Arms and Legs by O. D. Hegre

Friday, November 8, 2019
One heart, two patients - can there be justice when politics gets in the way of medical ethics? By O. D. Hegre.

The conscious mind provides excuses for our misdeeds, allowing us to suppress the guilt with rationalizations. But one cannot escape the unconscious where all is laid bare. And while society may not punish you, and God may not exist, be assured - in your dreams you will find the punishment you deserve.

Madame Romani

3:45 pm
Chapel at the Underwood Heart and Vascular Institute.
Richmond, Virginia

Raymond Kirkland, MD stood outside the door of the Chapel. He'd lost a patient overnight, and that was always a sobering event for any physician. But this death was jarring and totally unnecessary by Kirkland's assessment. The donor heart that should have been sustaining the life of his young patient - that, by all ethical standards and clinical criteria, was hers - now beat in the chest of another, a new patient of the Cardiologist, recovering four floors above in the ICU.

The Physician stroked his jaw. Considering the identity of the heart transplant recipient, Kirkland could not purge the thought from his mind that the system had been rigged - corrupted by political motivations. This was not the first time in his life that the weight of powerful forces had crushed in on him with disastrous personal consequences. In that hallway, Raymond made himself a promise: he would sort it all out and this time, set things straight. The head of Cardiology took in a deep breath, adjusted his tie and opened the door. Right now, he had the grief of others to deal with.

"I can't believe she's gone," the woman wiped away the tears as the husband's arm tightened around her frail shoulders. Kirkland pushed his tongue to the roof of his mouth and let his breath out slowly, then another breath - a deeper one - followed by a slow exhale. "I am so sorry, Mrs. Marks. With your daughter-in-law's blood type and immunological profile, a suitable match was always our biggest challenge." Kirkland could feel his face flush. Another deep breath. For now - detached professionalism. If his suspicions bore out, the time for anger would come later.

The elderly woman looked up at her husband, "The children, Michael. First their father and now Denise," and the tears continued. "What are we going to do about the children, Michael?"

"We'll manage, Francis. We'll manage, but first we have to tell them -" and the husband turned his head from view.

Jesus Christ! If this is what I think it is - The words exploded in Kirkland's head. Get out of here. Get out of here now.

"I am sorry... have to leave you, Mr. and Mrs. Marks... needed elsewhere, I'm sure you understand. The Chaplain will be here in a few minutes. Again, let me convey the staff's and my deepest sympathy for your loss." Dr. Raymond Kirkland rose, shook Michael Marks' hand, and after a short embrace of Francis, he left the chapel.

Outside, Kirkland leaned up against the wall. He knew what it was to lose someone - someone so very close to him and in the prime of life - to lose someone to the lies and corruption, to the self-serving outright fraud of others. Raymond wiped a single tear from his cheek. He had wondered back then, and even now some years later, if he would ever really smile again. Had the Marks suffered a similar fate?

Kirkland made his way down the hall. He had someone to see - right this f-ing minute.

4:30 pm
Office: Chief of Surgery

Kirkland stopped pacing in front of the desk. "I cannot believe what I have just heard, John." Raymond's heart was in his throat. "Was Hankinson in on this?"

"You have to understand, Ray. The ultra-right has us on a path of isolationism, the left is pushing us headlong into a socialist republic," John Fitzsimons sat back in his chair. "Kolstad maybe the only hope to bring this country back from the brink." The Surgeon's arms were folded across his chest. "Besides, the immunological match was as good for him as it was for her." Fitzsimons nodded and pursed his lips. "I made a goddamn choice, Kirkland."

Raymond squinted his eyes. "Of course... the Hospital Director. You couldn't have managed this without him. John, you made a choice? The two of you made a choice?" Kirkland could feel the fire again. "You circumvented the protocol, changed the UNOS priority listing - Hankinson got past their security, somehow... and NO, the immunological profile was NOT of equal significance for the two patients. There were no HLA mismatches for Denise Marks while Kolstad had single mismatches at both HLA-B and HLA-DR loci."

