Pebbles of Destiny
A David Blaine Story
By Atonia Walpole
It was coming up on 4 hours since Blaine had been taken back for surgery. Billy arrived two hours ago and he was now asking questions of the medical staff.
“Everything is going well, Mr. Wright. It’s just taking a little longer.”
“What are they doing?”
“As I understand it, sir, they are repairing his vertebrae.”
Billy shook his head. He knew that already. He came back to the waiting room. “They say everything is fine.”
Within minutes the surgeon came out in his scrubs. “He’s doing well. They’re closing him up now. Once we got in there we found some problems with the original cage surrounding his spine. We’ve done some extensive repair work and managed to clean up around the cage. Once he heals, he should be relatively free of pain. Of course with this type of surgery he will always have weakness there.”
Billy asked the question they all were worried about. “Will he walk again?”
Dr. Thornton was slow in answering. “He should do but it’s going to take a period of therapy and, of course, the patient’s willingness and determination. I honestly don’t see him running a marathon. Attitude is everything in cases like this.”
“Well, Doctor, he never did run a marathon,” Billy said.
“We’ll let you know when you can go back to see him.”
“Thank you, Dr. Thornton,” Christine said.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Trevor said and stood up and stretched. “I think I’m going to go out and walk in the gardens for awhile.”
Billy went over and sat with Christine. “Fancy a walk?”
“No, I will stay until I can see him. You can go if you wish.”
“Nah…damn I hate this for him.”
“Trevor said you have been through this with him before.”
“Yeah, when he moved to Gravesend, I took courses so I could treat him. He’s not one to go to therapy. He’ll want it brought to him. He put in a pool at Gravesend and that was good exercise for him.”
“We have no pool now.” She picked at her slacks.
“It’ll be awhile before he’s ready for that. One thing, Christine, he was addicted to pain killers for a long time. You’ll have to watch him.”
The full realization of Blaine’s condition was beginning to register with her. “Billy, will you not come and stay with us while he recovers?”
“If I do, I’ll have to quit my job and there’s Willy. He’s a handful and I hate to put him on Toomes. She’s already got Lyssa.”
“Yes, but did she not once take care of both of them?”
Billy hung his hands between his knees. “I was there then living at Gravesend with Blaine.”
She put a hand on his shoulder. “Can you do it again? Between Trevor and me we may be able to manage him but I am afraid we might hurt him. He has had enough hurt.”
“That he has. Let’s leave it up to Blaine, let him decide.” Billy leaned back and thought of all the years Blaine had struggled to walk. Wheelchairs, canes; what must he be thinking about now? What was this going to do to him? “When’s the wedding?”
“We have not set a date.”
“David wanted to establish himself again, to regain his name. These things take time.”
“Yeah, I, uh, guess they do.”
“Once he could call himself David Blaine again, then we were to make plans.”
“He can call himself anything he wants to. Oh, legally, you mean.”
“All his papers were destroyed in the fire, everything he had at Gravesend.”
“Not everything…I found the safe out in the garden. Somebody had tried to get into it and failed. I kept it. I know he has some things in there but I’m not sure what all it contains. Some things his mother sent him are in there, old pictures and stuff like that.”
“He never spoke to me of his mother. She was Chinese?”
“Yeah, he wasn’t close to her at all.”
“There is so much of him I do not know.”
Billy took her hand. “You know what’s important to know. Nothing else matters or he would have told you.”
Trevor, walking in the garden, made a call to Margret Langston. “I thought you should know, Ms. Langston. So whatever plans you two have been making are going to have to be put on hold.”
“Oh, dear.” Margret looked out over the workers raking gravel in the formal garden where she was working. “What horrible news, Trevor. We had not finalized any plans as far as work. Poor man, how can he stand it again?”
“It’s going to be tough for him. As far as the Belton Place…”
“Now that, um, Trevor…I have gone ahead with that. I changed my mind about the sale and have done something that I hope is not going to anger him. I’ve made him a gift. I have him down as my beneficiary and I thought…well, why should he have to purchase the house when I want him to have it. So, he should be receiving a packet from my solicitor. He only has to sign the papers and the place is his.”
“Wow, that’s quite a gift. I hope he takes it in the spirit it was given.”
“How long will he be in hospital?”
“Not sure yet. When I came out he was headed for recovery. I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you, I would appreciate it and if possible I will come and see him while he is in hospital.”
Blaine’s vision blurred; two heads became one and threatened to divide again. He closed his eyes.
“David, are you with me now?” Christine leaned over near his cheek and kissed it. He smelled of operating room, of disinfectant and clean sheets. His skin felt warm but he shivered. She drew the sheet up and asked for a warm blanket for him.
David felt the warmth of the blanket and the weight of it. His eyes blinked again. “Christine.”
Her eyes threatened to flood. “You are going to walk again. There is that hope for you.”
