Later I called Gilda's room and asked if they were ready to get something to eat before we headed back to the hospital. She said they would be ready in about ten minutes. I convinced William to turn off the TV and to wash up before we went downstairs to eat.
When we were ready, we went next door and William knocked on the door. Gilda answered the door with Lenore at her side and we headed for the elevator to take us down to the restaurant. It was early, so there were very few people in the dining room. We were seated immediately at a table covered with a white-linen tablecloth arranged for four people.
"Why are there so many forks and spoons?" William asked, looking at the formally set table.
Gilda unsuccessfully suppressed her smile as I tried to answer. "If you're having a fancy meal, each fork, spoon or knife is used for a different course or purpose. This fork," I said, holding up a small fork, "is for eating a salad. Depending on what you order, the waiter will remove the utensils that you won't need to eat your meal."
"Oh, how come Hildy doesn't set our table at home with all these things?"
"We don't eat fancy at home. When you're older, we'll have to teach you what each of those pieces of silverware is for. It will be part of your education," I said.
"Will there be a test?"
"No, son, there won't be a test."
"Good, I don't like tests," William said.
Seemingly satisfied, William began looking at the menu. After a few moments, I asked, "Do you see anything you want to eat?"
"Can I have a pork chop?" he asked, pointing to it on the menu.
"Of course," I said, looking at where he was pointing. It was a thick-cut chop served with an apple-cranberry chutney, asparagus and potatoes au gratin.
I decided on the prime rib, medium rare, broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes. While William and I were deciding on what we were going to order, Gilda was going through the same process with Lenore. Shortly after we had all made our decisions our waiter arrived and took our orders.
The service was excellent as was the food. William's pork chop, which I cut up for him, was more than he could eat. We were all so full when we finished, that there was no room for dessert. I was sure that William would make up for it later when he wanted a snack.
By the time we finished eating and went back upstairs to wash up, it was time to get ready to go to the hospital. I made a call to our driver. He said he would be in front of the hotel in approximately fifteen minutes. When we got to the lobby to wait for our ride, I asked William if he would like to call home and talk to Peter and TJ. It was a silly question, so I dialed our home number and asked Hildy to get Peter and TJ. As soon as they came on the line, I handed my cell phone to William. Their phone call lasted almost all the way to the hospital before I told William he needed to hang up.
"Peter wants to know when we're coming home. He says he misses us," William said.
"Tell him, maybe tomorrow and we miss him, too," I said.
Visiting hours were just beginning as we entered the hospital. Our driver said he would wait for us in the lobby. He said that he needed to study, holding up what looked to be a text book. When I asked him about it, he said he was taking night classes at a local junior college and he needed to study for an upcoming test. We left him to his text and went to take the elevator up to Donald's floor. I was surprised that William knew which way to go when we exited the elevator. I had to stop and get my bearings before I figured out which way to go. William was right and we ended up following him to his father's room.
Donald was sitting in a motorized wheelchair as we entered. William and Lenore ran toward their dad, but Donald held up his right hand. "Watch it, guys. Don't bump my bandages, it'll hurt dad."
"Oh, we forgot," Lenore said.
"Come here, baby, you can sit on my right knee and William, you can stand over on this side and give me a hug."
After the kids had a few moments of their dad's attention, I said, "You must be feeling better if they have you out of the bed."
"Yeah, it will be a few days before I can chase after these two, but the doc says the bullet holes are healing nicely."
"Has he said if you'll be able to go home tomorrow?" Gilda asked.
"He's fairly sure that I can. As long as there's no infection, he said he would release me around noon. By the way, Crane, we'll be accompanied by a nurse/physical therapist when we return."
"Will this person be staying at the house?" I asked.
"If you don't mind, that is," Donald said.
"Of course not," I said. "It might be a little crowded tomorrow. Remember the Lee's are going to be spending the night in the guest room."
"I forgot about that," Donald said.
"I think I have a solution," Gilda said. "Perhaps, Lenore would like to spend the night with our girls."