Kirkland pointed his finger at his companion. "Christ, John. You sacrificed a young woman... a mother for that piece of shit, Kolstad? My God, there is no longer any argument that it was his decision and influence that drove this Country's invasions along the North African Coast. After the Caliphate in Iraq was crushed and the war in Afghanistan ended, ISIS went underground for a while only to reappear in North Africa. And our response? It was Iraq all over again just with a new crowd of actors. Same old ideas - same lies; chemical weapon stockpiles, long-range nuclear missile threat, a power vacuum in the region that, if filled by our enemies, could threaten our allies and bingo, we're immersed again in another unwinnable conflict. Why? Corporate profits that inevitably come from such endeavors, and who pays the price? Our young treasure. And who reaps the rewards? Our boy, Secretary of Defense Arthur Kolstad and his neocon cohorts with their corporate connections and investments. We now know they orchestrated the symphony of misrepresentations and false evidence that once again pulled the wool over the eyes of Congress and the American public while they racked in millions. And now he's back."

Kirkland resumed his pacing.

"No, what you two did for this sorry excuse of a human being brought yourselves done into the mire of his own unethical and immoral behavior."

"We've never seen eye to eye, Ray... on what this country needs to move forward in the twenty-first century." The Surgeon leaned forward. "I know this is personal for you -"

"That is irrelevant," Kirkland interrupted. "I do my job, John. I do not let my private life, or my politics affect my performance as a physician. We took an oath. You broke that oath."

"Raymond, in time I can only hope you will put aside this anger for your loss and see that what we did was absolutely necessary for the good of our country. There are always sacrifices to be made. In one true sense, this is a war, and there are always civilian casualties. I do not regret what we did... our decision to put country first -"

"Jesus Christ, John." Kirkland halted in front of the surgeon. "You left military service three decades ago. Hankinson's a hack, but you? You are a physician, man! You committed yourself to the ethical standards of our profession -"

"Raymond... are you going tell me that that woman's life was -"

"Stop. Stop right there, John. I've heard enough. I have no doubt the two of you have covered your tracks." Kirkland moved to the door. "Get away with this? Maybe. But you will have to live with the consequences of your actions," and Kirkland slammed the door behind him.

As the Cardiologist walked down the hall, he reached into his breast pocket, retrieved his iPhone and turned off the recording app. Right now, he needed a breath of fresh air.

Front Courtyard
Underwood Heart and Vascular Institute.

Kirkland stood out on the grounds, behind the crowd of reporters.

Paul Hankinson, the Hospital Director, was just finishing up his remarks. "Arthur Kolstad is doing exceptionally well. The operation went as planned - no complications. The former Secretary of Defense was a very sick man, as you can appreciate - two heart attacks and a failing heart transplant. Fortunately, we had the time needed to find an exceptionally good match. I expect a full and complete recovery. We will have another update for you at 7:00pm this evening," and the Director turned from the microphone.

"Can you tell us anything more about the heart donor?" a CNN reporter shouted

Hankinson turned back. "As you know, that type of information is usually kept confidential. As I said earlier, and this is all I can tell you, the donor was a young male in his early thirties." The Director paused for a moment. "However, because of the extenuating circumstances and the national importance of our patient, I will refer you to our next speaker." The Director waved his hand, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen," and he moved back from the microphone as Kolstad's former Chief of Staff stepped forward.

Kirkland knew the reputation of this war-mongering holdover of the neoconservative movement as well as he knew Kolstad's.

"Listen folks," a broad smile etched across Colonel Frank Corman's face, "this is a great day. The Secretary is back!" and Corman engaged in a series of fist pumps. "We'll let him fully recover - we still have plenty of time. Nothing is off the table regarding a run for the Presidency."

That brought a stirring from the press crowd as Corman again pumped his fist in the air.

From the throng, another question: "A primary challenge to a duly elected incumbent President? That's a big order, Colonel."

"Well some would say that, but considering the current situation, we believe a change is in the wind. The Secretary has stayed in the background for some time, now. The party has moved more than a bit from where it was during his last foray into politics. Not in a desirable direction nor with competent leadership, and the polls support that. Arthur Kolstad will be the voice of change, back to where we were a couple of administrations ago which, I think you would all agree, was a lot better than where we are now."

More fist pumps while the murmurings of the crowd clearly indicated a lack of consensus with Kolstad's former Chief of Staff's assertion.

"We will have a more definitive answer in a few weeks or so."

Damn well clear, who'll be ass-kissing up to the candidate for the second spot on that ticket, Kirkland thought. F-ing sycophant; and the Cardiologist was about to leave when another question came from the crowd.

"What more can you tell us about the heart donor, Colonel?"

