True to the game iii, p.2
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       True to the Game III, p.2

           Teri Woods
 
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  “Nigga, is you crazy? You was dead. I seen you; you was dead.” Gena recrossed her arms and lifted a questioning eyebrow. “If you weren’t dead, why didn’t you call me, Quadir? Why didn’t anyone call me and let me know that you were alive? Do you know how crazy you sound right now?”

  “Because, baby, everyone thought that I was dead. That was the only way my plan would work. It was my only chance to get away from the police and from the Junior Mafia. I was going to go down South, Gena. I was going to get everything set up, and then I was going to come for you.”

  “And why couldn’t I be a part of the plan? Why couldn’t you have let me know what was going on?”

  “Because I needed my death to be real and I knew you were the biggest key to everyone believing I was gone. I needed to let everything die down first, and I needed you to convince everyone that I was dead and buried.”

  “Who did I bury?”

  Quadir exhaled. He released Gena, took a seat on the wicker sofa across from hers, and settled in for the long story that he was about to tell her. “You may want to eat a little something before I get started.”

  “Quadir, I will die of starvation before I let either of us leave this lanai and I still be in the dark,” Gena told him. “I hope that this little explanation of yours is a good one. If it’s not, I’m going to kill you myself. And this time, there won’t be no coming back.”

  Quadir smiled and leaned back on the sofa. “It’s like this . . .”

  Heaven Can Wait

  Hahnemann Hospital, January 1, 1990

  The orderly strolled into the room to collect his cadaver. He had been at the job for a little more than a year now, and he loved it. Working in the hospital morgue paid well and afforded him the peace and quiet that he needed to study for his premed courses. The job suited him more than most, as his goal was to become a surgeon. He was now in his final year of premed, and one semester away from actual medical school, where he would be cutting open bodies and not just transporting them from one floor to another.

  The body that he was picking up now was fresh. The gunshot victim had just been called, and his family had just walked out of the room. Probably the guy’s wife or fiancée or something, but whoever she was, she certainly had a nice little ass on her. This poor, unlucky bastard would now be staring down or up, watching somebody else plow that fat-ass onion she had back there.

  The orderly lifted the cadaver’s hanging hand to lay it on the bed. The hand felt weird. Stranger than any other dead guy’s hand he had ever touched. The damn thing was warm, really warm. And more than that, it had a fucking pulse.

  “Oh, shit!” The orderly rushed into the hall to find a nurse, a doctor, anyone who looked like they could do something. “Excuse me, ma’am. I have an emergency.”

  Dr. Hopkins stopped and read the orderly’s name tag. “Stan, what can I do for you?”

  “Doc, I got a dead guy in there who ain’t dead,” Stan told her.

  “What?” Dr. Hopkins rushed into the emergency operating room. She clasped Quadir’s pulse. Sure as shit, he had one. She rushed to the wall and pressed the intercom.

  “Stat. Emergency room personnel to the OR, stat. This is Dr. Amelia Hopkins. Emergency room surgical personnel to the OR, immediately!”

  Masked emergency room personnel ran into the operating room, some of them still covered with Quadir’s blood from minutes ago.

  “We got a live one here, people!” Dr. Hopkins shouted. She rushed to a corner of the room to scrub up before several nurses dressed her in surgical garb. Two more surgeons, Dr. Benjamin Brant and Dr. William Hartley, rushed into the room. “Ben, he’s still alive.”

  “Hot damn!” Dr. Brant rushed to Quadir and immediately began working on him.

  Dr. Hartley began issuing orders as he scrubbed up and the nurses dressed him in surgical garb.

  “You’re a tough son of a bitch, aren’t you?” Dr. Brant said, smiling at Quadir. “Fight, son. That’s right, fight.”

  “Set up a pint of plasma for him.” Hopkins ordered one of the nurses. “Get him hooked back up so that we can monitor his blood pressure. What’s the deal, Benny?”

  “Couldn’t find that last fucking bullet. It hid behind his heart. He flatlined and we couldn’t get him back. We called him.”

