Act of Murder: A Doc Brady Mystery
by John Bishop MD
by John Bishop MD
Excerpted from Act of Murder: A Doc Brady Mystery. Copyright © John Bishop. All rights reserved. Published by Mantid Press.
Saturday, March 12, 1994
What I remember first about that day was the sound of a sickening thud. It was blended almost imperceptibly with the screeching of tires, both before and after the thud. I had been in the backyard, watering our cherished potted plants and flowering shrubs. As soon as I heard the screech, I dropped the plastic watering bucket and tore down the driveway toward the front yard, thanking God that the electric wrought-iron gate was open, and praying that Mary Louise was not the source of the street sounds.
Although it wasn’t but 150 feet or so from the backyard to the street, it seemed that I was moving in slow motion through a much longer distance. Our neighbor to the right as we faced the street was kneeling down over a small blue lump. I remember initially thinking it was a neighborhood cat or dog with a sweater but as I neared the scene, I saw that the blue lump was Bobbie’s son, Stevie.
Bobbie was screaming, “OH, GOD! Oh, God! Jim Bob, is he all right? OH, GOD, JIM BOB, PLEASE LET HIM BE ALL RIGHT!”
Stevie was not all right. I felt his little ten-year-old wrist for a pulse. Nothing. I felt his left carotid artery. Nothing. I considered rolling him over on his back but was afraid that if he were in shock and not dead, I could paralyze him if his spine were fractured. Some of the other neighbors had arrived by then. I yelled for someone to call 911.
“Can’t you give him mouth-to-mouth or something?” Bobbie had yelled. “You’re a doctor, for God’s sake! DO something! Oh, please, do SOMETHING!” I felt helpless and wished I could do something. Anything. A mother was losing her child, and all my years of medical training were, at that particular moment, useless. I waited with her and tried to keep her from moving Stevie. But how can you keep a mother from trying to shelter, protect, hide, and heal her child? Mostly, I waited with her and Stevie, feeling for his carotid pulse repeatedly, though my touch would not restore it.
It seemed like an eternity before the Houston Fire Department arrived, although later my neighbors would tell me it was only four or five minutes. The paramedics were affected as much as I was by the slight, crushed bundle. Although there was, thankfully, little external bleeding, they must have sensed the lifelessness when they stabilized his neck before gently moving him onto the stretcher and into the ambulance. He seemed so tiny to me as the paramedics deftly intubated Stevie and started an IV running. It appeared they injected his heart, probably with epinephrine, before they electroshocked him. A heartbeat did not register on the monitor.
As I rode in the ambulance with Bobbie and the paramedics, I thanked God that Mary Louise was not the one being resuscitated. I vaguely remembered her running outside during the commotion. Knowing her and her composure and intelligence, she probably had called 911 before I had time to give those instructions. Her gentle hand had rested briefly on my shoulder as little Stevie was loaded into the ambulance. A great woman, my wife. I was glad our only son, J. J., was away at college. At least he couldn’t get run over in front of our house.
“You’re a doc?” asked the least-busy paramedic in the ambulance. I nodded. “Jim Bob Brady.”
All three continued to work on Stevie, attaching monitors, pushing IV drugs, and occasionally using the paddles to try to stimulate his heart into beating.
“What kind?” one of the other paramedics asked.
I thought that was a helluva time to be making small talk. Dead child, or presumably dead child. Mother, semi-hysterical, clinging to me. Ambulance speeding down Kirby, sirens blaring. Who cared what kind of doctor I was! Obviously, not a very good one. I had done nothing to help save that child. At that moment, I felt I should be anything but a doctor.
“Orthopedic surgeon, although this doesn’t seem the time to discuss my career,” I snapped. The comment ensured a silent journey the remaining five or six minutes to Children’s Hospital.
Poor guys. We all become too calloused in the medical and surgical business, seeing murder, mayhem, and tragedy the way we do. But this was my neighbor’s child, and I felt for her. And him. And me.