"Yes, it was an exceptional bit of good luck. The match was perfect, as the Director said. But, my friends there is more to this story than meets the eye. Truly an extraordinary set of circumstances. The young man, Mr. Hankinson alluded to, was in fact a decorated North African war veteran. I will withhold his name, but his family has given us permission to reveal this much. In the Libyan Campaign, our donor was starting his second tour of duty, when he was injured by an IED at the battle of Misratah. He was left a paraplegic and double amputee and complications from those horrific injuries contributed to his recent demise."

Kirkland watched the Colonel slowly shake his head from side to side. That's a lot of info to be giving out, Kirkland thought. To what end, he wondered?

"But, my friends, our hero's family tells me that he was a strong supporter of our Country's mission in the region under the direction of Secretary Kolstad, as evidenced by completing an initial tour of duty in Afghanistan. So, my friends, in the end, this hero had a chance to serve his Country one more time, to give a second chance to his leader. A second chance and well deserved," and the Colonel threw up another fist pump. "Thank you to our hero," the Colonel's hand found his forehead in salute, "...thank you ladies and gentlemen, and God bless the United States of America."

There was a smattering of applause from the crowd.

"Son-of-a-bitch, I don't believe this," Dr. Kirkland muttered under his breath and turned to move away when his gaze caught that of the young man next to him.

"These guys will do anything, even use the death and mauling of men they illegitimately put in harm's way, to advance their agenda," the man sneered.

Kirkland put his hand on the young man's shoulder, gave it a gentle squeeze, and began the short walk back to his office.

Three days later
Private Suites
Level Three
Underwood Hospital

Raymond came upon Kolstad's Chief of Staff, pacing the hallway outside of Room 101, the Secretary's private quarters.

"Where in the hell have you been, Kirkland?" Colonel Corman stepped in front of the Cardiologist; the man's face glowed red in the dim light. "I told that fricking Resident, Chopra, I wanted you here an hour ago. God Damnit, man! He's going off the deep end." Corman threw up his arms and recommenced his pacing.

"Ahmad called me twenty minutes ago." Kirkland ignored the Colonel's outburst and sipped his hot coffee. He had as much respect for this lackey as he did for the man's boss. Nice to be in control, Kirkland thought. "Said your man is in a state of extreme agitation, and that Kolstad refused to let him administer the lorazepam." The Cardiologist shook his head. "We've got to get the Secretary's blood pressure back under control... you understand that do you not Colonel?" Kirkland finished his coffee. "What's going on with him, anyway?"

The Chief of staff rubbed his hand across his face. "I don't know; for Christ's sake, he just keeps saying he can't go through it again... the dream. He's been having the same night-terror since the surgery. He told me about it - horrible shit, really disgusting. Didn't want anybody to know... with his ego - nightmares, appearing weak - you understand? Thought he could handle it until... Now he says he knows why. Wants to talk to you. Fears the drug will put him back to sleep. He keeps insisting... wants something to keep him awake and talk to you." Colonel Corman slumped up against the wall.

A beacon of light filled the dim hallway as the men entered the room. The Secretary was sitting up in bed; his face puffy and paler than usual, his lower lip extended, vibrating uncontrollably along with his lower jaw.

Ever so briefly, Kirkland felt a pang of sympathy for the man - ever so briefly, as he stood alongside of the bed. "Arthur, we need to get your blood pressure back under control. You understand, for the sake of your new heart."

"It's bad, Doctor. Really bad... the dream, I mean." Kolstad turned to face Kirkland.

"I am sure it is, Arthur, but you must allow us to stabilize you or we risk -"

"I can't go through this anymore." Kolstad's eyes glistened. "Every night... the same nightmare. You've got to do something, Doc," and the Secretary reached out, grasping Kirkland's arm. "You've got to do something about... about the heart."

"Of course, Arthur. I am your doctor. I'm here to help you recover, and I am as concerned about your new heart as you are."

The shhhhhhsss of the blood pressure cuff echoed in the room, and Kirkland glanced up at the monitor.

"No. No. You don't understand Doc. Listen, I'm in this pit, or maybe it's a well. Yeah I think it's a well... damp, but no water at the bottom... just bodies. That's where I am. At the bottom standing on them, and they keep throwing more down on me."

Kirkland's attention focused on the Secretary's words: just bodies... standing on them. "And you are standing on... standing on corpses?" Kirkland felt a chill cross over his shoulders.

"Yes. Dead soldiers."

Kirkland watched the pupils of Kolstad's eyes widen. "And what is it that they are throwing down on you?" It was impossible not to ask.

"More bodies. They keep throwing them down on me."

"Who Arthur? Who is throwing these bodies?" Kirkland had to ask.

