Last Christmas Party 02: Linda
To fully understand to context of what is happening here, I suggest you first read "Last Christmas Party 01: Tom."
Acme Enterprises is the same company mentioned in "Justice Ch. 02: Ghost Riders" and "The Camp Ch. 03: The Coward." And yes, it is just as dastardly as it is in those two stories...
As always, constructive comments are always welcome and appreciated. Please refer to my profile for more on my personal policy regarding comments, feedback, follows, etc. (Yes, I do moderate comments.) Please remember, this is a work of fiction, meaning that it is not real in any way, shape, matter or form.
End of "Last Christmas Party 01: Tom"
"Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Johnson," Smith said. By then, Abernathy had put his phone away.
"Your wife has just been admitted to Mercy General Hospital, Mr. Johnson," he said. "She's undergoing surgery right now."
"Is she going to be okay?" Tom asked.
"You'll have to talk to the doctor about that," Abernathy said. "Maybe you should head on over. We're finished here for now, anyway." They left the building and Tom drove to the hospital, praying that Linda would be okay. He knew he would have to tell the children and Linda's parents, but he was desperate to learn of her condition first.
And now, "Last Christmas Party 02: Linda"
The woman woke up in a dark room and instantly realized she was in a hospital of some sort, but she had no idea why or how long she had been there. She glanced down and saw an assortment of tubes and wires going into various parts of her body. She had trouble seeing out of one eye, then realized that was because it was covered with a bandage of some type. She felt the tube in her mouth, making it hard for her to speak.
Her whole body ached, her chest was sore and her mouth was dry. She also noticed that she couldn't move her head very much. She tried to move a leg but found she couldn't. Looking down, she noticed it was in a heavy plaster cast from the tips of her toes all the way to her hips. She felt a persistent itch on once arm but couldn't get to it. That's because it, too, was in a cast. What the hell is going on, she asked herself.
She tried to put the pieces together in her mind, but she simply couldn't. Something about a party and an airplane flashed in her mind, but it just didn't make any sense to her. She almost laughed when she thought, "who am I? Where's my car?" But that, too, was simply too painful. After a while, the door opened and she could make out a nurse walking to her bed.
The nurse flipped on a small light, looked at a chart attached to the foot of the bed, then consulted the beeping monitors by her head. She made some notes, then looked down at her. Her face broke out into a wide grin.
"Ah, Mrs. Johnson," the woman said. "Merry Christmas. How are we this morning? I'm glad to see you've finally woken up." Johnson, the woman said. At least I know my last name now, the bed-ridden woman thought to herself. And she referred to me as "Mrs.," so I must be married, she added. "You've been asleep for the last two weeks."
Two WEEKS, the woman asked herself. What the hell happened to me? "Tell you what," the nurse said. "Let me go grab the doctor and see what he says, okay? Just relax now. You're doing really well." Relax, the woman thought. Yeah, right. You try relaxing with all this stuff attached to your body. The nurse left the room and the woman looked around as much as she could.
Thanks to the light left on by the nurse, the woman spotted a board on the wall across the room. Across the top of the board was written, "Saturday, 12/26" "PT: Linda Johnson" was written underneath. Below that was, "Dr. Wilkins," then "Nurse: Abby." The next line read: "Emergency Contact: Tom (husband)" and a phone number.
Okay, the woman thought to herself. My husband's name is apparently Tom. Her eyes flitted around the room and she saw a picture of a red-haired woman with an attractive sandy-haired man and two red-haired teenage children. Good-looking family, the woman thought to herself. Is that my family? Are those really my children? And is that good-looking man my husband? God, I hope so. He's a real cutie.
She saw flowers and cards placed around the room, so apparently, she meant something to someone. And what was it the nurse said? Merry Christmas? Did I really spend Christmas here, like this? A tear started to form in her eye and she let it trickle down her face, unable to do anything about it. A few moments later, the door opened again and the nurse was back with an older man in a white medical smock. "Wilkins," a name tag on his chest read.