"I think she could be persuaded to do that, couldn't you?" Donald said, giving Lenore a hug.
"What?" Lenore queried.
"How would you like to spend tomorrow night with Jeannie and Ginny?" Gilda asked.
"Oh, boy, can I?"
We spent much of the rest of visiting hours discussing the accommodations that would be needed around the house so Donald could use the wheelchair. We decided that getting in and out of the house would be the biggest obstacles since there were steps that needed to be negotiated. Temporarily, we decided that between the nurse and me or maybe Manfred, we could manage to manipulate him and the wheelchair up and down the steps as needed. It would only be for a few days until the wound in his upper thigh was healed enough that he could put weight on the leg.
"Can we go get dessert?" William asked. "I'm hungry."
"After all you had to eat earlier?" I asked. His response was to nod his head. "Donald, do you know if the cafeteria is open?"
"You can't get meals at this time, but I understand that the snack bar is open during visiting hours, so you're in luck, William," his dad said.
"I'll take them," Gilda said. "I think I can find the way."
"I know how to get there," William said, heading for the door.
After they left for the snack bar, I asked Donald about his discussion with Roger Grimm. He said they discussed the avenues that the investigation would take, being circumspect so as not to interfere with the New Orleans Police Department ... too much. That was said with a smirk. Roger did tell him that given the names of some of the principals involved in the trial, they had a good starting point. He also thought that because of the timing of the shooting, that there was someone in the court house who had most likely tipped off the gunmen that they were leaving the building.
"How long did he think the investigation would take?" I asked.
"Although he said it was hard to put a time on it, it would probably be between two weeks and a month. I told him that I wanted a thorough investigation with all the players identified. I wanted to be able to hand the results to the US Attorney so that he would have an iron-clad case to take to a grand jury. Time and money were not the determining factors governing the investigation's timeline. I wanted the killers of Leon found and prosecuted... at a minimum. I said I was not concerned how many toes got stepped on in the police department and if they gave the investigators any problem, they were to let me know and I would pull some strings and call in some markers. There are a number of politicians in Louisiana in the state house and legislature who were very grateful to my father for his financial support. I won't hesitate to ask them to use their influence, if it comes to that."
As we were talking, Dr. Mason walked in and began checking Donald's wounds and all the other things that doctors do. "It's looking good," he said, after he completed his examination. "If nothing changes between now and tomorrow morning, I'll sign your discharge. Oh, by the way, the nurse I talked to you about will be here in the morning when I make my rounds so that you can meet him. His name is Calvin Boroughs. He's very highly qualified, so I know you'll be happy with him."
"How long will Mr. Baker require this nurse?" I asked.
"A lot depends on how quickly he recovers. My best estimate is ten days to two weeks. By that time Mr. Baker should be fully recovered, at least from the wounds to his thigh and shoulder. The abdominal wound will be tender for quite a while. He should have full use of the arm and leg by that time."
"Dad," William said, as he ran into the room, "I brought you some ice cream."
"Well, I'll see you in the morning," Dr. Mason said and left the room.
"Thanks, son, that's very kind of you. Did you bring any for Mr. Johnson?"
"Lenore has it," William said, handing the ice cream container to his dad.
"Here, Mr. Johnson," Lenore said, as she and Gilda entered the room. "It's chocolate."
"Thanks, that's my favorite," I said.
"These two have enough sugar in them to keep them going all night," Gilda said, shaking her head.
"Maybe they'll sleep later in the morning if they're up late tonight," Donald said between bites of ice cream.
By the time we had finished our treats, visiting hours were coming to an end. Lenore and William gave their dad hugs and kisses and we headed down to the lobby. When we got there, Kelly, our driver was engrossed in the textbook. He was totally oblivious to his surroundings until William's chatter broke through his concentration.
"Sorry, Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Berger, I was concentrating so hard, I didn't see you arrive," he said. "I'll run get the limo."
"There's no need to do that, we can follow you to where it's parked," I told him. "Did you get a lot of studying done for your test?"
