[The following is the prologue of the novel that James and I have been collaborating on.]
Patrick reclined comfortably in his hospital bed, enjoying a cup of lime Jell-o. He was working hard on concealing his anxiety from his mother, who sat beside his bed in the small room.
“Yes, darling?” She put down her newspaper and smiled at him warmly.
“Could you get me some soup from that deli a few blocks over?”
“Soup? But what’s wrong with the soup here, sweetheart?”
“It gives me a stomach ache.”
“You’ve just had your tonsils out; are you sure you can eat soup?”
“I’m sure. Please?”
She made one of those ‘I’m not sure about this’ faces, but got up anyway. “The deli on ninth?”
“That’s the one.” He replied. He hoped it would be far enough away.
She grabbed her bag and made for the door.
Patrick called after her. “Mom?”
“Thank you. I love you.”
She chuckled a bit and hoisted her bag up on her shoulder. “I love you too, sweetheart. Be back in a jiff.”
Outside the hospital, a gentleman walked down the crowded sidewalk with purpose; his strides, long and powerful. He appeared to be just another gray suit, plucked from the halls of corporate America, but he carried no briefcase. Instead, in his hand, he carried only a small gift bag. His tailored suit gave him the distinct appearance of being suave, something he enjoyed very much. Around him, the day was bright and warm; people milled about, enjoying the pleasantries of early summer weather. The gentleman noted that it couldn’t have been a more perfect day.
On his way into the hospital, he stopped and held the door for a woman going in the opposite direction. He liked to think of himself as the sort of man that would hold a door open for a woman. He casually walked up to the nearest nurses’ station.
“Excuse me, nurse?”
A young nurse turned to look at the man; she couldn’t help but smile when her eyes met his. “Yes, sir?”
“I hate to be any trouble, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. I wonder, would you mind terribly delivering this gift to the boy in room 306?”
The young nurse brightened at the idea of being of assistance. “Not at all! I’ll bring it right up.”
“Oh, thank you so much.” The gentlemen turned on his heel and made for the door, a spring in his step and a whistle on his lips.
Upstairs, Patrick fidgeted, knowing it wouldn’t be long now. He wished desperately that things could be different, that he could somehow change things, but he knew that whatever happened was meant to be. He was startled by a knock on his door.
“Hi there! I’ve got something for you. Looks like someone is thinking about you.” The nurse smiled enormously and handed him the gift bag. She stood there, still smiling, as if waiting for him to open it; Patrick wished she would leave.
“Erm, my mother is out.”
“Oh, I see.” The nurse continued to smile but apparently got the hint and left.
Patrick simply stared at the bag in his hands for a few moments. He debated whether he should bother opening it at all. He grabbed the little card attached to the bag and turned it over in his fingers, first. There was just one word written on it in beautifully cursive letters: Destiny. Patrick finally reached inside and pulled out the paper covering the mystery within. He made a second grab, this time his hand enclosing around something soft and plush against his fingertips. He pulled it out and stared back at the two black, beady eyes of a stuffed kitten. It wasn’t what he was expecting. Then again, he had no idea what he had been expecting. He placed the toy kitten in his lap, absently twirling its whiskers. In the silence of the room, Patrick thought he heard something that hadn’t been there just minutes ago. He looked down at the kitten. Slowly, he brought it to his ear and listened intently, trying to calm his noisy breathing. There was no mistaking it; from inside the toy he could hear a distinct and rhythmic beep. He sighed heavily in acknowledgment. Moments later, Patrick very briefly felt rumblings erupt from deep within the hospital.
The gentlemen was nearly four blocks away now. There was just enough distance between himself and the hospital so that he was still able to hear the blood curdling screams of the innocent, yet was still out of range of the volatile pressure wave and lethal debris hurling forth from the explosion. Even from here, he could hear the framework of the building fracturing from the force and violence of the explosives, until it finally collapsed onto itself.
The gentleman continued walking, a smile upon his lips.