The lobby of the Cooke building in downtown Manhattan was brimming with shoppers and enthusiasts as if nothing nefarious had ever transpired. Carter and TC marveled at the bustling crowds, smiling faces and overall holiday spirit in the security monitors. Nate’s quick thinking and selflessness kept hundreds of holiday shoppers from ever knowing the evil that just hours ago threatened to devastate their Christmas and possibly threaten their lives.
“We got lucky today.” Carter admitted.
TC agreed, “I have complete faith in our security team, but a rush of kids, armed, high and hell bent on committing a crime would have been detrimental no matter how quickly and efficiently our security team could have reacted.”
Carter turned his attention back to the monitors, “They’re all safe. Our family, our vendors, guests and staff thanks to Nate. “He took a big risk, posing as his former self. It’s been too long since he lived on the streets among those kids who wanted nothing more than to cause harm today. I’m surprised he was able to pass himself off as homeless and desperate in order to find out what they were planning. He hasn’t been in that life for years. I suppose growing up on the streets has a way of staying with you; deep in your soul.”
“My heart is still racing over what that damn kid did, but yeah, instead of being pissed, I am grateful. I have Rob standing by to drive Nate home; they’re meeting in the parking deck in a half an hour. I told him, even superheroes need some time off after saving the world.” TC patted Carter’s shoulder and retreated from the security office, heading back to his own office on the tenth floor.
Nate took his time walking down the street toward the corner. He popped his coat collar, shielding his ears and neck from the winter wind. He turned on his heels and ducked down the alley to cut across the lot to the Cooke building parking garage when the sensation of someone following him made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. The city and all its seedy nuances never bothered Nate, but somehow, he sensed something was amiss. Instead of indulging his intuition, Nate shoved his hands in his pockets and quickened his step, convincing himself that the feeling was residual from the events earlier in the day. He could see the garage entrance and knew it was a matter of minutes before he reached his destination; still, the unnerving feeling remained. Just another hundred yards or so and he was home free. Surely someone was in the booth and the security cameras were being monitored in the parking garage entrance. Surely, Rob would be waiting patiently in the company town car to drive him back to Long Island, back to safety and away from any looming threats, real or imagined. He knew the city like the back of his hand and had never been this paranoid before, not even earlier today. Just as Nate allowed himself to feel a bit at ease, he heard a woman's voice whisper over his right shoulder, “You’re the reason my brother went to jail. You’re a traitor and you need to pay for what you did today.”
Before Nate could respond, a searing pain struck his senses. The shock disallowed for an accurate assessment of where he had been stabbed; but his brain knew he had been. Nate felt the woman’s hand brush against his hip as she slid it out from under his coat. He turned to face his attacker, but the pain blurred his vision as his knees buckled sending him to the pavement in a heap. As he reached into his pocket for his phone, he could feel the thick, wet, sticky blood pouring from his side. He dialed 911 and managed to give his location. The dispatcher asked him to remain on the line, but Nate could only think of calling Carter. Nate tried leaving a voicemail. His words were confused and barely audible. He prayed silently for help, knowing he was losing a lot of blood, and no one would be passing by to notice him. Nate’s phone rang. He tried swiping it to answer but it kept ringing. Nate’s fingers were blood soaked and slipped over the phone screen several times. Finally, managing to swipe his screen, Nate heard Carter’s voice, “Nate, where are you? Hello? Nate!”
Struggling to stay conscious, Nate managed, "I’m in the lot in front of our parking garage. Carter, I was stabbed, I need you.” Nate lost consciousness before he could end the call. In the moments that followed, Nate experienced a phenomenon he would later describe as an extrasensory premonition. His unconscious state allowed for a dreamlike experience which felt so real, he became completely unaware of his plight. He saw Wendy and two small children standing in the doorway of a home he hadn’t seen in his life, yet knew it belonged to them. They were waving and blowing kisses as he backed out of the long driveway, on his way to work. The vivid images faded all too quickly and gave way to complete darkness, in spite of his efforts to hold them in his mind.
Carter panicked. He knew he wasn’t to leave security unattended, but Nate was more important than anything, even his job. He tapped his coms and tried to quickly explain himself as he fled from the tiny office, through the lobby and out the front doors. “Nate, he’s hurt, I’m sorry, I have to go.” he yelled as he raced from the confines of the tiny security office.
“What? “Chris from security responded first. “Carter, just go, I am on my way back from the lobby.”
Carter managed his way through the crowded sidewalk in front of the Cooke building. He wanted to run, but the obstacles were many. As he rounded the corner into the alley, he slid and fell on his hands and knees, his pants tore, and the exposed knee was skinned and bleeding. Carter scrambled back to his feet and raced toward Nate. He found him lying on his side, vacillating in and out of consciousness with his ringing phone in his hand. Carter assured his friend he would be ok and took the phone. “Hello?”
“This is the NYC 911 dispatch; we were disconnected. Is everything ok?”
“God, no! My friend has been stabbed, please send help. He’s losing a lot of blood.”
The dispatcher typed her notes, sending them directly to the unit enroute. “Sir, can you see where your friend has been stabbed?”