  “You need a woman’s touch in here,” Hopkins told him. “My hands are a lot smaller than yours. Let me see if I can work my way around in there and get that little booger.”

  Dr. Brant maneuvered out of the way and allowed Dr. Hopkins to become the primary surgeon. Within seconds she was smiling at him beneath her surgical mask.

  “Was this the pesky little thing you were looking for?” she asked, holding up a small, bloody, lead ball. She placed the bullet into a small dish, and then proceeded to repair the internal damage it had caused.

  “Ben and I repaired most of the damage already,” Hartley told her.

  “I see; you guys did a fantastic job,” she told him, assuaging their egos. Dr. Hopkins reconnected a severed artery, suctioned the blood from the wound, and monitored her patient for several moments before turning to a nurse. “What’s he looking like?”

  “Blood pressure has climbed to 112 over 70 and is holding steady. Everything looks good.”

  “Close him up for me, get him into ICU, and page me in an hour with his vitals,” Hopkins told them. She lifted the chart from the bottom of the bed. “Deceased” had been scrawled across it. “Get him a new chart. The patient’s name is John Smith. Everybody clear on that?”

  Dr. Brant peered over at his colleague.

  “I’ll alert the authorities and his family,” Dr. Hopkins told them. “Until I or the authorities say otherwise, Mr. Richards is deceased. Mr. Smith, however, is alive and doing quite well.”

  “I signed the death certificate,” Hartley told her.

  “I’ll take care of that, too,” Hopkins said. She turned to the orderly, who had watched the whole thing from the corner of the operating room. “Come with me.”

  Amelia Hopkins led Stan out into the hallway and maneuvered him into a corner. “Stan, what I am about to say to you is very important. And I need to have your undivided attention. Do I have that, Stan? Do I have your undivided attention?”

  Stan nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

  “Good. Stan, I have a patient in there who had a whole lot of bullet holes inside of him. Somebody doesn’t like Mr. Richards, and thought it best that he not remain with us in this life. My job, as a doctor, is to see to it that he does. But in order to do that, I am going to need your help. Can I count on you to help me?”

  Stan nodded again.

  “Good. Now, how many John Does do you have down there in the morgue?”

  “Right now, about four or five, but the weekend is coming up. We should have a shitload of ’em coming in.”

  Amelia Hopkins nodded. “Any of the ones we have fit the description of Mr. Richards in there?”

  Stan smiled and scratched his chin. “One, maybe. A buddy of mines works over in the morgue at the County Hospital. I’m sure I could get you a John Doe close enough to match.”

  It was Dr. Hopkins’s turn to smile. “You do that. You get me a John Doe to match, and you put this chart on him. Make sure that John Doe becomes Quadir Richards. And you let no one in to see it. He’s already been identified by his family, and you tell them that the authorities are not allowing anyone else to see the body at this time. You got that?”

  Stan nodded. “Dr. Hopkins, in a few years, I’ll need a surgeon to intern under.”

  Amelia shoved the chart into his hand. “You want to be a surgeon, I’ll get you there. But you better have the grades and the stamina to keep up with me.”

  Stan nodded. “Deal.”

  Dr. Hopkins walked to the nurses’ station. “That patient in the OR. I need for you to get me his family’s address and telephone number. You’ll probably have to look it up. You know what, see if you can cross-reference the information that you find and get me the
name and telephone number of his parents.”

  The nurse nodded and lifted a large telephone book from beneath the nurses’ station.

  Dr. Hopkins knew that one thing was for certain: a mother would do anything to keep her child alive. A wife or girlfriend could be after an insurance policy, or her jealous lover could have been the gunman. But a mother, she would kill or die to protect her offspring. She needed the mother’s address.

  The nurses and a couple of ICU orderlies wheeled Quadir out of the operating room, heading for the elevator.

  “What’s he look like?” Hopkins asked.

  “Vitals are stable. Blood pressure is 118 over 80.”

  “Good job, Amelia,” Dr. Brant told her, exiting the operating room.

  “Thanks, Benny.”

