Accidents Waiting to Happen (3 page)

 

“Mr. Michaels...Mr. Michaels...Some people are here to see you,” the soft voice said.

Josh opened his eyes.
 
Kaleidoscopic images that made no sense came into view.
 
His world twisted and turned, objects meshed into others to make new ones.
 
Slowly, everything locked into place.

He was in a white bed in a white room.
 
A man dressed in a white lab coat stood over him with a benevolent smile that exposed neat teeth.
 
In the distance, a disembodied voice mumbled inaudibly.
 
A scrubbed clean freshness filled the air but the sour taste remained in his mouth.

“Are you Saint Peter?” Josh said.

The man blurted out a laugh.
 
“I’ve been called many things but no, I’m not Saint Peter.
 
I’m Doctor Robert Green—and you’re not in heaven, you’re in Sutter Memorial Hospital.”

“How did I get here?”

“You were very lucky.
 
Two guys in a boat found you on the riverbank.” Doctor Green said, still smiling.

“I don’t feel very lucky.”

“I would say you are.
 
You swallowed quite a bit of the Sacramento River, which is not exactly the cleanest water you can drink.
 
That means your stomach is going to be upset for awhile.
 
I’ve put you on a course of antibiotics to kill any organisms swimming inside you that should be swimming in the river.
 
Other than that, you just have some superficial bruising.”

“When will I be allowed to leave?”

Josh started to sit upright, but winced.
 
His body told him where every bruise was hiding.
 
The doctor helped his patient up and moved pillows for support.
  

“I want to keep you here tonight for observation then you should be okay to go home.
 
Anyway, like I said, some people are here to see you.”

Doctor Green turned his head to indicate two people waiting expectantly by the door to the private room.
 
Kate and Abby rushed to his bedside.
 
Kate smiled weakly with a furrowed brow but Abby smiled brightly at her father.

For Josh, it was easy to produce a big smile.
 
Kate and Abby were the most important people in the world to him.
 
Seeing them from the hospital bed, he saw them through new eyes.

Kate looked beautiful.
 
She was the only woman he knew who could make jeans and a tank top look sexy.
 
Her shoulder-length, straw-colored hair hung loose around her face.
 
Her beauty was at the crossroads of youth and maturity, creating a sensual fusion of what was and what was to come.

Abby was a reflection of her mother, possessing the same straw-colored hair, although hers was drawn back into a ponytail.
 
She was his little girl, but Josh knew she would break his heart one day when she became someone else’s.

“Hey, hon,” Kate said from the side of the bed.
 
She hugged and kissed her husband.

“Daddy, you’re alive!”
 

The matter of fact statement made the adults in the room laugh.

“Abby!”
 
Kate flicked a look at the doctor and Josh.
 
“Don’t say things like that.”

“Well, she’s not wrong,” the doctor said in Abby’s defense.

Abby looked at everyone, unaware of the impact of her remark.
 
Quickly, she forgot about it and stood close to Josh’s bedside.

Josh had never been so happy to see them and his smile extended into a broad grin.
 
The pressure of the grin on his face squeezed out a couple of tears.

“I’ll leave you all alone for awhile, but I’ll be back in a few minutes to check up on you.
 
Remember you still need rest, so please, no excitement.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Kate said.

Doctor Green smiled pleasantly and left the room.

“Oh, Josh, what happened?” Kate said.

“Somebody forced me off the fucking road and into the river.”
 
His anger spewed out at the recollection of the incident on the road.

“Josh...Abby.”
 
She indicated with her eyes at their daughter.
 
Kate disliked bad language spoken in front of her.

“Don’t say bad words, daddy,” Abby said.

“I’m sorry.
 
Daddy was mad, but I shouldn’t say things like that.
 
Forgive me?”

“Yes.”
 
Abby scrambled onto the hospital bed and hugged Josh.

He felt her small arms wrap around him as tightly as they could and he hugged her back.
 
He ignored the ache from his bruises in favor of the affection.
 
It felt like he’d been away from his family for a lifetime.
 
He released Abby from his embrace.

“You’re going to have to let daddy go now, hon,” he said.

“The police are waiting outside to talk to you,” Kate said.

They were the last people he wanted to talk to right now, but if he wanted that son of bitch caught, he’d have to talk to them.
 

“Wheel them in,” he said with a frown.

Abby broke from the hug and snuggled herself next to Josh.

“Come on, Abby.
 
Let’s get the police officers.
 
You’re going to sit with Uncle Bobby while daddy and I talk to the policemen.”

“Is Bob here?” Josh said.

“Yeah, he brought us.
 
He’s waiting outside.
 
They won’t let him in since he’s not family.”

Bob Deuce had been Josh’s friend since they were twelve.
   
“Tell him thanks for coming.”

Kate helped her daughter down from the bed after she had given Josh a kiss.
 