"Can't tell... only that they keep coming."

"More bodies?" The sound of the blood pressure cuff decompressing registered in Kirkland's consciousness.

"Corpses... but... but now... only parts of corpses." Kolstad's voice broke.

The nurse had entered the room, and Kirkland again glanced up at the monitor: 204/126 - the white digits glared at him.

"Okay, that's enough. We're going to give you something that will help calm you, get that blood pressure down, and I promise you Mr. Secretary, it will not compromise your ability to stay awake. Okay?"

"But the dream, Doc? It's the heart, Doc." Kirkland watched Kolstad's eye's flare, the pupils dilate to black saucers. "I want it out, Doc. You've got to take it OUT!"

"WHAT?" Kirkland stood, dumbfounded, as the Secretary began sobbing.

Conference Room
Third Floor
Later that day

Morris Sanderson, MD leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. A fresh cup of coffee sat next to him. Kirkland had called the Head of Psychiatry just after he left Kolstad. Sanderson immediately understood the urgency of the situation - from the Hospital's point of view as well as their 'celebrity' patient's - and agreed to an emergency meeting.

"It sounds like a case of 'dream anxiety disorder' but I'll leave that up to you, Morris. I've spoken with Fitzsimons, and he agrees; you need to get involved. There is no way that we can or will conform to the Secretary's request. Even if the Hospital Board agreed, John is convinced that the man could not survive another operation. It would be suicide... or even murder." Kirkland sipped his coffee.

"I agree with your diagnosis. The syndrome is characterized by recurring night terrors," Sanderson rolled the coffee cup between his palms, "but you're telling me that he associates these nightmares with the heart he received? Where did he get this idea?"

"His wife." Kirkland raised his eyebrows.

"Say what?" Sanderson smiled.

"With all the information his Chief of Staff revealed to the press after the surgery, it didn't take long for an enterprising reporter to do the digging and ID the donor - a Lieutenant Michael Hooks. Then they got to the family." Kirkland smiled. "Kolstad's staff... their PR scheme? What a fiasco. Whole thing didn't last long, blew up in their face," and Kirkland's smile broadened. "Promoting Hooks as 'one of the Secretary's boys?' Christ. Turns out the Lieutenant became a pacifist and anti-war activist following his return from North Africa when it became clear that the United States involvement was based on a sham perpetrated by those in power. Sure, his family said he was honored to serve in the Afghan conflict - retribution for 9/11 - and that he never believed the Left's conspiracy theories regarding the Iraq conflict until it became clear that a new group of neocons led by Kolstad had done it again. He was incensed when he saw through all the bullshit Kolstad's cronies had fed the US public. He never forgave those in power, but his injuries limited his participation in the anti-war movement. Nevertheless his family said he vowed to take his revenge."

"And the wife got this on the news?"

"It's been on cable, all over social media, papers. Kolstad's staff been trying to re-spin it. But here is the kicker. Mrs. Kolstad is a bit of a 'Nancy Reagan type,' into the paranormal side of things. She's evidently familiar with the research group down at the University of Arizona - their work on cellular memory. Kolstad's Chief of Staff told me she related to him several anecdotes from transplant recipients reporting personality changes and the taking on characteristics and memories from their organ donors. She's convinced that this is what is happening to her husband, and now he is a believer too."

Sanderson shook his head. "That the disillusioned soldier's transplanted heart has extrasensory powers and is bent on torturing Kolstad for his actions."

"That's the way I read it," Kirkland said.

"Sounds like something right out of Poe, for Christ's sake." Sanderson got up and started pacing. "The proponents contend that, since patients of corneal transplants - which lack a significant nerve component - never report this phenomenon, this capacity for 'cellular memory' is restricted to the complex neural networks contained in large organs which can act like small brains and retain combinatorial memories. The heart being the most common."

"How do they explain the mechanism by which, without any neuronal connections from the transplanted organ to the recipient's brain, this 'organ information' is passed to the recipient's consciousness?" Kirkland again sipped his coffee, shaking his head.

"That's still a mystery. The guys in Arizona suggest it's most likely via biochemical mediators such as neurotransmitters." Sanderson said.

"That heat can be a real challenge down there in Arizona," and Kirkland rolled his eyes.

"I'll admit the whole thing is definitely outside the mainstream of modern-day scientific inquiry," Sanderson shrugged his shoulders.