"Yes, thanks," he said. "I'm only taking the one course. It's all I have time and money for with my jobs."
"Jobs?" I puzzled.
"Yes, when I don't have a driving job I wait tables at a restaurant in the French Quarter."
"That must be difficult to schedule," I said.
"I'm tired," Lenore said, tugging on the sleeve of my shirt. "Can you carry me?"
"Certainly," I said, scooping her up in my arms.
"It is," Kelly responded to my observation. "My bosses are pretty good about scheduling my time."
"How much longer will it take you to finish your degree?" I asked.
"At the rate I'm going, it'll be at least two more years. I've already been at it for going on two, now," he said resignedly.
"Aren't your folks able to help you out?"
"No," he said sadly. "I was raised in foster homes. I don't have any family."
"Sorry to hear that," I said. "What are you planning to do with your education when you finish?"
"Right now I'm taking all the prerequisites so that I can study Civil Engineering when I transfer to LSU. At least I hope I can."
"That's a good field to get into," I said. We arrived at the limo and that put an end to our conversation.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I told Kelly that we would want to leave for the hospital around 9:30 in the morning. He said he would be waiting for us at that time. We bade him goodnight and took the elevator up to our rooms. I carried Lenore into her and Gilda's room before William and I headed for our own.
I sent William in to take his shower and to get ready for bed. While he was occupied, I called home to talk to the boys. It took a while to speak to each of the six. By the time William was through with his shower, I had finished talking to all my sons. I really missed them and hoped that everything was good with Donald's wounds in the morning so that we could get back to our home.
It took a while for William to settle down and go to sleep, but eventually he nodded off. I had a number of things on my mind that I needed to straighten out before sleep overtook me.
I was up by seven and had my shower taken and shaved before I woke William. He was quick to get up and got dressed as soon as he brushed his teeth. I think he was wondering where we were going to eat breakfast. I called Gilda and was assured that they would be ready in no time. A few minutes later we were on our way down to the restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant was set up for a buffet breakfast which was fine with William. I think he would have taken a bit of everything in the buffet line if his plate would have held it. It was a good layout, but I avoided the grits and red eye gravy. We were all stuffed by the time we finished with our breakfast.
After washing up in our rooms and grabbing our bags, we headed down to street level to meet our ride to the hospital. Kelly was right on time and we began the trip to the hospital. At this time of the morning, the traffic was terrible. It took almost an hour to get to the hospital.
As Kelly let us out, I said to him, "I believe that Mr. Baker has ordered a van that will accommodate a wheelchair."
"Yes, sir," he said. "I'm to go to the office and pick one up for your trip to the airport."
"Great, I'm not sure when Mr. Baker is to be discharged," I said. I assume it will be before noon sometime."
"I'll be waiting, sir. If you want, you can leave your luggage in the limo. I'll transfer it to the van. That way you won't have to lug it through the hospital."
"Thank you, Kelly, that will save us a lot of hassle," I said.
With William leading the way, we headed for Donald's room. When we entered the room, Dr. Mason was there with a man, over six feet tall, with the darkest complexion I had ever seen on a black man.
"Crane," Donald said, when he saw us, "this is Calvin Boroughs. He will be coming with us when we go home."
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Johnson," Calvin said in a voice that was reminiscent of James Earl Jones.
"Likewise, Mr. Boroughs," I said.
"Very well, and it's Crane," I said. "We are very informal in our house."
William and Lenore had taken their usual positions next to Donald who was again sitting in the wheel chair.
"Mr. Baker, everything is looking good. I'm going to sign your discharge papers. It will be 45 minutes or so before the paperwork is completed and everyone in the hospital has given their approval. At least it seems that way. Calvin will be back when everything is in order and escort you out of the hospital. I have talked to your doctor in San Antonio and have faxed him all the medical records. I'm sure that he will want to see you the first of next week." Having said that, he and Calvin left the room.
