It was a beautiful spring afternoon and the sun warmed my face as I drove home from work. When I reached my place, I noticed that my daughter, Stephanie's, car was parked in the driveway. That meant that she must have come home from college for the weekend. I always enjoyed listening to her stories about her friends, classes, and sports activities.
She had me blocked out of my side of the garage, so I parked behind her car and walked up the driveway. I saw a hair comb on the pavement. I knew it had to belong to either Steph or my wife, Karen, so I bent to pick it up.
I awoke with a splitting headache. I tried to open my eyes, but I couldn't. I tried to speak, but I couldn't. I thought I could hear murmuring but it sounded miles away. I awoke again. Everything was quiet. I tried to focus, to concentrate on my surroundings.
I awoke again. I heard voices, subdued voices, but I was able to make out the words. They only created more confusion in my mind. What was stable? Who lost blood? Why couldn't I speak?
I woke up and heard my wife, Karen, talking. She sounded close. After several attempts, I managed to open my eyes. The bright lights forced me to close them immediately. I waited a few seconds and tried again. This time I was able to adjust and keep my eyes open, although I did have to blink several times to clear the images.
"Kurt!" exclaimed Karen. "Nurse! He's awake!"
Karen made that sound like a good thing. I realized that I must have been asleep. Why was she telling a nurse? Was she hurt? What was going on?
"Kurt, Darling!" Karen whispered into my ear as she clutched my hand. "You'll be okay! All your vital signs are good. Don't worry!"
Now I was worried. Why would she say that to me? Why would my vital signs be anything but good? I was in good shape. I exercised. I spent most of my spare time outdoors. I'd put my vital signs up against those of any man my age, and most men ten years younger.
Next thing I knew, a nurse was leaning over me, looking in my eyes and adjusting some tubes. I knew that couldn't be good. I fell back asleep.
I opened my eyes and looked around. I could see Karen asleep in a chair in the corner. I tried to turn my head and I must have groaned.
"Dad! It's Steph, Dad," a voice practically yelled into my ear. "Mom, Dad's awake! He looks way better."
"Better than what?" I asked in a voice so low I was barely able to hear it. "What's going on, Steph? What the hell happened?"
"You were shot, Dad. Somebody shot you when you were walking up the driveway. The bullet entered your back and came out the top of your chest, but you're going to be okay," she assured me.
"Sweetheart, I'm right here. We won't leave you alone, so rest easy, Darling," cried Karen. "You'll make a full recovery and be home in no time."
Then she bawled as she held her face against my forehead. I felt the tears dropping onto my cheek. I had no idea exactly what all had happened, but it was obvious that Karen had been under tremendous stress. Had I almost died? I hadn't seen Karen cry like that since her father had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. I fell back asleep with Karen crying all over me.
It took a while, but I gradually slept less and stayed alert longer. The story was remarkably simple. It appeared someone had shot me from a parked car across the street from our house, and then sped away. The car had been reported stolen and was found a few miles away in a field. That seemed to be the extent of the known facts.
I had dropped like a bag of rocks when I was hit. Stephanie had been watching through a window as I walked toward the house. She had gone to the door to greet me, and just as she opened it, a gunshot boomed across the neighborhood and I went down. She screamed and ran to my side.
Karen had been making dinner when she heard the window break, followed immediately by the percussion of the shot. She reached me seconds after Stephanie. It was Karen that pulled Steph's cell phone off her belt and dialed 911. Then she rushed back inside for blankets and a pillow while Steph held me and cried. My blood soaked her shirt and jeans, and ran down the driveway.
It was touch and go that night. The bullet had just nicked a lung and pretty well mangled a rib, and had punched a huge hole in my upper chest as it exited. The blood loss was the primary concern.
The cops showed up as soon as I was able to talk and asked me all kinds of questions. I know they had a job to do, but a lot of their questions seemed asinine to me. Did I know anyone that wanted me dead? I couldn't help but think that if I did, I would have shot him first! I couldn't tell that to the police, but I swore to myself I'd gut shoot the bastard if I ever found who it was.
