Section I
Chapter I


“He looks pretty rough. Poor kid.”
“Well, somehow he survived. He has a deep laceration on his chest that will take awhile to heal. Another inch or so and his heart would have been pierced. The rest is just contusions."
“To be honest, it isn’t the physical healing I’m worried about. How old is he?”
“Let’s see,” shuffling papers, “19.”
“Jesus, that’s barely an adult nowadays. Was he living with his family?”
“No, the nurse found a student I.D. in his wallet, some college in San Antonio.”
“Must have been visiting for the holiday weekend.”
“Yea probably. How’s the case going?”
“We got the VIN number off the perps vehicle but it was a dead end. Didn’t even try and help the family. He just ran. People these days; I swear it’s getting worse.” 
“I hear ya. I see it every day, too.”
“Is he going to wake up soon or should I come back tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure, let me check, Officer.”
“Thanks, Doc.”

Max heard the doctor’s footsteps approach his bed. He didn’t bother closing his eyes. There was no use in feigning sleep any longer.
  "Hello Max. How are you feeling?" the doctor asked. Max could sense his professional demeanor like cold metal touching skin. He let his eyes wander over the man, his tag said Davidson. Max didn't respond.
  "This is Christus Spohn Hospital. You were in a serious accident. Do you remember?" He paused. "You suffered a deep laceration in your left pectoral muscle. The sutures will need to be removed in eight days and..."
  "What about my family." The words escaped from his mouth all at once. Each syllable, every phoneme, clawed up his throat on their way out to pronunciation. Doctor Davidson sighed. 
  "Max, I'm sorry but they didn't make it. They were pronounced dead on arrival. I'm so sorry." The Doctor placed his hand on Max's unbandaged right shoulder. Max took a moment to keep his composure. He asked the question already knowing the answer. The last thing he saw before going unconscious was his little sister, sitting next to him in the backseat, her small legs and arms suspended briefly in the air, like a ballerina in zero-gravity. The image brought hot tears to his eyes; he couldn't contain them. 
  "Do you have any relatives or friends we can notify for you?"
  "I don't know right now," he managed to respond.
  "That's okay. You've been through a lot, you shouldn't exert yourself in any way."
  "How did this happen?"
  "Well, let me direct your question to Officer Dryer. He was first on the scene and he has a few questions of his own." Doctor Davidson gave a nod toward the entrance of the room.
  Officer Dryer, an older policeman with thick glasses, a white mustache, and a head so bald it reflected the florescent lighting, approached his bed. 
  "Hello, son." Dryer had a warm voice, the type that rang of modest confidence and ancient wisdom. "Glad to see you are awake." Dryer placed his steaming coffee on the stand next to the bed and eased himself into a padded chair.
  "Can you explain what happened?" Max didn't like hearing his own voice. It sounded broken. 
  "You were in a head-on collision with a large truck, a Ford 350," he began. His voice reminded him of an old cowboy's, like the ones he used to watch on T.V. with his Dad when he was younger. 
   "Both vehicles were going about sixty miles per hour. We still aren't sure about all the details, we were hoping you could help, but we do know that the driver of the truck was at fault and that he fled on foot." Dryer paused. "A nice lady named Mrs. Conners was the first person on the scene. She is the one who put the call into emergency services, but by then, the other driver was gone. No one saw him. She found you..." he paused again, "outside of the car lying on your back, unconscious. By the time I got there, another pedestrian was trying to bandage your chest. Max, it's a miracle that you were thrown from the car, it saved your life."  He took another swig of his coffee while his eyes remained on the boy.
  Max let the information steep into his consciousness. Part of him wanted to yell at the officer, scream how unfair it was that the guy responsible was still out there: alive and free. The other part was burdened with more sadness, so much so that he felt nauseous. His stomach was hollow and his throat tightened, making speech a great effort. Then confusion arose. Hadn't he been wearing his seatbelt? Max tried to recall, but his memory was foggy. 
  "What happens now?" Max said.
  "Now, you rest easy. You need to let your body fix itself. We will check back with you tomorrow before you are released from the hospital." 
  Let his body fix itself? Max knew he was injured in a way that would never be fixed. By losing his parents and his sister he had forever lost a big piece of himself: it was a wound that was impossible to heal. Max felt a crushing weight of selfishness; his family perished but he had survived. Somehow, he had been spared while his family was taken from this world. It wasn't right. He would have gladly given up his life so that they could have lived instead. Max bit his lip in a failed attempt to control his emotions.
  Officer Dryer rose from his seat and adjusted his belt. Max could tell he wanted to say more; say something to comfort him. Instead, his mouth hung open a little and he sighed. Maybe he was searching for some sort of hope to impart on him, something to keep his chin up. The old man remained silent. 
  Doctor Davidson walked the officer out of the room. The two men conversed in the hallway just out of Max's hearing range. When the doctor returned he was consulting his clipboard.
  "Christus Spohn has a counselor, her name is Mrs. Lear. The sessions are voluntary, but I recommend you do a least one. It will help answer some of your questions. She works during the day so it's too late right now," he glanced at his sport watch. "Is there anyone you want to see until then? Is there a sibling or relative we can contact for you?" He flipped through his clipboard again. "It says here," he paused, "Mia Masterson is your sister. What about her?"
  Max was taken aback. Was this guy completely ignorant or was that just an honest mistake? A doctor should know better than to confuse details like that. 
  "Mia was in the car." Max corrected. 
  Doctor Davidson frowned. 
  "Max, it was just you and your parents. No one else was in the car."
  "Mia was right next to me! They didn't find her?" Max began to shout, hurting his throat.
  "Max! Calm down, your sister wasn't there! The paramedics, Officer Dryer, everybody on the scene only saw you and your parents. They would have found her body."
  "What if she was thrown from the car like me!"
  "Still, they would have found her. The emergency crew was there and then the police were searching the area for the driver that fled. Max, relax! Your sister is safe somewhere."
  "NO! You're WRONG!" Max yelled, his voice choked by panic. He wanted to get out of there. He had to go find Mia. Max struggled to sit upright. The doctor dropped his clipboard and pushed Max back down. Max fought against his hold, twisting and turning as much as he could. Then, he felt an explosion of pain in his chest. His stitches had torn. Crimson blood seeped through the white hospital gown. Max slipped back into unconsciousness.

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