"F-ing pseudoscience if you ask me," Kirkland again smiled. "That's all this Country needs now, another elderly President with physical and mental health issues under the influence of a wife devoted to the paranormal and channeling the likes of Elvis. Christ!" Kirkland couldn't help a small chuckle.

Sanderson sat back down. "If it works for you, I can see our patient later this afternoon."

"I'll set it up," and Kirkland finished the last of his coffee

A few hours later
Room 101
Private Suites

Colonel Corman, Sanderson and Kirkland had gathered. The Secretary lay in bed, appearing relaxed in a hypnotic state induced by Dr. Sanderson. Kolstad was eager to proceed following the Psychiatrist's contention that a post hypnotic suggestion might allow him a permanent respite from his night terrors. The Colonel wasn't as convinced but deferred to his boss's wishes

"Arthur. Arthur, I am going to bring you back to the dream."

Kirkland was impressed by the soothing nature of Sanderson's voice.

"Try to relax. Just tell me what is happening. One... two... three... and you are back."

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhh. Oh my God. I want to stand. I must get up, but... it's so slippery... so slimy. God where are my shoes. AHAAAAHAHh."

The sharp contrast of Kolstad's apparent anguish jolted Kirkland, his hands reflexively gripped the arms of the chair.

"What is happening Arthur?" Sanderson inquired. A hint of stress now apparent in his voice.

"It's on me. It's on me! Oh God, take it off. Please take it off."

"What is on you Arthur?" Sanderson seemed calmer now.

"A foot... a bloody foot. Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. Get it off me."

Kirkland waited. Arthur was silent for a moment, looking down at his chest. Then he screamed.

"It's moving, Jesus its moving. I can see the toes."

Another scream.

"We've gotta stop this Doc." The Colonel leaped up out of his seat.

"Stay where you are!" Sanderson yelled, pointing at the Chief of Staff. "If we wake him now, I can't be responsible for the effects on his heart."

The Colonel sat back down.

Sanderson resumed. "Arthur nothing is on your chest. This is just a dream."

"The toes, oh my god the toes... the long nails... yellow. There coming up - Oh, oh oh! Don't let it touch my face. Pleeeease, for all of mercy. Not my face."

Another scream.

Kirkland jumped in his seat.

Kolstad's hands flailed at his face.

"Arthur... Arthur?" Sanderson spoke softly.

Kolstad's arms stopped as if he had been successful.

Then... "Oh God. It's back. Oh God!"

"What's back, Arthur?" Sanderson asked. "The foot?"

"No. Oh, it's the arm... but the fingers..." Kolstad paused. "Jesus, stop it... Stop it. Stop pointing at me. It's moving... don't let it touch my eyes. Oh Go-"

Kolstad's voice cut out replaced by a gagging sound.

"What's happening Doc?" It was the Colonel.

"He's choking." Kirkland moved to Kolstad's side.

"Oh my God." The Colonel was up pacing. "He told me this is always how the nightmare ends. Wet clotted stuff falls onto his face, hangs there. He tries to wipe it off, but it hangs there as more falls on him from somewhere above.

Kolstad is sitting up in bed, his eyes bulging as his hands clutch his throat.

Kirkland has the Secretary's shoulders.

"Kolstad realizes what it is - the yellowish marrow seeping from the jagged edges of bones." The Colonel's hand covers his mouth. "He says the smell makes him gag. He opens his mouth to scream, and it flows into him, down his throat." Another heaving like sound comes from the Colonel. "Says he must swallow to breathe, but it's too thick and salty." Another heaving sound from the Colonel. "He always wakes up... choking on his own vomit -"

"Like now!" Kirkland has Kolstad's head down, trying to help his patient expel the vomit.

The Colonel turns and throws up onto the chair beside him.

"Christ, why didn't you tell us!" Kirkland continues trying to help the Secretary clear his airway.

"Bring him out of it, Doc. Christ he's turning blue!" the Colonel hollers as the last of his late lunch sputters from his lips.

"Arthur! Arthur, listen to me." Sanderson strives to gain Kolstad's attention. "On three you will return to me."

The anxiety on Sanderson's face stuns Kirkland as Kolstad's body goes limp in his arms.

"One... two... three," Sanderson yells.

"It's not happening, Doc. Christ he's blue," the Colonel grabs the Psychiatrist's shoulders. "Doc! Do something!"

"Arthur... three. THREE, ARTHUR! THREE!" Sanderson is screaming.