Carter carefully lifted Nate’s coat revealing a large shard of broken glass protruding from his side. He could feel the vomit rush up his throat into his mouth. “Oh, God.” he exclaimed, expelling the contents of his stomach onto the pavement.
Carter regained his composure, “I’m sorry, ok, so there’s a huge chunk of glass sticking out of his right side.” His stomach turned over again and threatened to erupt for the second time. He took a deep breath, “Please hurry, he has lost consciousness, I don’t know what to do!”
The dispatcher sent the new information to the responding paramedics. “Sir, do not attempt to remove it, help is just a few minutes out. I am sending the ambulance through the parking garage in front of your location. You should be able to see them pop out right in front of you in a few minutes. When you see them, you’ll have to draw their attention to you, ok? Wave your arms, and if you have to, walk toward the ambulance. I am alerting them to watch for you.”
Carter followed her directions as soon as he saw the ambulance and within minutes, they were on their way to the hospital. Nate was pale and his breathing was shallow; Carter was never so afraid. Carter leaned in and took Nate’s hand, “I’m here Nate, right here with you. You’re going to be fine; I promise.”
Nate was taken immediately from the ambulance, down the hall behind the double doors that had to be opened by someone at the nurses station in the emergency wing. Carter was told to wait in the chairs just outside the doors and someone would be out to speak with him shortly. He reached for his phone and dialed his mother, ignoring all the missed calls and messages from TC, Chris, Laurel and Linda. Mrs. Wyatt answered almost immediately.
“Mom? I need you.”
“Carter, what’s the matter, son?” Claire Wyatt began to panic, reacting to the unfamiliar and disturbing tone in her son’s voice.
“Mom, Nate’s in the hospital, he’s been stabbed. Mom, I need you to pray with me.” Carter broke into tears as he bowed his head. Claire fought back her own tears and began to pray aloud. She struggled to keep her voice calm and steady for the sake of her son. She recited every prayer she had ever learned and made one up of her own, asking God, and whoever was listening to keep Nate safe and with them as he was so loved. “Amen” she concluded.
Carter responded, “Amen.”
“Honey, I will stay on the phone with you as long as you need. I have faith that Nate is going to be fine. I know it’s hard, but you must have faith as well.”
“Thank you, Mom. I’m just waiting for someone to let me know, something, anything! I’m so scared. He doesn’t deserve this. You know, he stopped a robbery today. A gang of kids were planning to rush the lobby and steal from the shoppers and vendors. Mom, they had guns! Nate went outside and pretended to be one of them. He got one kid to tell him exactly what they were planning, and it was all recorded on his coms and sent to the police. They got there before those kids could get into the building. He’s a hero, Mom. And this is what he gets for his good deed? How is this fair?”
It isn’t fair, Carter, not even a little bit. Nate needs all of your positive thoughts and prayers. I know you’re scared, but he needs your strength. Are you there alone, honey? Would you like me to make some calls for you; at least to Fiona?”
“Yes, please. She’s working today, and may already know what happened, but I can’t be sure of anything. Hearing this from you will be less alarming than if I call. Mom, I can’t even think straight. Thank you for being here for me. Mom, I love you.”
“Oh, Carter, my heart is there with you. I will call Fiona and I am sure she will get to you as soon as she can. In the meantime, my son, I’m just a phone call away. I love you too.”
As Carter hung up with Claire, a nurse emerged from behind a pair of ominous mechanical doors. “Hi, are you with the young man who came in by ambulance?”
Carter looked up, “He was stabbed.”
“Yes, can you provide any more information for us, like his name? We didn’t find a wallet or any identification.”
“Nathan Morrow; he’s twenty-one years old.” Carter did his best to answer the remaining questions for the intake nurse. She explained that Nate has lost a significant amount of blood. They typed his blood to ready him for transfusion and were hoping Carter knew of any relative that would do a direct donation as Nate’s type was rare. “Our blood bank only has two units available of AB- and I fear that will not suffice. Does Nate have any relatives in the immediate area that you know of? A direct donor would make all the difference in the world right now. We are having more blood sent from another hospital, but that will take time.”
Carter’s eyes widened, “Um, no, Nate doesn’t have family, but I’m the same blood type; can I donate?”
The nurse seemed surprised, “You’re also AB- and you are not related to Mr. Morrow?”
“Yes, let me donate, please.”
“Absolutely, come with me, Mr.?”
“Wyatt. My name is Carter Wyatt.”
“Mr. Wyatt, I would have never guessed that you aren’t in fact related to Mr. Morrow. Forgive me for saying so, but there’s a strong resemblance, and you’re the same blood type, it’s not your run of the mill coincidence.”
Carter followed the nurse down the corridor into an exam room without responding to her small talk. He knew she was just trying to ease his nerves, but Carter couldn’t bring himself to exchange pleasantries. He took a seat in the one chair nearest the hospital bed. His heart was still racing and his hands trembled. Cold sweat poured down his face, mixing with the stream of hot tears.
The nurse offered a weak smile. “Someone will be right in.” she informed him before pulling the privacy curtain and exiting the room.