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Authors: Sean Costello

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Eden's Eyes

BOOK: Eden's Eyes
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Eden's Eyes

Sean Costello

Canada

 Eden
Crowell was the kind of thug only a mother could mourn. One drunken
brawl too many left him clinically dead in a hospital ward--and left his
long-suffering father with one last chance to make something of his
son. 
Within twenty-four hours, his vital organs are transplanted
into deserving cases the length and breadth of the country. Cases like
blind Karen Lockhart. For the first time in her life she can see--thanks
to Eden's eyes. But her longed-for dream of sight brings nightmares of
its own, as horrific murders plague her while she sleeps.
No one
will tell her the identity of the donor whose death brought colour to
her empty world. Empty as the grave that once held the violated remains
of Eden Crowell...
Eden's Eyes

Sean Costello

      
For Charles and MaryAnn, perfect, patient friends and for W. T.

As one great furnace flam'd, yet from those flames

No light, but rather darkness visible Serv'd only to discover sights of woe.

—Milton, Paradise Lost

Author's Note

What follows is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons either living or dead is coincidental and unintended. Its content in no way implies the author's feelings regarding organ donation. Though the procedure itself can be disturbing, as a professional I have seen only good results from it. Death comes inevitably to us all; better it should come bearing gifts.

Part One - Embracing the Light

Chapter 1

April 4

When the telephone woke her, Karen was dreaming. . . the soothing balm of her mother's voice, the fresh-scrubbed scent of her skin, the safe, enfolding warmth of her hand around Karen's. Though startled, she let go of the dream begrudgingly, preferring the death-cheating feel of her mother, who had passed away sixteen years prior, to the cumbersome dark of her bedroom, just a thought's breadth away.

The phone rang again.

And Karen sat up in darkness, aware of the dream taking a small, almost physical part of herself away with it—there was a palpable tug in her chest. But the tug became a tightness as she realized the hour. A ringing phone at three a.m. usually meant, one of three things: a wrong number, a prank. . . or bad news.

Karen waited for it to ring again—and during that interminable pause, the worst catastrophes she could imagine marched through her mind.

Was it her father? A wreck in that godforsaken pickup truck of his? But no. . . what would he be doing out at this hour? Besides, she had said good night to him over the phone not five hours before. Maybe Uncle Ike had finally died, his heart—

The phone rang again, its intrusion somehow more insistent this time. Karen's hand fluttered up to answer, it. . .then she thought of Cass—her best friend, who had moved to Alberta a year ago. Was it Cass? The way she rodded around in that Camaro of hers. . .

Karen lifted the receiver in the middle of its fourth ring.

"Hello?"

A crisp male voice said: "Is this Karen Lockhart?"

"Yes?" She had no idea who it was.

"This is Dr. Burkowitz calling, from the Civic Hospital in Ottawa."

Karen took a deep breath and held it.

"We've got a donor for you, Karen. They're working on him now, up north in Sudbury. We expect to be ready at this end by about five o'clock. . . that's just over two hours from now. Can you make it?"

"Of course," Karen said, a dozen conflicting emotions snapping at her heart. "I'll have my father drive me down." She swallowed dryly. "Where do I go once I get there?"

"Go through admitting. Someone will meet you there."

"Do I need to bring anything?" she asked needlessly, trying to get a rein on the vertigo.

"Just your hope," the voice said.

"Who is it?" Karen asked, blurting the words. "The donor, I mean. I have to know who he is. How he. . .”

What was the word for the state the donor was in right now? "How he died."

"We'll tell you all we can when you get here."

"Thank you," Karen said softly. "Thank you."

"Goodbye, Karen," the voice said. Then there was only the dial tone.

She tried to find that hope as she dialed her father's number. For years she had dreamed of this moment, of this incredible chance. But when at last he came on the line and Karen explained what had happened, the only feeling she could clearly define was, fear.

She packed in a kind of reckless frenzy, going from closet to bureau and back again, stuffing into a suitcase items she would never really need. In her bedroom she knocked over the vanity stool with her knee, and when she hurried into her workroom to grab the manuscript she'd been working on, she elbowed one of her plants and it fell to the hardwood floor. The pot shattered with a dusty thud.

By the time she reached the front door her heart was a creature of fury, battering the cage of her chest. She waited there for the sound of her father's truck.

A quarter mile away, while Karen spoke with the doctor over the phone, Danny Dolan crept quietly down the stairs of his mother's farmhouse. The pattern of two long rings had awakened him, and now he lifted the receiver—carefully, so as not to be overheard by the speakers. He was good at that; years of listening in on Karen's calls had made him good.

When he heard a man's voice, a coil of quick, jealous rage tightened like a clockspring in his brain. But then the guy identified himself as a doctor and gave his news, and Danny's rage withered into something dark and unmanning. Lightheaded, he stood hunched in the shadows at the base of the staircase and waited. When the line went dead, he replaced the handset in its cradle and felt his way out to the front vestibule, where a pair of patched coveralls hung from a hook behind the door. He grabbed them down, pulled them on, and thumped out barefoot onto the porch, letting the screen clap briskly in its frame behind him. He peered owl-eyed through the night toward Karen's wood-frame, a quarter mile west, but saw only dark against dark.

In the house the phone rang again, and a start slammed into Danny like a hammer, blow. She was calling her father. . .