Four days later
Morris Sanderson's Office

The Psychiatrist sat back in his chair, arms folded across his chest. "That was very strange. Nothing like it has ever happened before. According to his Chief of Staff, in his normal dream state, Kolstad was always able to awaken when the choking began, but under hypnosis, when he'd given control over to me, for some reason I was unable to bring him out of his state." Sanderson shook his head. "It was as though something else had control of him and literally choked the man into respiratory arrest."

"Neurology will be running more tests," Kirkland was up pacing, "but the interval of anoxia definitely caused significant brain damage. Kolstad fluctuates between short periods of brain activity consistent with deep sleep to more extensive periods of REM activity and extreme agitation. At this point, based on fMRI data and Kolstad's brain activity patterns, Clausen's group has classified him as in a minimally conscious state, but that could change with further testing." Kirkland continued pacing.

"REM activity." Sanderson rubbed his chin. "That is consistent with data from the 2006 Owen's study. Patients in that condition show the same patterns of brain activity that are seen when healthy individuals are dreaming." Sanderson tilted his head. "So, he could be dreaming. During the hyperactive REM periods, Kolstad could be dreaming... dreaming that nightmare." Sanderson pursed his lips. "Oh... my... God." The phrase came out almost as a whisper.

Kirkland was silent for a moment as the words of the psychiatrist sunk in. "Yeah," he managed, "I guess so, ehhhh..." The images in his mind had him momentarily somewhere else - yellowish marrow seeping from the jagged edges of bones... the smell... it flows into him, down his throat. And then Kirkland was back. "Yeah... yeah... poses a real threat to the new heart... extremely stressful on the transplant. We're administering drugs to keep his heart rate and blood pressure under some level of control until his family makes some decisions but..." Kirkland voice trailed off as his mind again opened to share the gruesome images in Kolstad's dream.

Kirkland's Office
An hour later

"What a week for the Hospital." The Resident stood at the door. "Director steps down for health reasons, and the Chief of Surgery takes early retirement - wanting to pursue other endeavors he said. Scuttlebutt is, Fitzsimons has political aspirations. What do you think, Sir?"

"Trust me, Ahmad, I know both these men pretty well. I'm sure a quiet retirement, out of the limelight, will be exactly what each of them will find best for their future." Kirkland smiled.

"You might be right, Sir. See you at rounds tomorrow morning, and the Resident closed the door behind him.

Kirkland sat back in his chair. Quite a week, indeed, he thought as he slipped the new SIM card into his iPhone. He held up the old card. This, with its damning recording, insured that his unethical colleagues would remain permanently banished from the medical profession. Kirkland nodded. And Kolstad? If Sanderson was right, in-all-likelihood, now suffering in his own recurring hell.

A celebration was in order, Kirkland thought. He walked over, opened the cabinet, retrieving the bottle of Remy Martin VSOP; and poured himself two fingers of the amber-beige elixir.

A few days earlier, with Sanderson, Kirkland - playing his role as the rigorous scientist - had summarily dismissed the "cellular memory" hypothesis. In truth, he wasn't so sure. Over the years, there had been the occasional patient of his own, who claimed post-transplant experiences that defied rational explanation. He had written these off. But now - the suggestion that the disenchanted soldier's heart was taking its revenge on the suffering Secretary?

Kirkland sipped his drink.

Or - and equally as unlikely - had Kolstad suddenly 'found religion', his psyche inconsolable after finally coming to grips with the consequences of his past immoral behavior?

Kirkland rolled the glass between his palms.

Whatever the means, if only vicariously, deep inside Raymond's desire for revenge now seemed satisfied.

The Cardiologist dropped back into his chair and looked over at the photo on his desk. Draped with a Purple Heart on one side and the Distinguished Service Cross on the other, within the gold frame the familiar face of a handsome First Lieutenant returned his gaze. There had been years of joy before, then months of unrelenting sorrow after, followed by a persistent hollowness for Kirkland.

But now - and Raymond raised his glass in a toast - both father and son were smiling at each other, once again.

Nursing Station
Level Three,
Private Suites

Amanda Roberts, RN, looked up from her paperwork; the muffled cries and screams from Room 101 had begun... again.


  1. Rough justice administered. Good ending.

  2. Interesting premise and it held my interest. Lucky that surgeon John Fitzsimmons made sure the heart did go into the colonel instead of the young woman even though Kirkland appeared to object. I like the room 101 ending. Poetic justice.

  3. Nice bit of horror with a unique premise but a familiar feel. I concur with the previous commenters, great ending.