After the awful beating, Kevin was struggling to stay alive in the Intensive Care Unit.
Maggie was watching, and tried to decide what was making her more crazy.
Is it listening to the respirator and the bells and beeps on the monitor and IV’s? Or is it seeing the breathing tube hanging out of his mouth, and the bags collecting his bodily fluids?
Kevin was quiet now, and finally out of pain. A medically induced coma they called it. The serious young neurosurgeon said that they’d know if he’d survive, and with how much brain damage, if any, in the next 48 hours. Treating the broken bones could wait.
Only an all-consuming fury kept Maggie awake and thinking.
Her eye was starting to swell now. It’ll be a mess by tomorrow, but at least the orbit isn’t fractured. “No thanks to that gang of savages,” she said aloud.
She shifted in her chair to ease her discomfort a bit. Kevin shouldn’t have been with me anyway. He’s lying half-dead because of a change in plans. He should be home, waiting for me and preparing his lecture for tomorrow.
The pain of her battered ribs and broken nose made her grimace.
“Mrs. Gallagher, please let me get you some medication.” It was Ellen, the nurse assigned to keep Kevin alive.
“Ellen, I can’t be drugged. I have to be here for him when he awakens or when he leaves me for good,” Maggie told her. She couldn’t say the words, ‘or when he dies.’
“Well, I’ve sent for a cot. You can’t sit in a chair all night with the beating you’ve taken. Don’t argue.”
“OK. Maybe lying down would help.”
Maggie knew that she wouldn’t rest, but maybe she could remember more about their attackers. One of them was in custody, and hurting. She had made sure of that.
Two of the ambulance guys were talking just as she regained consciousness.
“I heard the cops say it took of ’em to pry her hands from around the bitch’s neck.”
“Good for her,” the other said. “If she had done worse, everybody’ve said it was self-defense.
There was a soft noise at the door of the cubicle. Two men wearing jeans and parkas stood quietly. One had a police badge and ID in his hand.
“Nurse, can we have a minute?” Ellen looked at the ID and the men.
“Just about that long, Detectives. Mrs. Gallagher has some serious injuries and should be resting. I don’t want her husband, Kevin to be disturbed. You can’t talk here. Use the vacant room across the hall.”
She turned to Maggie. “Just call out if you need anything. I’ll let you know there’s the slightest change.”
Maggie smiled as much as her battered face would let her. “Thanks Ellen.”
“Let me take your arm, Mrs. Gallagher.” the bigger of the two men said. Maggie got up, and was surprised that she needed the support.
“I’m Detective Tom Allen, and my partner is Detective Paul Rogers.”
Maggie noticed that they could pass for college students on any campus. As Detective Allen guided her into an easy chair by the empty bed, he started to talk.
“Ma’am, we work mostly on crimes involving college kids. There’ve been a lot of these random street attacks in the city lately by people who look like students. But mostly it’s a fast shove and run. We think they do it for some kind of sick thrill. This is different and much more violent. Could you tell us exactly what happened?”
Maggie felt awful. Her pain was worse and she was lightheaded. The two detectives looked blurry and their voices faded. She thought someone said, “Nurse, we need some help here.” Then Ellen was asking, “Maggie, Maggie, can you hear me?” Then, everything went black.
Two months ago, things would have been very different. The bastards that hurt them would have gotten away without any trouble.
Lyn, Maggie’s best friend, wanted to take a self-defense course. She wouldn’t go alone and kept pushing for company. Finally, Maggie figured it was just easier to go along.
It surprised her how much she liked the classes. Maggie did well once she learned how to use her body and focus on what she was doing.
Kevin found his wife, non-violent to her core, recognized that self-defense might be useful. A Registered Nurse for 25 years, Maggie often treated the effects of violence. However, as far as he knew, she had never in her life even slapped someone.
When Lyn wanted to quit, Maggie was the cheerleader.
A few weeks after they graduated with flying colors, they got tickets to a hot new musical in the city. The morning of the play, Maggie was just finishing her coffee and thinking about what to wear when Lyn called.
“Oh, Maggie, dammit! I can’t go today. My mother got sick during the night and we had to get her to the hospital.”
“Lyn, I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes. The tickets are in your mailbox. Use mine and take someone else. Maybe Kevin will fill in. I have to go. I’ll call later.”
When she called, Kevin was pleasantly surprised. “Sure, I’d love to sneak out for an afternoon with my lady.”
Maggie was delighted. “Oh, Sweetie, that’s terrific. I’ll meet you at the theater.”
