The central consequence of Jack’s grounding was that he was confined to the Point, unable to use his car. School was no problem; depending upon where on the campus he started, he was on average about five hundred metres from school to home. A cold front had blown through the day before and made things chilly, but it was dry again and Jack saw no problems getting home as he left school after class.
After the disaster of the previous weekend, Jack’s thought process was decidedly upbeat. His rear end was getting better in spite of having to sit on it for class after class. His weekend tryst with Denise got him kicked off of the tennis team, but that was more than compensated for by all of the people who came up to him—many furtively, then running away—and congratulating him on bringing Denise down. His only missing piece was how to approach Madeleine. He felt like a schlemiel not having the nerve to approach her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Complicating things was the fact that a good number of girls who were a lot easier than Madeleine were dropping many hints his way.
His happy train of thought was derailed as he turned from Ocean Avenue onto Curtiss Street, where his house was. Afterwards it was hard for him to recount what happened next, but he suddenly found his body the receiving end of three sets of fists, feet and knees that came out from behind the hedges he had walked past so many times. It seemed that he suddenly became a group punching bag, and he never knew where the blows would come from next, they came so fast.
It ended as suddenly as it began. He staggered down the street, determined to make it to his house. His last memory was reaching the property; beyond that, things went blank.
It wasn’t too long after that when Cathy and Terry turned the same corner and walked down the same street. Cathy’s eye was caught by the books scattered all over the side of the street. They picked them up and immediately recognised Jack’s name on them.
“Something’s wrong, Terry,” Cathy said as they got the books they could find out of the road. Terry looked ahead and spotted some marks of blood in the street.
“Look at that,” Terry said.
“The blood in the road.” Cathy walked closer; the worry on her face deepened.
“Something’s happened to Jack. We gotta find him.”
“Yeah, but where?”
Cathy had to think. “Let’s follow this trail.” That didn’t prove difficult, because it went straight for the Arnold home. They got through the break in the tall ficus hedge on the front of the lot and were presented with the sight of Jack’s body on the steps leading up to the front door.
The two girls let out a unison scream that penetrated the thick but manicured overgrowth of the neighbourhood. They ran up to Jack.
“I think he’s still living,” Cathy said, noticing his breathing. “We gotta call the cops. We gotta call an ambulance.”
“Wait!” Terry said.
“‘Cause about a month ago, someone beat up like this turned up near Daddy’s office. Turned out, it was the police—or really the CPL—that did it.”
Cathy’s fright turned to anger. “Denise,” she said. “That. . .”
“Let’s get him in the house,” Terry suggested. Cathy got the door open; they picked him up and carried in just inside the door, not sure of where his next destination was. He was still bleeding extensively.
“I’ll call Uncle Jeff,” Cathy said. She went over to the phone while Terry tried to get a washcloth to at least get the blood off. Cathy called over to Terry as she was applying the wet cloth to his face.
“You think we can get him over there?” Cathy asked from the phone.
“I think so,” Terry said. “There are two of us.”
“We can do it,” Cathy said to the receiver. “We’ll be right over. Thanks.” She hung up. “I know where Dad hid his keys—we’ll take the Goat.” Cathy disappeared; shortly Terry heard the engine rumble in the front of the house. She opened the door to see Cathy running up.
“We gotta problem,” Cathy told Terry.
“What’s that?” Terry asked.
“I’ve only got my learner’s permit. If we get caught. . .and it looks like they’re out for us.”
“I’ve got my full Aloxan license,” Terry said. “Daddy got it for me, just in case.”
They got a hold of Jack, Terry at his shoulders and Cathy at his feet. Terry felt like one of her grandfather’s Italian Renaissance art pieces as they hauled him out as gingerly as they could and placed him in the passenger seat of the car. Cathy went back, locked the door, hurried to the car, crawled in the back, and with Terry at the wheel they were off.
Terry found the Pontiac a long way from an Aston-Martin in terms of driving style, but she was a quick study and they got to Dr. Arnold’s office in no time. They had more help in getting him into the office. Jeff dropped everything he was doing and attended to Jack as the girls sat in his office.
They were joined, first by Helen, then Mark. Finally Jeff came in to give them the news.
“I always said you brought one tough kid in the world with Jack, Helen, but he’s outdone himself this time,” Jeff began.
“Will he be all right?” Helen asked anxiously.
“Eventually,” Jeff said. “In the meanwhile, he’s got a broken nose, at least two cracked ribs, probably will need some dental work before it’s over with, a head concussion, and numerous cuts, bruises and other injuries. And, of course, he’s still dealing with what Art Coleman did to him.” Helen began to softly sob.
“Is there anything else?” Mark asked, boggled.
“Well, I don’t want to be indelicate in present company, but had he not put on an athletic supporter this morning, his injuries would have been a lot more, shall I say, permanent.”
“He never tells me when he runs out of underwear,” Helen said, her crying slowing down to say something only a mother or spouse could. “So should we take him to the hospital?”
“Terry here was right not to call an ambulance to begin with,” Jeff said. “This is definitely the work of some very ‘official’ thugs. There have been about half a dozen cases like this since the local elections last November. Like Coleman, they knew what they were doing. Given the way things are going these days, your safest bet is to take him home and get some private duty nurses—or even people who are just good at taking care of people—to see to his basic needs. He’s pretty heavily sedated right at the moment, so he’s going to need some help later on this evening when he gets home.”