Once I was out of danger, Steph went back to college. Karen stayed with me until my sister finally made her go home and get some sleep and clean up. I guess Karen was neglecting her health and personal hygiene during her vigil. She was only gone about seven hours, but she looked more like the old Karen when she came back, except her eyes had bags under them and she looked thin. I realized that acts of violence have more victims than just those actually struck by the bullets.
The cops came by several times, asking questions. I found out later that they had grilled the neighbors, my coworkers, and my family. No one seemed to be able to shed any light on the incident.
I lost track of time while I was in the hospital. It had no meaning for me until the day I was released and came home. Karen drove into the garage and closed the garage door behind us. I didn't say anything, but I was relieved that she did it that way. What if the shooter came back? I was scared about that.
I didn't say anything to Karen, but I knew she was worried, too. Hell, she and Steph were in danger as much as I was. Who knew what the shooter had in mind or who he wanted dead? The police had assured us that they would patrol the area, but I had no doubt that a determined person would have no trouble getting to us.
I walked hunched over and very slowly, but I was walking. Steph jumped out of the back seat and opened the door to the kitchen from the garage. As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, I saw a hole in the wall not far from the clock.
Karen noticed my raised eyebrows and quickly answered my unasked question. I inspected the hole as she explained it.
"The police dug the bullet out of the wall there, Kurt. It went through you, broke the front window and wound up in the wall. I had a man replace the glass in the window and I hired a man to repair the wall but he hasn't come yet," she revealed. "I wanted that hole fixed and I'm sorry it's still there."
"Shit! What the hell kind of gun did the guy use?" I wondered aloud. "It must have been a high powered rifle, at the very least. You or Stephanie could have been killed!"
"Dad, I think you're the one we need to worry about for the foreseeable future," responded Stephanie. "Mom and I are fine."
I had been pissed before, but now I was in a seething rage. The bastard didn't just take a pop at me. He came very close to killing my wife, or daughter, or both. I felt my hands shake as I contemplated life without either of them. I knew I'd never feel safe until the shooter was caught.
I went into the den and unlocked my gun cabinet. I loaded a shotgun and looked around. I carefully dropped to my knees and slid it under the sofa. Then I loaded my .38 and tucked it under my belt.
"Kurt, hasn't there been enough shooting?" asked Karen. "It isn't safe to keep a loaded gun hidden under the couch. Do you think you're going to carry that handgun every place you go?"
"I'll say this once and I want both you and Steph, to listen real close," I replied calmly. "That shotgun will not be moved unless one of you feels you need it for protection. I want it loaded and ready. This gun will go with me as much as possible. There will be no discussion or complaints about this."
Karen and Stephanie looked at each other and then back to me. Neither of them questioned my decree, however. They could tell that it was not negotiable.
"Until this nut is locked away, we'll be prepared for anything," I stated. "Tomorrow, I'll show you both how to use every gun in the house. If I feel the need, I'll get more guns. I know you've both been shown how to safely handle a gun, but I want you to both know how to shoot them. The shotgun does not need to be aimed. Just point it and pull the trigger. There is nothing more effective at close range."
I knew I was scaring them, but I'd rather have them too cautious than careless and in danger. I suddenly felt exhausted. I gingerly sat down on the couch. I felt a burning jolt in my back and grimaced when I came in contact with the back of the sofa.
"Kurt, you're in pain," worried Karen. "I'll get you a pill for that."
I hated to take those pills because I felt I needed my wits about me. I could ill afford to be high on some shit if somebody made a try for me. On the other hand, I wouldn't be worth a fuck if I was in so much pain, I couldn't move. I took the pill.
Things settled into a bit of a routine. Stephanie went back to school. I was worried about her, but logic dictated that if she had been the target, the shooter would have had numerous chances to get her. Somehow, I knew the guy, if it was a guy, was after me. Other people were only in danger when they were near me. That was why I insisted Karen go back to work as soon as I was able to get around enough to take care of myself.
.... There is more of this story ...