A few minutes later Brian Riggs entered the room. "I've taken care of the hospital charges, so as soon as the discharge papers have made their way through the hospital bureaucracy you will be free to leave."
"Thanks, Brian, I knew I could depend on you to handle the details," Donald said.
"Donald," I said, "I've been talking to Kelly, our driver. He seems to be a hard working young man. He's working two jobs and going to school part time. He said he was raised in foster care and doesn't have any family. His story has struck a chord with me and I thought, maybe there is something we could do for him."
Gilda walked up to me and kissed my cheek. "Another stray?" was all she said.
"Brian, find out all you can about this young man. Do it discreetly, but I want to know everything there is to know about him," Donald said. "If his story checks out... well, we'll see."
"What's this young man's last name?" Brian asked, looking at me.
"I don't know. I just know his first name is Kelly. I'm sure that the limo company can provide you with that information," I answered.
"Thanks, I'll check with them. Donald, I'm staying in town for the weekend. I'll contact you on Monday when I'm back in San Antonio."
"Enjoy your weekend, Brian. Take a couple of days off. I won't be back in the office for at least a few days. Your first priority is to get that information on this Kelly."
About a half an hour later, Calvin entered the room with a stack of papers. He handed several to Donald and instructed him to sign them. "Okay, that takes care of everything," he said in that deep voice. "Let's get you out of here."
"Can I ride?" Lenore asked.
"Of course you can," Donald said. "I'll wrap my good arm around you so that you don't fall. I'm ready when you are, Calvin. I think there are controls on the handles in the back that will make this thing go."
"Right you are," Calvin said, and activated the electric motor that drove the wheelchair.
"How come I can't ride, too?" complained William.
"There's not enough room on my lap for both of you," Donald said. "You'll get your turn later."
"Okay," William said grudgingly.
"Crane, will you call the driver to see if the van is here?" Donald asked.
I made the call and Kelly assured me that he was in the parking lot and would be at the front entrance by the time we got there. The van was not really a van, but a small bus. It pulled up just as we were exiting the building. Kelly got out and came around to the passenger side and opened the sliding door. As it slid back, a ramp extended and was lowered to the ground providing an incline that Donald's wheelchair was able to easily negotiate. Calvin got the wheelchair situated and anchored into place. We climbed in and took the seats in the rows behind Donald. Lenore was reluctant to give up her seat on her dad's lap, but one look from Gilda and she complied.
As we left the hospital grounds, Donald dialed his cellphone and spoke to his pilot, letting him know that we were on our way to the airport. I think he was as anxious to get home as I was. Thankfully, the traffic had eased up from earlier and we made good time to the airport. The plane was waiting for us when we arrived at the general aviation terminal. Donald rolled down the ramp and was preparing to navigate to the plane.
"Can I ride now?" William asked.
"Sure, hop on. It's only a short way to the plane," Donald said. It didn't matter to William, he just wanted to take a ride.
"Looks like we're traveling in style," Calvin said to no one in particular.
The first obstacle was to get Donald and the wheelchair up the steps and into the plane. After William was persuaded to abandon his dad's lap, Calvin, the flight steward and I were able to lift the wheelchair with Donald in it into the plane. With no place to anchor the chair, Calvin was able to lift and maneuver Donald into one of the leather seats so that he could be buckled in.
"How's that, Mr. Baker?" Calvin asked. "Is that comfortable?"
"Very comfortable, Mr. Boroughs," Donald said, emphasizing Calvin's formal name.
"Sorry, Donald. Force of habit."
The pilot had done his pre-flight check before we arrived, so it only took a minute or two before the plane's engines came to life and we began rolling. There were a number of planes taking off and landing ahead of us, so we waited on the taxiway for about fifteen minutes before we were given permission to take off.
As we leveled off at our assigned flight level, I happened to look over at Calvin. He appeared to be gripping the arms of his seat as hard as he could. "Calvin, are you not used to flying?" I asked.
"No, sir," he said through gritted teeth. "This is the first time I've ever flown."