“I could help some,” Terry said.
“That could be trouble,” Cathy said. “If he wakes up and sees you first, he’ll think he’s in Manila. He’s heard too much about Manila—ow!” Her attempt at humour was stopped by the long fingers of Terry’s left hand wrapping themselves around the back of her neck and squeezing very hard.
“Shu Yi could help,” Terry offered after bringing her friend to heel. “She’s pretty good at that, and she only works part time these days.”
“Why don’t you call her while we go in and see Jack,” Jeff suggested. “I’ll be lining up some other people later.”
They got Jack home about 1730; Shu Yi arrived about 1900. Terry wanted to stay but her mother insisted that she come home and concentrate on her homework, which was odd since she had very little. The Arnolds quickly discovered that Terry’s advance billing of her grandmother was justified; she got right to work setting things up. Jack was not really with it because of the heavy pain killers and sedatives his uncle had prescribed him.
Things settled down enough for Shu Yi to spend some time with the Arnolds, who were gathered in the room after a quick dinner.
“This is too much like the Communists do,” Shu Yi told them. “It is the same in China, only much bigger. I have niece in Gonganju, it is the same.”
“Gong what?” Cathy asked.
“Public Security Bureau,” Shu Yi clarified. “The police.”
“And I’ve heard that Kendall has modelled his CPL after the Red Guards,” Mark added.
“Of course,” Shu Yi agreed. “Too many bad elements around here.” At that point they heard the doorbell ring.
“I’ll get it,” Cathy said. She ran around the balcony and down the stairs to the front door, the area around which she had helped to clean Jack’s blood off of. She opened the door to come face to face with Madeleine des Cieux.
“Jack is in a serious situation, isn’t he?” Madeleine asked.
“He sure is,” Cathy agreed. “Come on up.” Madeleine followed Cathy up and around to Jack’s room. They came in; Mark and Helen were surprised, but Shu Yi glowed at her entrance.
“You came across the bay, didn’t you?” Helen asked.
“Of course. I had heard that Jack was in trouble, but I only sensed that it was this bad.” She went over to the bed and looked at Jack, who was still barely conscious under the weight of drugs. Shu Yi could see the pain that entered her eyes as she saw Jack’s condition.
“I assume that you have come to do more than just see Jack,” Mark said.
“Yes, I have come to pray for his recovery,” Madeleine replied. “Who did this?”
“We think it was some CPL thugs,” Cathy said, since no one else wanted to blurt it out.
“That’s why we haven’t called the police,” Helen added.
“Anything you can do would be greatly appreciated,” Mark said, not sure what else to say.
Madeleine came round to the other side of the bed, the side facing the sliding glass doors. Shu Yi evacuated her seat and Madeleine assumed it. She was wearing her crucifix, something she wore sporadically before her illness but more consistently since. Putting her purse in front of her on the bed, she reached inside for the tube of aloe vera. Beginning with crossing herself and invoking the Trinity—something that everyone in the room copied—she took the tube, dabbed her index finger with the aloe, made a small cross on Jack’s forehead, and then prayed for his recovery. She replaced the tube in her purse.
“This is very sad, the way he has been beaten,” Madeleine observed, looking at Mark and Helen. “I am glad that, in six months, we will both be gone from this place.”
“I fear for what he’ll come back to when he finishes school,” Mark said.
“If he comes back,” Madeleine replied. “Well, I must be going—I do not want to worry Papa and Maman by staying out so late, with things as they are.”
“Thank you so much for coming,” Helen said, hugging Madeleine as she emerged from her seat and came around the bed to leave the room.
“I’ll take her to her car,” Cathy said. As they walked around the balcony, Cathy stopped and turned to Madeleine.
“There’s something really strange I need to talk to you about,” Cathy said.
“What is it?” Madeleine said.
“It’s about Jack. He’s been wanting for the last few weeks to ask you out, but he’s too big of a chicken to do it. He even talked to Raymond about it when he was up there to play tennis.”
“What Raymond told him was probably unbelievable,” Madeleine said. “But Jack’s not shy like me, why can’t he just ask?”
“I guess he doesn’t know how,” Cathy admitted. “The girls he runs around with are, well, different from you. You know them. Especially Denise, but that hasn’t worked out so hot.”
Madeleine thought for a second. “I made a promise to myself not to date anyone this year,” she began. “Dating is such a serious matter. You are seen with someone, you might as well be married to them. And, of course, I am leaving for Belgium this fall. I don’t want to leave with any commitments. In any case, I don’t think that I can meet Jack’s expectations.”
“Maybe Jack needs to change his expectations. Maybe we all do, after this.”
“I don’t want to hurt Jack, or you. I just want all of this to be over with.” With that she turned and continued her way to the front door.
Cathy followed her until she reached the Dyane parked in the street. “Thanks for coming; it means a lot to us,” she said.
“As Papa would say, it is my pleasure.” With that she lifted the handle, got in, and drove off, Cathy following her leisurely progress until she turned left onto Ocean Avenue.
Cathy went back into the house and Jack’s room.
“She’s a very nice girl,” Helen observed.
“Her prayers work, too,” Shu Yi added.