Fortunately, the traffic was light that Saturday afternoon. Normally, Fannin Street was stop-and-go in the several blocks known as the Texas Medical Center. As the ambulance pulled into the emergency center, people seemed to be everywhere. An injured child draws considerable attention—not that adults don’t, but the Children’s Hospital staff was impressively organized, showing efficiency, compassion, and skill. Within the next thirty minutes or so, they had examined little Stevie and pronounced him dead. Apparently, the trauma team was composed of not only medical personnel but of social workers, ministers, and counselors. Bobbie was shattered, requiring sedation. She was attended to, and I was left to give details of the accident. I fended questions regarding arrangements for the body and all the usual accompanying inquiries in such a situation.
I begged off from the full-frontal assault, explaining that I was a neighbor and had come along for the ride because I was a doctor, in case I could help. No, I didn’t know anything, but if I could make a few calls, I could find some people to answer their questions.
I left the holding area in the back of the emergency room and returned to the lobby through the electric double doors. I assumed the personnel on duty had allowed me to remain in the NO VISITORS area because they had heard from the paramedics that I was a physician. I was surprised, dressed as I was in baggy shorts and a not-so-clean T-shirt. I had been dressed for gardening, not doctoring and death.
The lobby was fairly empty except for a few sick children and their overwrought parents. Not wanting to search for a physician’s lounge and the privacy it would afford, and having left my cell phone at home in the rush, I used a pay phone to call home. I had to borrow a quarter from a phone neighbor.
“How are you holding up?” Mary Louise asked.
“I’m all right, other than feeling useless. Stevie’s dead. Seems he was killed instantly. The chief pediatric surgeon thinks his chest was crushed. Ruptured heart. They’ll have to do an autopsy to know for sure. Bobbie collapsed. They have her on a gurney in one of the exam rooms, sedated. They’ve been incredibly kind and attentive.”
“I feel so sorry for her. Is anyone else there yet?”
“Well, that’s one reason I called. The hospital staff is asking all kinds of questions. The police will want to talk to witnesses. Someone needs to be here who knows more about their personal lives and preferences than I do. Do you know where Pete is?”
“He’s on his way from his office. He’s involved in some big trial that starts Monday. At least that’s what the Mullens told me. I called a few of the neighbors, and they called a few more people, and so on. You know how the network is around here. Bobbie’s sister should be there soon, and Pete, God help him, should be there any minute.” She paused. “Do you want me to come and get you?”
Great, Brady, I thought, you even forgot you have no car.
“No, that’s all right. I’m going to hang out here until I see Pete, or someone else I recognize, and see if I can help out with anything. I’ll see you as soon as I can. Oh, one more thing. I love you. For a long five seconds or so, I thought it might have been you out in the street.”
“I’m still here, sweetie. I love you, too.”
As Stevie’s dad Pete and the others arrived, I basically directed traffic and answered their questions as best I could. When I felt that I had done enough, I walked outside. The paramedics were still hanging around the emergency entrance. I apologized for my rudeness in the ambulance, but they seemed to understand. They kindly offered me a ride home.
On the way, two of the men sat in the back with me and made small talk about the medical world. I asked if either of them smoked. They looked at each other, laughed, then individually brought out their own packs of carcinogens. As we all lit up, I hoped that the oxygen had been turned off.
About the Author:
John Bishop MD is the author of Act of Murder: A Doc Brady Mystery. Dr. Bishop has practiced orthopedic surgery in Houston, Texas, for 30 years. His Doc Brady medical thriller series is set in the changing environment of medicine in the 1990s. Drawing on his years of experience as a practicing surgeon, Bishop entertains readers using his unique insights into the medical world with all its challenges, intricacies, and complexities, while at the same time revealing the compassion and dedication of health care professionals. Dr. Bishop and his wife, Joan, reside in the Texas Hill Country. For more information, please visit https://johnbishopauthor.com