  “I’m heading over to the cafeteria. Want to join me?” Dr. Brant asked.

  Amelia nodded. She could use something to eat. Besides, she wanted to run a few things by Dr. Brant. He was her mentor, and she trusted him completely. It had been Dr. Brant who had trained her and helped her to hone her surgical skills to what they were today. Benny Brant was probably one of the top surgeons in the country. And for him, a wealthy Jewish surgeon from New York, to have taken a poor black girl from the Alabama countryside under his wing was unfathomable. He had dozens of doctors from some of the finest families all over the country trying to intern under him, some of whom where the sons of his colleagues. The fact that he had pulled her under his wing was something that she would forever be grateful for.

  The two of them headed for the elevator.

  Game Plan

  Amelia moved through the parking garage with the ferocity of a cheetah on the prowl. Her determined steps took her rapidly through the parking structure to the secluded corner where her meeting was to take place. The person with whom she was to meet was already there.

  “Viola Richards?” she asked.

  Viola nodded. “What’s going on? Why did you ask for me to meet you here?”

  Amelia peered around the parking garage to make sure they were alone. Still, she thought it best that they move to the even more secluded second level. She clasped Viola’s arm and led her off.

  “I wanted to meet you here because I had some questions about your son. I operated on him in the emergency room.”

  Viola sniffled. “Do the police have any suspects or leads in the case?” she asked, shaking her head. “You know how they are. My son was a young black man whose occupation was questionable. In situations like these, they don’t care about finding the killers. They just chalk him up as another statistic.”

  Amelia nodded. She knew exactly what Viola Richards was talking about. Young black men, drug dealer or no drug dealer, were all statistics. They would lump their deaths in one of two categories: drug related or gang related.

  “I take it that you don’t have great faith in our police department,” Amelia observed.

  “Could as well been them that killed my baby,” Viola told her.

  Amelia nodded. Good. She now knew that Viola was no fan of the police department, which meant that in all probability she would cooperate with her request.

  “Any idea who did this to your son?”

  Viola shook her head. “No, it could have been anybody. You know how things are; nobody wants to be a snitch. It could be your best friend, your mama, even your own child. That’s just the way it is.”

  “Take care of it in the streets, huh?”

  Mrs. Richards nodded. “But the only problem with that is that it’s just more kids getting killed.”

  Amelia nodded. “I believe in taking care of our own.”

  Amelia led Viola to the upper level of the parking garage and stopped just in front of a black Mercedes S Class. “Are you a religious woman, Mrs. Richards?”

  “Of course. I go to church every Sunday.”

  “Sometimes God has a plan for each of us. And sometimes we don’t understand what His plan is. Sometimes he works in ways so mysterious, even we doctors can’t explain it.”

  “Amen! I know that’s right.”

  “Sometimes when we doctors have exhausted all medical means possible, God steps in with His hand and touches a person. Even when we have given up, sometimes God says I ain’t done using this person yet.”

  Viola smiled. “I know that my Quadir is with the Lord. I know that God still has a plan for him, and for each of us.” She clasped Amelia’s hand and shook it. “I want to thank you for all that you did to try to save my son.”

  Amelia smiled. “Don’t thank me just yet. You may want to lean up against this car right here.”

  Viola leaned back against the Mercedes and stared at Amelia. She was truly puzzled.

  “After the surgeon worked on your son, he thought that he had lost him. He declared your son deceased. A short time later, an orderly went into the room and found that your son was not dead.”

  Viola clasped her chest and her knees buckled. Amelia caught her and held her up.

  “I rushed into the operating room, and I began to operate on your son. I found the bullet that the surgeon could not retrieve, and I was able to repair the damage to your son.”

  Viola stared at her in bewilderment.

  Amelia smiled and nodded. “Quadir is alive,” she whispered.

  Viola gasped and began to slide to the ground again. Amelia could not hold her up this time. Tears flowed from Viola’s eyes, and she began to kiss Amelia’s hands. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Oh, dear Lord, thank you! My baby is alive! Thank you!”

