Michael sat in the car staring out at the city lights. The park was dark, but the downtown Christmas lights could be seen even from here. They seemed to be prettier when one sat in the dark. He thought about the argument that he and his wife had just had. It was more like Cynthia argued and he stated his opinion when he could, which was seldom. Michael wondered if he had stayed in the marriage because he was strong or because he was too weak to leave. When the kids had been younger, he had felt it his duty to maintain a home with two parents. Now he was beginning to wonder if he had done his children a disservice by allowing them to grow up with contention. He knew that every home had problems, but was it good for kids to live in that type of environment on a daily basis?
Michael was so consumed by his thoughts that he failed to notice that he wasn't alone in the park.
The street gang had been sitting on the picnic tables in the park discussing what to do that night. It hadn’t been an especially good day for any of them. As a whole, they were too poor to receive material possessions from family, too proud to accept hand outs from the shelter, and too self -centered to be a blessing to anyone else.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. But I’m tired of just hanging out here.”
“Do you see what I see?” One of them asked the others.
“Whew wee. A rich guy all alone in the park on Christmas night.”
“Yeah, maybe he would like to share a little of that wealth with us.”
“Isn’t that what Christmas is for? Giving to others?”
“I heard once that it is more blessed to give than receive.”
“Well, let’s go give this guy a blessing and allow him to give to us.” The entire gang laughed.
“Let’s have some fun while he is receiving his blessing.” Another laugh and still Michael heard nothing.
By the time Michael was jarred out of his deep thoughts; his car was surrounded with some of the most menacing characters he had ever seen. One guy opened the door as another one pulled him out of the car.
“I don’t want any trouble, guys. What do you want?”
“Did you hear that? He don’t want no trouble.” The one that opened the door said.
“You being smart with us, old man?”
“No, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Michael tried to keep his cool. He knew showing fear would only spur them on.
“Whew. I’m scared. How about you guys?”
“Oh, please don’t hurt me, Mr. old man.” Another mocked.
“You rich, old man?”
“No, I’m not rich. Do you want money? Take it. Take my wallet.”
“Oh we are going to take more than your wallet.”
“Yeah, that’s a really nice car you have.”
“Fine, take the car too.” Michael said.
“Take my wallet. Take my car. Please let me go.” The door opener mocked.
“You think that’s all we want, old man?” The one that pulled him out of the car asked.
“What else do you want?”
“We’re bored. We want to have some fun.”
Immediately, Michael knew the meaning of real fear. He had barely had time to process it when the first blow came to his left rib cage. Almost at the same time, he felt a blow to his right temple. Then someone kicked him in the back of his right knee and he fell to the ground. Things went from bad to worse. The blows and kicks started coming from all sides. He couldn’t even react to one before another came. He could tell that he had at least one cracked rib and could feel the blood running down his face from his right temple. He could see the faces standing over him, but the blows were coming so fast they seemed to be disconnected from the bodies. He could feel his lips swelling. He rolled over on his stomach to protect himself. Then he felt several kicks to his kidneys. The pain was so severe that Michael thought he was going to pass out. Rolling again, he took more punches to the groin. Several punches were thrown to his eyes. Michael’s eyes swelled shut and he could no longer see anyone. More punches and kicks were thrown to his body. The last thing he felt before losing conscientiousness was a kick to the back of his head.
The gang members saw the lights of the police car as it rounded the curve. One member alerted the others and all scattered in different directions like ants whose bed had been stirred with a stick.
Officer Adams saw the gang scatter and started to give chase, but then he saw Michael lying on the ground like a sack of potatoes. He called for an ambulance and backup. Officer Adams wasn’t sure Michael was alive. Placing his fingers on Michael’ wrist, he determined that Michael had a slight pulse. The officer leaned down close to Michael’s face and discovered that he was breathing slowly. The ambulance arrived allowing Officer Adams to conduct a computer search of Michael’s license plate, which rendered his name and address.
Officers Lemoine and Murray received the call for backup from the dispatcher. They entered the park with lights and siren blaring. They could see Officer Adams emergency lights still running. The emergency medical responders were working feverishly on a man lying on the ground—at least they thought it was a man. It didn’t take long for them to assess the scene and determine that the gang had accosted someone.
They pulled up to where Officer Adams was standing. “Another gang attack?” Officer Lemoine asked.
“Yeah, I was patrolling when I saw and heard the raucous.”
“Is he going to make it?”
“It will be touch and go. I think he needs more prayers than anything else.”
“What do you need from us?”
“We have got to catch these guys. They scatter so fast and protect each other so much that it is hard to make an arrest.”
“We need to call in the gang force. They are the experts on cases like this.”
“I want Rollins on this. He’s the best.”
“I’ll clear it with the captain. Meanwhile, we will drive through the park and see if there are any stragglers that couldn’t run far enough.”
“Question everyone you see.”
“We will, but there aren’t many people out on Christmas night. Even Santa is at home.”
“Not funny, Matthew. We have got to find this gang. If this guy dies, I want a murder conviction put on someone.”
“Hey, lighten up guy. We’ll get them. Do you know this guy?”
“No, but I saw him serving food at the shelter today. He does that every year. From that and the way he is dressed, I can tell he is a good guy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Officer Adams answered.
“What do you think he was doing here?”
“I don’t know.”
“He could have been waiting on a drug connection.”
“I don’t think so, but even if he was, he didn’t deserve this. If we don’t get a handle on this, our park is not going to be safe for anyone.”
The EMTs started doing what they could to save Michael’s life. They checked to see if he was breathing. Then they placed an oxygen mask over his mouth. One responder rubbed his sternum to check his response level. When Michael did not respond, they checked his vital signs. His blood pressure was low and breathing without the oxygen was laborious. They stopped the bleeding on his head, stabilized his head with a cervical collar and log rolled him onto a spine board. When he was secured to the board, he was placed on the stretcher and placed into the ambulance.
While one responder started an intravenous line with saline water in Michael’s arm, the other one called the hospital to report his status.
“We have a middle aged male that has suffered multiple fractures and contusions due to a gang beating. His breathing is shallow and blood pressure is low. Swelling exists around the ears and eyes.”
“We’re losing him, Tom.” shouted the other responder.
“Blood pressure is dropping. His estimated vital signs are at level eight. Request trauma room assistance.” The other responder said into the phone before hanging up the receiver.
Both responders worked to stabilize Michael’s breathing and blood pressure. More than once they thought he was dying in the ambulance. Tom hated losing patients in the ambulance. “Can’t you go any faster?” He asked the driver, knowing that if that were possible Hank would already be going faster.
Finally, they pulled into the emergency room driveway. They were met by a trauma team who took charge of Michael. The ambulance team signed over the papers and left the hospital.
The trauma team rushed Michael into the trauma room that had been set up before he arrived. They discovered that one lung had been punctured by a broken rib. They re-inflated the lung making breathing easier. With breathing stabilized, Michael was sent for a full body scan with the MRI technician which revealed that he had multiple broken ribs and swelling of the brain.
Michael was sent to neurosurgery to be prepped for surgery. Dr. Silva, the top neurosurgeon in the city was called in to do the surgery. He took one look at Michael and began praying. Lord, give me a clear head, wisdom, and steady hands. Amen.