"Good morning, Mrs. Johnson," he said as he walked to the side of her bed. "I'm Dr. Wilkins. I'd ask if you had a Merry Christmas, but I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to that. Let me take a look at you for a minute. Just lie still for me, okay?" He shined a light in her eyes for a bit, listened to her chest with his stethoscope, then consulted her chart. He turned to the nurse and spoke softly.
"I think we can get this breathing tube out of her," he said. "But I want to run a couple tests first." He gave her some instructions then turned back to his patient. "We're going to run a few tests first, and if all looks well, we'll get that tube out of your throat, okay? Just relax." With that, he left the room. A few minutes later, several others came in, pushing carts with equipment and supplies for taking blood.
They took a couple vials of blood from a port already in her arm and whisked them off to be tested. Two more nurses attached a set of electrodes to various parts of her body and removed them a couple minutes later, having completed their test. When they left, another group came in pushing a larger piece of equipment.
"Good morning, Mrs. Johnson," the technician said. "We're going to take some X-rays for the doctor. It shouldn't take very long. Just lie still." They put a heavy lead-filled covering over her, placed a cassette under her head and took a picture of her. They repeated the procedure, this time taking pictures of her chest. They put the cassettes in a holder and removed the heavy covering.
"We'll get these to the doctor and he'll take a look, Mrs. Johnson," the technician said as they left. About an hour later, Dr. Wilkins and the nurse came back in the room.
"Good news, Mrs. Johnson," he said. "You're healing up just fine. We're going to get that tube out of your throat now. Just relax and lie still for me." They pulled the tube out of her chest and the woman felt relieved once the thing was out of her mouth and throat. She took in a deep breath and relaxed.
"See, that wasn't so bad," Dr. Wilkins said. The nurse slipped an ice chip in her mouth and she sucked on it, letting it melt in her mouth. That felt so good, as her mouth was parched and dry and her throat felt sore. She tried to thank the nurse, but the only sound that came out of her was an inhuman croak.
"Don't try to talk right now," the nurse said. "Your throat is still a bit inflamed. Just relax. Here, let me give you another ice chip." The woman eagerly accepted the chip and let it melt in her mouth as well.
"While we're here, we're going to get that tube out of your stomach, okay, Mrs. Johnson?" Dr. Wilkins asked. "We had to put that in so we could feed you. But I think you're at the stage where you'll be able to eat normally. Relax, okay?" He turned to the nurse and the two of them pulled the tube out of her abdomen. The woman was surprised that she didn't feel any real pain or discomfort. They closed up the hole and covered the area with bandages.
"You've had quite a traumatic morning so far, Mrs. Johnson," Dr. Wilkins said after examining her one more time. "So Abby here is going to give you something to help you relax. It will probably make you drowsy, but that's alright. I suspect you may be experiencing a bit of amnesia, but that's normal. I want you to take some time and try to remember whatever you can." He turned to the nurse, who injected something into her IV. A few minutes later, she felt herself start to get drowsy. Remember, she said to herself as she dozed off.
Her dreams were filled with flashing images of family -- children, a loving husband, a happy home. She also caught glimpses of a party and other people, including a somewhat older woman. She seemed familiar somehow, but she couldn't quite place her. There was another person in her dreams -- a large, overbearing man with a thick New York accent. He was also familiar to her, but she couldn't quite put it together.
She woke up as a nurse brought breakfast in to her room. The young woman placed the tray in front of her and realized her patient was unable to feed herself. She adjusted the bed to raise the woman's head, and sat down next to her.
"Since you can't feed yourself, I'll help you, okay?" the nurse asked. She put what amounted to an adult bib on her patient, then helped her take a sip of juice through a straw. After that, she patiently fed the woman her breakfast, chatting about this or that as if this was the most normal thing in the world to her. When the nurse finished feeding her, she grabbed a towelette and wiped her face clean. When she finished, she stood up.
"I think your husband is coming in this morning, so I'll let the two of you visit for a while before I come back," the nurse said. "See ya later." The woman closed her eyes and tried to think about what her life was like before... this. Unfortunately, she couldn't put it all together. A little while later, there was a knock on the door and a sandy-haired man peeped inside. Is this Tom, she asked herself. He came in, walked to her side, bent over and gave her a kiss on the lips. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to her.