There had been a 50/50 chance that he wouldn’t walk again. The doctor had explained it all to him before taking him back to surgery. He’d taken the chance. He felt numb from his chest down. “Water.”
“Just a sip or two.” She held a cup to his lips. He couldn’t raise his head and so she stuck a straw in the cup. “Better? Trevor and Billy are here and will want to see you.”
“Billy is here?” His eyes closed again. “Yes.”
Billy leaned over. “Hey, are you awake?”
“No,” Blaine replied.
“You need to sleep it off.” Billy took his hand. “I’ll come and see you later after you’re in your room and settled.”
“No…no walk, can’t.”
“Sure you can. It might take awhile but we can do this, Blaine.”
“No, not again.”
“We’ll argue about that later.” Billy turned and let Trevor come to him.
“David, you’re going to be all right now. I talked to Toomes and Lyssa is fine. She picked her up from school and said you’d had an accident. So you can explain it however you want.”
“Thank you,” Blaine said and cracked his eyes for a moment.
“Let’s get out of here and leave him alone, let him sleep off the anesthesia,” Billy said.
Christine placed a soft kiss on his lips. He didn’t respond. After they moved from the recovery area she turned to Billy. “What did he mean, not again?”
“Oh, he’s all drugged up, Christine. Once he’s in his right mind he’ll know what he has to do. Don’t worry about anything right now.” But Billy was concerned. Like the doctor said, ‘attitude was everything’, and he may have a problem with that.
“Why don’t we go get some lunch? I’m starved,” Trevor suggested.
On the ground floor there was the usual gift shop and beyond that a restaurant. As they passed the gift shop Billy stopped. “I’ll catch up with you.” Trevor glanced at him then went on with Christine into the restaurant.
Billy waited until the man came out. “What are you doing here?”
Bates transferred the paperback book to his left hand. “Visiting.”
“I know you, you’re the cab driver. Who are you, exactly?”
“That doesn’t tell me anything.”
“What is it you want to know?”
“Who do you really work for?”
“My partner is in hospital here.”
Billy made the connection and felt the heat rise in his chest. “Yeah, I know the fucker.”
Bates stood, still keeping eye contact with Billy. “So…what do you want?”
“He survived, did he? Too bad.”
Bates didn’t blink and Billy backed off.
Trevor caught sight of Billy talking to someone. He asked him who it was when he came into the restaurant and found their table.
“Shane’s partner. He drives a cab in London. Shane’s alive…still.”
“Why is he in this hospital? They should have taken him to London,” Trevor said, frowning.
“I don’t know but he’ll be lucky to survive it,” Billy said under his breath.
Christine looked at him a moment. “Please, let us be glad David is alive and has come through his surgery.”
“That’s right, no negative thoughts today.” Trevor picked up the menu but he was in total agreement with Billy.
Bates eased the door closed behind him. Shane watched him from his bed. “They send you to take care of me, Bates?”
“No, I brought you a book to pass the time. How are you feeling?”
“Like somebody ripped my insides out. Forrest send you?”
“Came on my own. Forrest is busy today. You know Spade’s dead?”
“Saw it on the news this morning. Know anything?”
“He offed himself. His whole floor is taped off, nobody on. Everybody being questioned including Forrest. Big bru-ha-ha. When are you going to be released?”
“They haven’t said. Do you think there’s any way of getting my vehicle back to the garage? I left by ambulance.”
“I’ll find out. This may prove to be a sticky situation, Shane.”
“I’ve survived sticky situations before.”
“Yeah, but this is like…treacle sticky.”
“I ran into Billy Wright downstairs. Blaine’s here somewhere.”
“I botched it.”
“Yeah, you did. If I were you, I’d watch myself here. This is a MI6 building.”
“Well, well, look on the bright side, Bates. Maybe they’ll expel me from the country.”
“That would be the bright side of it.” Bates nodded slowly. “What with Brompton dead, Spade dead, things are getting pretty worrisome on the Thames. Everybody’s being questioned, helping the police with their inquires.”
“Police are handling this?”
“Well, for now. They found the bodies. Shouldn’t take them long to piece it all together when Forrest begins to talk.”
“So, you’re here because...?”
“Like I said, I came to see you. I’m not worried about anything. I’m just a driver.”
“Sewage runs downhill, Bates, or didn’t you know that?”
“Too many loose ends.” Bates hunched his shoulders in his jacket. “I’ll see what I can do about your car. Chances are it’s been impounded in Coventry. If it has I’m not going to touch it.”
“Right, smart man. Got any vacation days coming?”
“I’m not running. I got nothing to hide. I’ll check back with you,” Bates said and opened the door. “Nice hospital.”
A few minutes after Bates left, Shane opened the paperback book and flipped through the pages. He had a feeling…and there it was. A small strip of paper torn from the receipt. You are the hanged man. He balled the paper up and dipped it in his water glass until it fell apart.