And that meant it was true. He had not dreamed it.

Several times the pattern of three short rings repeated, and for a crazy moment Danny prayed Albert Lockhart wouldn't hear it—he'd always been deaf as a post—and that Karen would miss her chance.

But now the lights were on over at Albert's farmhouse, a half-mile beyond Karen's, and the phone had stopped ringing.

Danny leaped off the porch and tore down the lane, cutting into the field at the gate. His stride through the stubby spring grass was long, and he reached Karen's place in under a minute. From the willow at the edge of her property he had a clear, moon-sketched view of the house, which itself remained steeped in darkness.

He waited, his mind a whirlwind of dread.

Then Albert's pickup rattled into the yard and Karen appeared in the doorway, a suitcase clasped resolutely in one hand. She started down shakily, stumbled on the bottom step. . . then her father was there to help her.

They climbed into the truck and the truck sped away, its high beams knifing the night. Danny watched until the tail-lights faded to pinpricks, brightened briefly, and died. Then he turned and ran away.

The night swallowed him.

Chapter 2

Dr. Skead saw the donor for the first time in the ICU at the University Hospital in Sudbury. Skead was the anesthesiologist on call. He'd had only four hours sleep in the past thirty-six, and now he was cranky, feeling unfairly put-upon having to trundle in at two a.m. to anesthetize a dead man.

He waited until the big, hunched-over man at the, bedside—the father, he assumed—had left. Then he picked up the chart and started to work.

Skead didn't bother checking the donor's name. That was unimportant. What was important was the man's general stake of health. That would determine how well he would tolerate the retrieval procedure. Once that was done, it wouldn't matter much anymore.

Standing at the foot of the bed, Skead scanned the medical history.

White male; twenty-seven; single; unemployed; heavy boozer; heavy smoker; involved in a brawl out back of the Prospect Hotel on Elgin Street; acute subdural hematoma; admitted comatose, April 1. . . three days ago; hematoma drained, no improvement.

Sighing with fatigue, Skead glanced at the lean body on the bed.

Another loser.

Greasy black hair; blood-caked nose packed with gauze; lips swollen and raddled; endotracheal tube protruding from gaping mouth, each breath fed in by a mechanical ventilator; bile-filled nasogastric tube; Foley catheter leaking bloody urine.

Not a pretty sight.

Skead noticed a tattoo on the man's left forearm, a cobra coiled about a slim dagger, and he leaned in closer to read the inscription.

Live fast. Party hard. Die young.

Credo turned prophecy, Skead thought.

"Shall we get on with the nasty business at hand. Ed?"

Starting a little, Skead turned to face Ken Tucker, the surgeon who would be removing the kidneys.

"Yeah," Skead replied. "No time like the present." He waved a nurse over to help transport the donor to the OR. "Who's coming up for the heart?"

"The Ottawa team," Ken replied, taking the chart and flipping it open. "And there's a real major-leaguer coming up for the eyes. They're flying him in separately, in a Lear jet." Ken glanced at his watch. "Should be here any time now."

Ed regarded him curiously.

"A German by the name of Hanussen," Ken continued. "You might've read about him in Time magazine, about a month back." Ed shrugged. "He's the guy who's done all the pioneer work in the field of whole-eye transplantation. Apparently he's had a string of successes in Europe, miles ahead of anything we've got over here. This'll be the first time the procedure is tried in North America. And I understand they've come up with a near-perfect tissue match. A twenty-eight-year-old woman, a writer."

A blind writer, Ed thought, bemused. Then he went about making the donor ready.

Ken returned his attention to the chart. Leafing to the certificate of death, he checked it for completeness. Thumbing next to the consent, he noted that it had been duly signed by the donor's father. Ken was a cautious man. In a case such as this, there was no margin for error.

Satisfied, he turned away. "See you in the OR."

"Yeah," Skead called after him. "Room five. Give me about ten minutes."

Bert Crowell had seen his son for the last time, lying whole and at least organically alive in his bed in the ICU, and had felt nothing. That was the part which tortured him most—the not caring. He had stood by the deathbed of his only child, searching his heart for even the faintest spasm of. . . but had found only relief. There was no sense trying to dress it up. His son had been a mean, self-thinking bastard whose life had come to a justly violent end. From the very outset the boy had lived at odds with everything his father held sacred and dear. Even in birth he had shown his true colors, punishing his already frail mother through ten hours of labor only to suddenly pop out, minutes shy of the knife, robust and wailing. The boy's battle with the world had begun then, in the womb of a doting mother.

And it had ended three nights ago, in a senseless, drunken brawl.

Crying wearily, Bert Crowell climbed into his car. He rolled it out of the hospital parking lot and headed for home.

Dr. Tucker had called him that evening to explain that technically Bert's son had died—that his brain was dead. He warned Bert that as long as life-support systems functioned, his son's body would have the appearances of life, but that without it he would not survive more than a few hours. After offering his sympathy, he told Bert that the hospital hoped to obtain consent for organ retrieval—the deceased had not filled out the release form on the back of his driver's license, so they needed a family member to sign.

When his wife, Eve, asked him who it was on the phone, Bert had lied. A problem at the smelter, he told her. He would have to go out.

BOOK: Eden's Eyes
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ads

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