“Hon, walk through the hotel from the lot. Don’t go through the alley. You never know what’s hanging out in them.”
“OK, OK, Kevin. Don’t be such a worrier. I’m really glad we’re doing this!”
As soon as the house lights came up and the cast took the third bow, he said, “Let’s go. It’s getting dark and traffic going home could be tough.”
The crowd thinned as they headed along the street to the hotel parking lot. “It looks like snow, Kev.” Maggie commented. “It get’s dark so early.”
Although stores were open, the street was fairly empty. Kevin was careful to keep them in the middle of the sidewalk, away from alley entrances.
The boutique displays had Maggie window shopping, completely forgetting what she had learned in class about staying alert.
“Maggie, look out!” Kevin saw the three young people running toward them before she did, He pushed her against a brick wall between store windows and stood in front of her.
The group looked like kids from one of the many colleges in the city, rushing along on the way somewhere.
But Kevin sensed danger, and reacted instantly. Facing Maggie, he shielded her with his body. The two young men punched him at the same time on either side of his head, knocking him over into the dark space between stores.
“Hey, old man, you trying to protect your lady?”
Kevin tried to get up, but a nasty kick to his back and another two to his head and neck prevented it. Maggie had crept along the wall into where Kevin was being battered.
Suddenly, the tall, nicely dressed young woman with the men came at her. She swung from her hip and landed a solid punch on Maggie’s eye.
One of the men said, “There you go, Posie, you lost your cherry. That’s how the street fight game is played.”
Maggie slid partially down the wall, stunned. Posie hit her again in the nose. Blood gushed. The girl stood admiring her work. Kevin was very still, not even moaning.
None of the trio had tried to steal anything.
Something Maggie had never felt before was surging through her body. There was no fear, only a murderous rage. She howled in a primal way that caused the three to turn.
Instinctively grabbing Posie”s leg, Maggie pulled her down and straddled her, pinning her arms. She head butted the girl on her face and chin with all the strenghth she had left.
Her attacker screamed to the men, “Thad, Lee, for godssake help me!”
One of them kicked Maggie, while the other tried to pull her off their companion. But, screaming and bleeding, she managed to stay on top of the girl, grabbing her long hair to keep her pinned to the ground.
She used the intense focus that she had learned from the defense classes. The rest of what Maggie did was fueled by rage.
Sirens were close, and she heard, “Oh my god, the woman is a nut case.” as the two men fled. She saw blue uniforms and finally allowed herself to be pulled away.
In the ambulance, she mumbled to the Paramedics before passing out. “Please don’t let my husband die. They tried to kill us.”
After he was stabilized in the E.R., Kevin went directly to the ICU. Maggie was seriously hurt, but nothing was life threatening. After a neurologist explained Kevin’s condition, she refused to be admitted to the hospital herself and insisted on staying with him.
Maggie remembered almost everything that happened. She was calm when she realized, I would have killed all three of them if I could.
She woke up in the ER on a stretcher for the second time that day after passing out again when the detectives were asking questions. They sat there, watching as she slept. All they could hear was her mumbling softly, “Please, please, stop hurting him.”
“OK, Mrs. Gallagher, you’re in no shape to talk. Rest, and we’ll be back when the doctor says it’s OK. You certainly are a fighter. It’s odd that those kids hung around and didn’t just run.”
Maggie kept quiet. She didn’t want to let them see her eyes. They were smart and probably suspicious that she might have fought more viciously than absolutely necessary.
Detective Rogers, the quieter of the two said, “They must have said or done something that made you fear for your own and your husband’s life, right? That’s what the uniforms thought, and they were first on the scene.”
Maggie still hadn’t opened her eyes. Like hell. I grabbed her because I could, and I wanted to kill her.
When she finally looked at them, Rogers continued. “You know, the girl has a broken nose and eye orbit. Some teeth are loose, and she maybe has a broken jaw. She’ll be arraigned here at the hospital.”
Detective Allen looked at his partner, then at Maggie. “you know, Mrs. Gallagher, with everything that happened, it may take some time to remember things. Especially about why you had to fight so hard. Maybe you’ll never remember it.”
Detective Rogers added, “it might be better if you never remembered some things clearly. You were attacked. You saw your husband badly injured. You did your best to protect him and yourself. to think anything else would be crazy, wouldn’t it?”
Maggie closed her eyes again. “Yes, that would be really crazy, Detectives.”
No matter what happened to Kevin, Maggie new that she was a changed person. She easily understood why people could kill. She wondered what was next.
© 2016, Mary Cooney-Glazer. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.