Chapter Eighteen

Monday, 14th August, 8:37PM

“Ty,” Rachel struggled to make her words heard.

That name hit Karl in the solar plexus, as though she had hit him with her fist. He assumed that Rachel had bonded with her friend at the lab, and he despaired over his lost chance of winning her affection. The old insecurity took hold and dragged him into a black mood, but Karl’s love kept him at her bedside holding her hand as she lay unconscious.

More hours passed. Rachel’s eye finally opened, and Karl’s face was her first sight. She smiled weakly but said nothing, falling into a peaceful sleep.

Karl quietly moved to the ICU cubicle’s curtain and motioned for a nurse to come over. “She woke up for a second.”

The nurse checked the recorder tape. “Yes, her brain waves have become more active. She’s in the REM phase of sleep for the first time since she came in. Would you like to wait in the lounge? We can fix you up a recliner so you can rest and be alert when she wakes up.”

“I wonder what she’s dreaming …,” He gazed at Rachel’s bandaged face. Then he looked up at the nurse again. “No, I’d like to stay here, if you don’t mind.”

A knowing smile passed over the nurse’s face. “Of course.”

***

Tuesday, 15th August, 4:25 p.m.

Karl started as if stung by a bee when Rachel’s weak call aroused him from a sound sleep. He jumped to her side, half-covered in a hospital blanket, and looked into her eye with passionate concern. Her nose and the right side of her face were covered with bandages, and her broken jaw was wired shut.

“How badly is my jaw broken?” she said through clenched teeth.

“It’s a multiple fracture, but they say it’ll heal well.”

“I … can see I’m in a hospital. … How long have I been here?”

“You’ve been in a coma for weeks.”

“I … I dreamt of your voice, praying … or at least. … It seemed like a dream. Then I saw your head resting on the side of the bed. The next thing I knew you were standing, looking out the window, but I couldn’t call you.”

“You managed to call for Ty,” Karl commented without apparent emotion.

“Yes, Ty. How is he? Did he make it out alive?”

“Rachel …. I’m afraid Ty was killed in the explosion.”

“Explosion?” Rachel looked down with uncertainty, as if trying to comprehend the information. “I don’t remember an explosion. I do remember telling him about God, and how to have a relationship with him through Jesus … but …”

“It nearly killed you.”

“Ty is dead,” she said, trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

“But you’re …”

“Please, let me think for a moment. I must recall, …” She closed her eye tightly, as if trying to look into the past.

After a time, she breathed an unsteady sigh. “I don’t remember … I was trying to convince him of his need for Jesus, but I can’t be certain he expressed a saving faith …” Her voice trailed off in her reverie.

“Rachel,” Karl said with a compassion unique to his new life, “Ty’s salvation was always in the Lord’s hands. No one could accuse you of doing less than your best to bring him to Christ.”

Rachel smiled up at him and changed the subject. “Have the doctors told you how badly I was hurt?”

“Well, you’ve noticed the bandages on your face. You have several facial bones broken.” He paused as though looking for a gentle way of telling her the complete truth.

“Karl, you’ve always been brutally frank with me.”

“At least I haven’t been brutally Karl with you.”

Rachel began to laugh, but winced from pain.

“I’m sorry.” Karl was stricken at the thought of causing her pain. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“I see your sense of humor is intact.”

“Since I quit taking myself too seriously. That’s a lesson I learned from God.”

“I can see you have learned quite a lot. But you haven’t finished telling me the extent of my injuries. If you won’t, I’m sure the nurse will.”

“Well … your right leg … was …”

“Now that you mention it, my right leg does feel numb, except for some itching …” Horror distorted her damaged face, and for a moment she fought the traction device that restrained her right arm. Then she tried to reach her right leg with her left hand, but it was connected to an intravenous medication pump. Rachel’s eyes desperately searched his face. “Karl, tell me it’s not gone, please.”

“No, your leg was reattached, and the doctor said it was successful.”

“You mean … I lost my leg? And they just sewed it back on?”

“Took them fourteen hours to do it, but it’s there, and healing.”

Reluctantly, Karl had to add, “There is something else you need to know …”

“Karl, don’t stall!” Her involuntarily clenched teeth made her sound angry. “I want to know everything.”

He looked down, about ready to weep. “Rachel, … the right side of your face was badly burned by the explosion … and … it took your right eye.”

Rachel said nothing, but appeared to retreat again into reverie, and Karl didn’t want to intrude on her thoughts. After a few minutes, her eye closed and she slept again.

Karl tortured himself with thoughts of Rachel not reciprocating his feelings. He paced constantly, annoying the nursing staff until they asked him to leave. They almost had to have him physically removed, but he finally took up his vigil in the corridor just outside of the ICU.

Nearly two hours later the friendly nurse approached him. “Mister Adams, won’t you consider having something to eat? It’s been days since you’ve eaten anything.”

Karl considered for a moment. “I don’t think so, thanks. I’m not really hungry.”

The nurse just shook her head and returned to her post. Moments later, however, she opened the door and said, “Miss Yeshurun is awake, and asking for you.”

Karl hurried to her side and looked down at her badly damaged face, but to him she was as beautiful as ever.

“Rachel …”

“Karl, you don’t need to stay here. I’m sure the staff is perfectly competent to care for me. Please, don’t feel obligated.”

“Obligated?” Karl took exception to the word. “What do you mean obligated? I’m not Ty. I can’t be. But I need to be here, and until you tell me to leave, I’m staying!”