He promised to tell Abby all about the accident when he returned home.
 
They left and Kate returned with two uniformed officers.

The officers stood at the end of the bed.
 
Kate sat on the bed next to her husband.
 
The officers introduced themselves as Brady and Williams.
 
Brady did the talking and Williams took notes.
 
Brady was in his mid-forties and was a good thirty pounds overweight for his six feet.
 
He fixed Josh with a piercing look like he was the guilty one.
 
Josh thought he probably had too many people lie to him over the years.
 
Williams was a young, well-groomed black man who looked as if he’d been out of the academy a couple of years and lacked the case hardening that came with the position.

“Could you tell us what happened, Mr. Michaels?” Brady asked.

“I was driving back home on Highway 162 when a car overtook me approaching the river.”

“What speed were you doing, sir?” Brady interrupted.

“Sixty-five.”

Brady nodded to Williams who made a note of the speed.

“And are you aware of the speed on that road, sir?” Brady inquired.

“Yes.
 
It’s not sixty-five.
 
If you want to give me a ticket then do it, but do me the courtesy of letting me tell you what happened,” Josh responded.
 
His irritation blistered at the attempted slap on the wrist for speeding.

“Josh,” Kate said softly.
 
She put a hand on his arm.

“We’re just trying to establish what happened,” Brady said without apology.
 
“Carry on, sir,”

“As we came to the bridge, the car behind me, I think it was an Explorer or Expedition...”

“Color, Mr. Michaels?” Williams asked.

“Black.”

“New or old?” Williams said.

“It was a current model.
 
It looked as if it had come straight out of the box.”

Williams’ interruption of his account with simple, objective questions relieved Josh’s tension, bringing his anger down to a simmer.
 
Brady was a pain in the ass, but at least the other officer seemed genuinely interested in Josh’s case.

“He overtook me as we reached the bridge, but when the SUV got just past me, it cut back across.
 
I swerved to avoid it and went onto the shoulder.
 
I tried to stop, but I was too close to the edge of the river.
 
The car went over the embankment.”

“So it was an accident,” Brady said.

“No way, this guy meant for me to go over the side,” Josh said, cutting the assumption down before it had a chance to become fact.

“What makes you say that?” Williams asked.

“When I was in the river I looked back and I saw him watching me, then the asshole gave me the thumbs down.
 
This bastard definitely wanted me dead,” Josh said bitterly.

“He did what?” Williams asked.

“He gave me the thumbs down.”
 
Josh demonstrated.
 
He straightened his arm with his thumb up and twisted his arm until his thumb pointed down.
 
It was an exact representation of the gesture the man on the bridge had performed.

Kate gripped his arm tighter.
 
“Why did he do that?”

Josh shrugged.

“And why would this man, a stranger, want to kill you?”
 
Brady added, seemingly unimpressed by Josh’s account.

“I don’t know.
 
You’re the ones I hope are going to find out,” Josh said, incredulous at the lack of concern shown by the cop.

“Can you give us a description of this man, sir?” Williams asked.

“No, not really, the sun was in my face and I couldn’t make out his features, but he was white.
 
He wore sunglasses and a baseball cap.
 
I couldn’t tell you how tall he was.”

“So, you’re saying that a man you don’t know and couldn’t see ran you off the road without reason?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I find that difficult to understand.
 
Are you sure there isn’t anything you aren’t telling us, Mr. Michaels?”

“No, there fucking isn’t.”

“Mr. Michaels, there’s no need for the profanity,” Brady said sternly.

“Sorry,” Josh snapped back.

“Nowadays, the department is getting more and more cases of road rage.
 
Drivers are making it personal when they don’t get their way.
 
Everyone thinks they’re a law enforcing road vigilante.
 
They’re not.
 
The police enforce the law, not citizens.”
 
Brady paused after his sermon.
 
“Now are you sure nothing happened that would have provoked the SUV driver?”

“No.
 
Nothing happened.
 
We weren’t racing each other.
 
I hadn’t cut him off and I hadn’t been riding his tail.
 
He just ran me off the road and waited around to see me drown.”

“I think we have enough for now.
 
We’ll take another look at the area and we’ll see if there’s any physical evidence that will allow us to make any progress,” Brady said, dismissing Josh’s final statement like he’d already passed judgment.

“Is there anything else you can tell us about the man or his vehicle?
 
Like a license plate number?” Williams asked.

“No, nothing.”

“Your wife has given us your details and we’ll be in contact in the next few days.
 
And sir, can I recommend that you watch the speed?
 
You never know, ten miles an hour slower and you might have stopped in time.
 
Goodnight to you both,” Brady said.

“Goodnight, sir...ma’am,” Williams said.

“Goodnight officers,” Kate said.

Williams pocketed his notebook and smiled.
 
Brady put his hat back on and tipped it to both of them.
 
The two policemen left the hospital room.

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