison and I headed for the locker rooms.
It felt great to get the hillside off my body and out of my hair.
By the time I was dried off, my V.C.S.D. golf shirt was wrinkle free and I put on some clean Levi’s and felt a lot better. After seeing to my tonsorial splendor, I went out to wait in the hall across from the women’s locker room.
Dr. Allison Noble was intriguing and there was a strong resemblance in personality to my dear Carolina. The way she carried herself and the dark sense of humor were similar as well. She was obviously damn smart and seemed to be interested in me for some odd reason. Oh well, there’s no accounting for taste. It was something my Dad used to say.
When Allison came out I barely recognized her. Her hair was free in a short cut and not tied back. She wore no bra, a white undershirt and a blue and white checked blouse that looked like a work shirt. She wore form fitting Levis and square-toed riding boots not much different from mine. She was, overall a very nicely put together package.
"That’s a nice gun belt, is it hand tooled?" She asked.
"Oh thanks, and yes, it was made by Chimo Garza over in Moorpark. He does saddles as well."
"Oh I know him; he made my last saddle. Then some asshole stole it out of my truck. Do you always carry the old government 1911?" she asked.
"Nope, I carry a Sig Sauer on duty; we all have the same magazines that way."
"Makes sense," she grinned, I keep mine in my purse and before you ask, I do have a CCW permit."
"What do you carry?"
"It’s a hammerless Model 66 Smith. I can’t carry anything bulky in my flight suit and I don’t want it getting hung up trying to pull it out."
"Sounds like a good weapon to me, what loads do you use?"
"In the bird I load frangibles but otherwise Devastators."
"If I’m going to shoot someone I want them to stay shot. None of this getting up and having another try at me, shit."
I had to laugh at that point, "That is a refreshing attitude from someone in your profession."
"Oh I know, a lot of us are liberal tight asses, but not all of us," she grinned at me.
I opened the door and we entered a fairly deserted cafeteria. They had a deli buffet that I remembered from previous visits. Allison or Ally, as she allowed friends to call her, decided to have the same.
"So, what is Brandon to you, son or friend or what?" she asked.
"I wouldn’t mind having a son like him, but he’s a runaway or more like a throwaway. He was run off a farm that probably belongs to him after his Mother died of cancer. My attorney is trying to get to the bottom of it."
"I have another at my place that was on the same plane with me when it ran off the runway at LAX."
"I heard about that, was it really bad?"
I told her about Kelly and his being in two bad landings in one day and how he came to be in my care and what I planned to do about it.
"So right now my neighbor Cammie is watching Kelly, Ronny and her own boy, Wade," I finished.
"Wait, Cammie, Wade? Is there a Dennis in the mix?"
"Um, yeah, do you know them?"
"Cammie is my cousin; you must be the Rob that Wade is always raving about."
"Guilty as charged, I’ve known them since I moved in or at least shortly after."
"Yes, I heard about the tunnel, did you know that Wade still has the padlock you cut off the gate?"
"No, I didn’t, but it doesn’t surprise me. He and I kind of bonded; he’s a great little guy."
"By the way, Espen told me the whole story about how you rescued him and why he and you were so muddy. You are his hero now."
"Well, a lot of people helped, including Brandon, Cammie and Dennis."
"Yeah, but it was you that would have joined him in that canyon if it went bad. You might not want to hear it but that makes you a hero."
"It’s not how I see it but I understand. It was certainly worth the risk."
"So has Cammie told you my history?" I asked.
"Yes she has, and I’m still interested in getting to know you. I have my own baggage as well."
"Well that’s mutual, I am in a relationship but I think maybe it has run its course. I expect to hear from them soon and I expect it will be to tell me they have met someone else."
"Is "they" a he?"
"Yes, a grad student named Wyatt; I told him he would meet someone more suited to him and I suspect that is what has happened. We had a lot of fun together; I taught him to fly and a couple of other things. He made me feel a lot younger. I have no regrets," I explained.
"Well, you don’t look that old to me, I wouldn’t guess higher than forty."
"Forty-nine actually, but I try and keep myself fit and eat well."
"You have fourteen years on me Rob, just so you know. But I’m not some innocent babe either."
"Well Ally, you did say you had your own baggage. But you haven’t run screaming into the night, so that’s a good sign."
"I have to say, you are brutally honest about yours and you make no apologies, I admire that. But, I don’t think I want to go into my history just yet. And we should get back upstairs anyway."
"Fair enough, perhaps we can get dinner or something like that; we’ll just have to see where this leads? Frankly, it doesn’t make sense to hide anything about my past, I’m not ashamed of it but I don’t broadcast it either. It’s sort of need to know."
With that, we made our way back to the fourth floor chatting as we went. I was glad to learn she was a carnivore but she likes Streisand so there’s that. But then I like bagpipes. I found that she had a great sparkling wit and a wicked sense of humor. She snatched my phone from my belt and called her number with it, eliminating that exchange. She told me she started her off day cycle on Wednesday and would give me a call once she got a little rest.
"Sounds good to me. I’ll think of something to do after dinner," I smiled.
"I’ll give it some thought as well."
We entered the surgical suite lobby and found Brandon and Claire in an animated conversation about all the goofy things that Espen had done in the past and looking at pictures on her phone.
Brandon rose and gave me two separate hugs as promised earlier. He looked at Ally and piped, "Hey you’re the doctor from the helicopter, um… Dr. Noble right?"
"That’s me, so where’s my hug?" Ally held out her arms and Brandon obliged with a hug. Ally favored him with a kiss on the cheek and told him that Espen was very grateful for the help and company he had given.
Brandon radiated happiness with his smile at that news.
We a sat together and chatted; trying to keep Claire positive.
After twenty minutes, a surgeon came in with very good news.
"Good afternoon everyone, I’m Dr. Kooperman and I’ve been examining Espen. I’m pleased to tell you that the only major concern is his ankle. The branch in his leg only nicked a few small blood vessels. The one in his chest struck a rib and splintered, the impact from that caused a small internal hematoma. It also cracked a couple ribs so that will be sore for a while."
"His ankle isn’t broken although a small bone in his arch is. The ankle was dislocated and all that tissue around the joint is badly swollen."
"There is no head trauma whatsoever. He’s a very resilient boy both physically and mentally. He will need to stay a day or two, once we’re happy and the orthopedist is satisfied, he can go home. So, shall we go in and see him?"
There was a chorus of assent and we all stood to follow the doctor.
Espen looked quite a bit different; he wasn’t caked with mud or grimacing in pain. His tousled blonde hair cascaded over his eyes nearly hiding the brilliant blue eyes and heavy lashes.
I stayed in the hall with Ally and Brandon and let his Mom have first crack at him.
"Brandon, Ally here is Cammie’s cousin, isn’t that something?"
"Really, that’s sort of amazing. Maybe you should call and check on things at the ranch," He suggested.
"Good idea, I will do that once we get a chance to speak to Espen. Cammie doesn’t do well with "I don’t know" as an answer."
Ally giggled, "that’s true enough."