“Why are you so angry? And what was that about Ty?”

He didn’t answer, trying to spare Rachel the turmoil that held him.

“I simply do not believe it,” she said with wry humor, “You’re jealous of Tyler Hillman.” Karl’s pride would not allow him to respond, but his face said it all.

“You’re completely potty!”

The foreign remark took him by surprise.

“Balmy. Daft. Mad.”

“But you asked for him when you were coming to. His name was the first word out of your mouth.”

She smiled as best she could, considering her facial injuries. “Karl. Dear Karl, Ty and I became close friends during those weeks. I wanted him for God, not for myself.”

Karl relaxed visibly. “Shame he didn’t survive the ordeal. You must miss him a lot.”

“Of course I do, silly, but I can’t place my life on hold whenever I suffer a personal loss. Besides, he is better off, by far. You don’t understand his condition. Though his mind was alert, he was completely detached from any physical stimulus. How would you like living in a vegetative state with your mind racing?”

“I see your point,” he said thoughtfully, “but without Jesus in his life there’s no way he’s better off where he is.”

“But he is, I’m sure of it. Because I believe Jesus is in his life. I was in the man’s mind, and he was tender towards Jesus. Though I don’t remember his sinner’s prayer, I know he was ready to die. You don’t have to kneel on the street in your pyjamas to do that, do you?”

Karl seemed embarrassed at her reference to his own prayer of faith. “Dear Karl, I wasn’t making light of your conversion experience. Don’t ever regret that moment. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, next to the changes I’ve seen taking place in your life, that is. Your transformation over the past few months is truly miraculous. You’ve become quite the lovely brother in the Lord.”

“Better that than nothing, I guess.”

“What do you mean by that, Karl Adams?”

“Never mind. It’s not important.”

“If something is bothering you, it is important.”

“Rachel, I … Well, I’d rather have you as a friend and sister in the Lord than pressure you with anything else.”

“What else?” Rachel was becoming frustrated with his heroic martyrdom.

Karl answered with self-conscious silence.

“You said there’s something else, Karl. So out with it.”

“Well … Since I came to Christ, you’ve become a dear sister, but …”

“Karl, If you value our friendship, say what is on your mind.”

“I can’t, unless I know you feel the same way.”

“What way, Karl?”

“You know ….”

“No, Karl, I don’t know if you won’t tell me.”

“All right, but you’ll regret it!” Then he braced himself, as if for some trauma. “Rachel, I love you! There, I’ve said it, and I won’t blame you if …”

“Dear Karl, please shut up. The first part is all I wanted to hear. So, what do you intend doing about it?”

***

The ensuing months found Karl at Rachel’s side during her convalescence, and later, her rehabilitation. The funds that Karl had acquired by questionable means were largely consumed by that process. He reasoned that her injuries had resulted from putting Markov, Obozniev, and much of the Stateside Russian mob out of business, justifying the expenditure.

Rachel’s injuries caused constant pain, but her prosthetic eye functioned perfectly, save for its lack of vision. Her reconstructive surgery almost erased the potentially disfiguring damage to her face, but because the available funds were dwindling she refused the last two surgeries the doctors had recommended for complete restoration. If anything, their presence augmented Karl’s love for her.

To stretch his remaining funds, Karl returned to work managing the Division Street District, albeit with scrupulous attention to Biblical values. His return caused quite a stir within the organization, as he personally audited the thoroughly cooked books, ejecting anyone guilty of trying to hide their manipulations. Though his new management style was decidedly less lucrative, he managed to keep its balance in the black, intending to repay every cent his former self had swindled.

Rather than rebuild 216 Division Street in all its excessive former glory, he took spiritual advantage of its location to build a very practical haven for the district’s destitute inhabitants. His new home featured a simple chapel, a number of dormitories for homeless families and individuals, a soup kitchen that served far better fare than soup, and the Bay Area’s first, modern urgent care clinic.

He did, however, allow time for one event of particularly high priority.

***

Following more than a year of aggressive and painful physical therapy Rachel still required a cane as we walked towards the preacher, her arm on mine. With the conspicuous exception of my own Betty, I had never seen a more beautiful or radiant bride, and Karl could hardly contain his joy at her approach. They had memorized the traditional vows, reciting them with a warmth and animation that left not a dry eye in the congregation.

A distracting coolness, however, settled over those watching from the rear pews. The ushers looked about for open windows close by, but all were closed against the Bay Area’s winter chill. A thermometer, however, would not have registered a lower air temperature; the cold was not of the physical realm.

If the demon that called itself Lord Gideon Ellasar had taken a physical form consistent with the evil in its heart, all but the most spiritually mature in the audience would have panicked. Millennia of obsessive bitterness and hatred had taken its toll on the once-beautiful angel. Now, its natural appearance would have displayed a misshapen body, enlarged by pride. Its black eyes would be disproportionately large from ravaging lust. The claws that had once been graceful hands would be clasped together over its pointed, heaving chest.

Though the demon was helpless against God’s Holy Spirit, preventing it from asserting its fearful presence upon Karl, he still felt a shiver convulse his body, the likes of which he had not felt in years. Its red, salivating mouth oozed hateful words through its lurid smirk, words inaudible to mortal ears, “Enjoy your happiness for now, my friend. If I have one virtue, it is my patience. By the Eternal Darkness, I will have what you owe me.”

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