"It's so good to see you're finally awake," he said, sitting down. "We've all been so worried about you. The kids are over with your parents, by the way. I wanted to talk to you a bit first before they all came over. We stopped by yesterday and had a little Christmas celebration. It just didn't feel right to have Christmas without you." He stopped for a bit and grabbed a tissue from the box on the counter behind him.
"I'm so... sorry for all this," he said, wiping tears from his eyes. She frowned a bit, confused by what he meant. "I should've seen through Jake's plot. He seemed so desperate, though. He wasn't his usual overbearing asshole self. I saw the letter from the Acme Chairman and I thought it was legitimate. I should've known better, but I was certain from that audio I captured that they would back off until after the first of the year." He wiped his face again and looked away for a second. He turned back.
"I should've insisted you stay home until I was finished with that damn report," he added. "I feel like this is all my fault. I guess that's what I get for being a company man." The woman opened her mouth, telling him "no." It hurt a bit to talk, and she really didn't know why she said it, but it pained her to see this man in such agony. He smiled and continued.
"Then when the plane you were on went down, I thought I had lost you for good," he said, tears falling down his face. So THAT's what happened, the woman thought. I actually survived an airplane crash, she said to herself. But why was I on an airplane? "I was so relieved when they told me you were one of the three survivors. The pilot and another passenger were killed, but you, the co-pilot and Jake somehow managed to survive. By the way, Jake's in a lot worse shape than you are. And I'm told he's going to be taken into custody when he finally recovers." Jake? Custody? What the hell, she asked herself.
"Brenda's also in jail," he said. "They're holding her on a bunch of charges, including kidnapping and conspiracy. Judge considered her a flight risk so she was denied bail. Did you know she drugged you?" The woman mouthed, "no."
"Yeah," Tom said. "They found a pretty potent mix in your blood. Ecstasy and some other stuff all mixed together, and the doctor said they believe she's been giving you small doses of something over a period of time, maybe months. Do you remember her giving you anything?" The woman frowned and again mouthed, "no."
"The feds have taken over the case now," he said. "It looks like you're not the first woman they've done this to. They told me you were lucky to be alive. 'Lucky Linda.' Maybe I'll start calling you that, eh? According to the U.S. Attorney I spoke with, one woman was killed after they managed to steal her from her husband. That happened a while back. Sometime early this year, I think. Anyway, they're planning to go after the entire Board.
"Speaking of which, Friday was my last official day at Tyndall," he said. "They threw me a party on Wednesday and kicked out all the Acme managers. The whole place is in open revolt against Acme right now. Alan said they've put together a package for the employees to buy the company out from Acme. Even got a bunch of the Acme shareholders to go along. Talk about a 'hostile takeover.' You know the fur's gonna fly over that." The woman listened intently, not fully understanding the context of what Tom was saying, but she found that she enjoyed hearing him talk. She wanted to hear more.
"I start up over at Ryder on January 4," he told her. "I think you'd like them. They seem like really good people who care about their employees and their customers. They know what happened to you and they said I could take time to come see you." She listened as he talked about his new job, the children, her parents and life in general. He must've talked for at least another hour before he fell silent. After a few moments, he looked at her. She could see the love in his face.
"I've missed you so much," he said. "I thought I'd lost you. I can handle a lot, but I don't think I could ever handle that. I love you more than you'll ever know." He leaned forward and kissed her again. She reveled in the kiss and tried to return it. He sat back up and looked at her for a few minutes. For the first time since she woke up, she smiled. He smiled back and she somehow knew that everything would be alright.
"Look, your parents are bringing the kids by later today," he said. "I'm doing some things around the house to help you get around a bit easier. Doc says you may be in a wheelchair for a while even after they release you. I've got a whole list of things I was told needed to be done. I'll probably have to hire a contractor to do a lot of it, maybe after the first of the year. I've got a few things done, but I've got a lot more to do, so I'm going to get working on that. I'll be by tomorrow, or maybe even later today, okay?"
"Okay," she whispered. He smiled and gave her another kiss, which she returned, eagerly this time. He stood to leave and the door opened. Another nurse came in the room pushing a cart.
"I'm sorry, I've got to get more blood from your wife," she said. "Then she's going down for some more tests."