"I know it won't help, but flying is safer than driving," I said.
Just then the flight steward came around and asked if we wanted something to drink. "I'll be serving lunch in a few minutes. We have ham, beef, turkey and pastrami sandwiches and a green salad. For William and Lenore, we have mini pizzas," he said, and went to get our drinks.
"Do you guys want pizza or sandwiches?" Donald asked his two.
"PIZZA!" was the unanimous response.
"And a salad," Donald added.
I looked back at Calvin. He was still gripping the chair arms, but it didn't appear that the grip was as strong. "Calvin, if you like computer games, I'm sure that William would let you share with him. As soon as we can release our seatbelts, the first thing he does is head for the computer and start up one of the games."
"Thanks, but if it's all the same to you, I think I'll stay where I am."
By the time we landed in San Antonio, Calvin had loosened up some. I could tell he was still not completely comfortable flying. I heard a deep sigh from him as our plane stopped at the terminal. I tried not to laugh at the thought of this over-six foot, twenty-something man being that fearful of flying.
A handicap accessible van was waiting to transport Donald and Calvin to the house. The rest of us made our way to the Town Car for our trip home. I handed Gilda my cell phone and asked her to call Hildy and let her know we were on our way. Donald's van followed us all the way to the house. By the time we arrived, Manfred had gone to pick up the kids from school. That left Calvin, the van driver and I to lift Donald and the wheelchair up the front steps so he could make it into the house on his own.
Hildy met us at the door and immediately began fussing over Donald. "Hildy, I'm fine," Donald said. "I'll be out of this chair in no time. I want you to meet Calvin Boroughs. He'll be staying with us and torturing me with physical therapy for a while."
"Welcome, Mr. Boroughs, follow me and I'll show you where you can stow your stuff for the night. You'll have a different room starting tomorrow. The place is booked solid for the night," Hildy laughed.
"Thank you, Donald told me that the music teachers would be spending the night here. I understand that all the children will be taking lessons. My Gran practically raised me and she made me practice the piano an hour every day. I think she wanted me to become a famous piano player like Thelonius Monk or Duke Ellington. She loved jazz," Calvin chuckled. "I could play the music, but it never had the life in it like those guys had."
"I hate to ask you, Crane, but I think I'm going to need some help in the bathroom. I think I can stand on my good leg long enough to transfer to the toilet," Donald said.
"No problem," I said and followed him into the bedroom to the master bath.
It wasn't long before Manfred returned with the eight school kids. I received hugs and questions from my six before they scampered up the stairs to change out of their school uniforms and into their shorts, tee shirts and sandals. In no time they were back downstairs and into the kitchen for their afternoon snack. Hildy was ready for them as well as her two with bowls of bread pudding.
While they were enjoying their snack, Calvin came into the breakfast area. I interrupted the eating frenzy long enough to introduce him to them. "I don't expect you to remember all ten names immediately," I said, before going around the table naming each one.
With bowls scraped clean of every morsel, the assembly line was readied to get them rinsed and stacked in the dishwasher. That done they all headed outside to play with the dogs and see that they had food and fresh water.
"That's quite a system you have there," Calvin commented.
"With eight kids in the house and two that are here a lot of the time, everybody has to help out. They have been doing it for so long, it's habit now," I said.
"Crane, Sandra Lee called before you got home to say they would be here around six," Hildy said. "I told them dinner would be served about six-thirty. We may have to round up a couple more chairs. There are only 16 in the dining room and there will be 18 of us."
"I'll take care of it," I said.
"I could eat in the breakfast area, if that would help," Calvin said.
"Nonsense," I said. "The table is big enough to add to extra chairs from here. Grab one of these and we'll add it to the others, and then I'll show you around the place. You haven't seen the pool or the tennis court."
"I should have brought my suit," Calvin said.
"I'm sure we have one that will fit you, if you want to take a swim."
The Lees arrived a few minutes before six. It took a while to introduce them around and to explain why Donald was in a wheelchair.