  Amelia knelt down beside her. “We don’t know who tried to kill Quadir. We have to be very, very careful. I want to keep him alive. I don’t want to tell anyone that he is alive, understand?”

  Viola nodded.

  “I don’t know who I can trust. Does he have a wife?”

  Viola frowned at the thought of Gena. She never had liked the girl, but that was her son’s choice, not hers. “He has a girlfriend and they were engaged, but they hadn’t tied the knot. Even still, though, I don’t want to tell nobody! Nobody! Don’t call nobody else, doc.”

  Amelia nodded. “I haven’t informed the police.”

  “Good! Don’t tell them neither!”

  “Quadir is in stable but critical condition. These next few days are going to be really important for him.”

  “Can I see him, doctor?”

  “Eventually, yes. But right now, to have you coming up to the hospital . . .”

  She nodded again. “I understand. Just do whatever it is you’re doing. Just keep doing your thing, baby!” Viola wrapped her arms around Amelia and hugged her as tight as she could.

  “I love you,” Viola began crying heavily. “I don’t know you, but I love you, baby. I love you so much. You brought my baby back to me.”

  Amelia rose and helped Viola to her feet. “We are going to have to be smart on this one.”

  “Whatever you need, baby, you just tell me.”

  “We can’t let anyone catch on, especially the fiancée. We can’t let her snoop around. I’ve taken care of the autopsy report. The death certificate has already been signed by another doctor. I have a body from the morgue with Quadir’s chart on it.”

  “A body.”

  “He was a John Doe. No one has claimed him for some time. He was young, about Quadir’s age, decent shape. Probably homeless, maybe even a drug addict. He probably has no family, so to speak, and his looks are perfect to allow him to pass for Quadir.”

  Mrs. Richardson nodded solemnly.

  “So, tomorrow you can have the undertaker pick him up, okay,” Amelia asked, hoping Quadir’s mother was following her line. “And you’ll take care of the fiancée, right? Make sure she doesn’t make trouble for us.”

  “Oh, I think I can handle that. I can definitely keep her from getting into things. Once I get into his house, I can control everything.” The first thing will be to put her ass out. Once I get rid of Gena, everything will work itself out, Viola couldn’t help but think
to herself. “Mmm-hmm, I can get in there, control things. Keep her from his papers, his money, and all the things that she can use to mess things up for us.”

  Amelia nodded.

  Viola bounced up and down slightly. “I can’t believe my baby is alive!”

  Amelia nodded.

  “When can I see him?”

  “I’ll call you and let you know. Once he’s fully conscious, and feeling a lot better, I’ll get you into the hospital.”

  “Was there any permanent damage to anything? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ll take him as a vegetable, as long as he’s alive.”

  “I understand. It’s a perfectly normal question. Right now, I think that only time will tell. I don’t believe that there will be any permanent damage, but again, time will let us know. He will need therapy, lots of rehabilitation, a good diet of soft foods at first.”

  “Are you going to see it through?”

  “Huh?”

  “I know how things go. You’re a doctor; you have other patients. I just don’t want you to pass him on down the line to a bunch of other doctors and therapists and who knows who else. I want you to look after my baby.”

  Amelia nodded. “I’ll see him through, Mrs. Richards. I’ll see him through.”

  Viola hugged Amelia once again. “What church do you go to?”

  “I go to First Baptist in Germantown,” Amelia replied.

  “Come to church with me this Sunday. Please.”

  Amelia hesitated for several moments, and then relented. “Okay, I’ll go.”

  “Thank you, so much.” Viola kissed the doctor on her cheek. “Your parents must be so proud of you! I’m so proud of you, and I just met you! Where are you from?”

  “Alabama.”

  “Alabama! Wow, you sure are far away from home. Do you have any family in these parts?”

  Amelia shook her head. “No, just my patients.”

  “You poor, sweet thing, I want you to come to dinner at our house on Sunday after church! You can just call your folks in Alabama and tell them that you got stolen by a crazy lady in Philadelphia! I’m adopting your butt! I know you like soul food!”

 
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