"I was just leaving anyway," Tom said. He waved to her from the door and blew her a kiss. She smiled again and pursed her lips, hoping he would understand what she was doing. After the nurse took her blood, a doctor came into the room.
"We're going to run a few more tests on you to see how things are going," he said. "How is your memory doing, by the way?"
"Slow," she whispered. "Having trouble remembering stuff." He nodded his head.
"That's normal," he said. "Don't push yourself too hard. Just try to relax and think about what your husband told you. He said he would be talking with you quite a bit today."
"He did," she said.
"Excellent," the doctor said. "Let's see how that works for now, okay?"
"Okay," she whispered. The rest of her day was packed with tests, examinations and a visit with her parents and her children. Her memory still failed her, but she felt a familial connection and enjoyed the visit. She felt a special connection to the children. For starters, they reminded her so much of Tom. That night, after dinner and a bit of television, she ran over everything she heard today and tried to put the puzzle together.
She started with names, hoping that might jar her memory. Brenda, Jake, Tom, Acme, Tyndall -- they all seemed familiar to her. Think, woman, think, she chided herself. Then she remembered what the doctor said -- relax. So she did. Eventually, she fell asleep.
Suddenly, she woke up, tears flowing down her face as she realized that she had remembered everything. She shook and sobbed as the memories flooded her mind. Someone must've noticed that her vitals had drastically changed and a nurse came into the room to check her out. Seeing her crying, the nurse grabbed some tissues and wiped the tears from her face.
"Are you alright, Mrs. Johnson?" the nurse asked. "Did you have a bad dream?"
"I remember," Linda said.
"Your memory is back?" the nurse asked.
"Yes," Linda said. "I remember -- everything."
"Okay," the nurse said. "Let me go get the doctor." The nurse left the room and returned a couple minutes later with Dr. Wilcox in tow. The doctor checked her vitals and sat next to Linda.
"You remembered everything, Mrs. Johnson?" he asked, concerned.
"Yes," she said. "Everything." He tried to calm her down as she sobbed.
"It's okay, Mrs. Johnson," he said. "Would you like to speak with one of our counselors?"
"Please," Linda begged.
"Okay, just relax and I'll make a call," he said before leaving the room. A couple minutes later, he returned. "One of our staff counselors is on her way now," he told her. "Just relax. Everything will be fine." About a half hour later, a tall, thin woman in medical garb came into the room. Dr. Wilcox looked up as she entered.
"She says she remembers everything," he said.
"Okay," the counselor said. "I'll take it from here." She turned to Linda. "Mrs. Johnson, I'm Wendy Castillo, staff counselor. Would you like some hot tea and honey? That might soothe your throat and calm you down."
"Yes, please," Linda said. Wendy turned to the nurse, who nodded her head and left the room. When she came back, she had two cups of tea and handed them to Wendy. The nurse and Dr. Wilcox left the room. Wendy sat down and helped Linda take a sip of tea through a straw.
"Would you like to tell me what you remember?" Wendy asked.
"Yes," Linda said.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to record this," Wendy said. "Is that okay? Whatever you say will be held in confidence unless you say otherwise."
"Yes, that's okay," Linda said. The hot tea and honey had helped calm her down and her throat wasn't nearly as sore. "Whenever you're ready," Wendy said calmly. "Just start with your name and a brief introduction if you would, please."
"Okay," Linda said. She took a breath, whipped up her courage and began her narrative.
My name is Linda Johnson. I'm married to Tom, the most wonderful man in the world. We've been married for 17 and a half years. We have two children, twins. Leah and Liam. We named them after my great-grandparents, the first in my family to come to the States from Ireland.
I met Tom in college over 19 years ago. He had just gotten out of the Army and wanted to finish his business degree. I was no virgin at the time, but I knew from the moment I met him that we were soul mates. We dated, fell in love and married right after college.
He got a job at Tyndall, and that's where he's been until just recently. I got pregnant with the twins a year after we married and I stayed at home to be with them until they started school. Tom realized I needed something to fill my days after that, so I got a job at Harmon Real Estate. For the first few years, I sold real estate, but I also worked in the office taking care of deeds and stuff.