Blaine was fully awake by 3:00. Trevor had been dozing in a leather chair, feet propped up on the ottoman. Christine and Billy pulled chairs near the bed.
“There is no need for you all to stay here. I am certainly not going anywhere.”
“Neither am I. I will stay with you and care for you,” Christine said.
“That is what the medical staff do, Christine.”
“Stop complaining. Be glad somebody cares enough to be here,” Billy said. “They’ll have you up tomorrow.”
“I do not think so,” Blaine replied.
“It’s not like it was the last time.”
“You are not in this body, Billy. I cannot move my legs.”
“Probably still numb. Give it a little time, Blaine.”
Trevor woke and listened to them for a minute. “He’s right. I’m not needed here.” He rose from his chair and went over to the bed. “I think I’ll go on home and help take care of the little guy. We should have some idea tomorrow about how long he’s going to be in hospital.”
“We will have to make some different arrangements at the farm,” Christine said.
“Um, yeah, we…um, Christine, let’s talk about that a minute.” Trevor led her away to the other side of the room.
“Same room, Blaine. They ought to put a plaque on the door.”
Blaine looked up at the ceiling. “It is all too familiar, Billy. You know, I cannot do this again. I cannot go through months and months, years of therapy to no end.”
“You will. You won’t be able to stand it. Right now you’re feeling pretty low and you’re going to have some pain for awhile but it won’t be like it was last time when you couldn’t stand up. The doctors say they’ve done some extensive work on your vertebrae. You’re going to have a weak back but it’ll function, Blaine. You’ll walk.”
Blaine looked at him and turned his face away.
“The packet might already be there, Christine. He needs to sign it and Belton Place is his.”
Christine looked towards the bed for a moment. “But will he? There is so much work to do there.”
“Is it livable like it is?”
“Yes, and there is an elevator. It was operated as a hotel for awhile. Accommodations had to be made for guests. The house is fully furnished…perhaps not to my taste but it is livable, Trevor. There is so much room, so many rooms. I have asked Billy if he will care for David until he is back on his feet again. If he will move with us, it would be a blessing.”
“You’ll probably need more than Fish and Toomes to take care of it.”
“Yes, well, that can come as needed. He does not know of this gift?”
“No, and I thought maybe it might be best to wait for the papers to arrive. I wanted you to know so you can start making plans. You know you’re welcome to stay at the farm. We’ve got the room and if Billy comes, let him take the cottage.”
“Thank you for telling me. I think it will depend on what David wishes to do. Right now I know he feels helpless.”
“Yeah, and along with that comes frustration. Don’t let him get to you.”
“Only in a good way will he get to me,” she smiled and placed a hand on his arm.
Blaine’s room was in shadows. A dim light burned over his bed and a lamp on a table near the seating area. He could hear the rain beating across the windows. Trevor had gone home and Billy took Christine to dinner. Nurses were in and out of his room checking this and that. He was as comfortable as he could be under the circumstances. A noise at the door caused him to turn his head and then he held his breath for a moment.
“Helluva time finding you,” Shane said. He wheeled his chair into the room.
“Have you come to finish the job?” Blaine said in his clipped speech.
“No,” Shane replied and sniffed. “Strange as it may seem, I’ve come to ask for your help.”
“Strange indeed. You tried to kill me. I have no help for you.” He reached for the button to call for assistance.
“Wait, wait a minute, Blaine! I didn’t come to cause you any more harm. How are you, by the way?”
“They say I may walk again but I have my doubts. This is the second time my back has been broken.”
“Ah, jeez, that’s bad. I’m sorry, honestly, I am.”
“What do you want?” Blaine’s eyes flashed suspicion and unease.
Shane parked in a pool of light near the lamp. “I gotta get out of here, like now.”
“I see you in a wheelchair. They will not let you out like that.”
“I can walk. I just thought I’d attract less attention this way out in the hall. Seriously, I need to leave here and I have no idea where here is. Another thing, I need a passport and another form of ID. Any idea where I can get such a thing?”
“You are mad if you think I have any intention of helping you. Why do you even ask me?”
“Let’s just say I kinda sense another reluctant participant in this crazy shit we’re caught up in. I want out, out of this place, out of this country and with damn good fake papers. I gotta feeling my number’s coming up.”
“I do not understand you, Shane.”
“Right, well, I can buy that. You don’t know me and probably don’t care to. You see, I was brought into this country under false papers that won’t get me out. My name is not Matt Shane. That’s the name and ID they gave me. I’m untraceable. I don’t exist anywhere. I won’t go into the sorry details of my life.”
“Who are you? A mercenary, gun for hire?”
“My real name is Jonathon Pender, former resident of New York, former special ops, former detective. I was living under the witness protection program until I skipped out on a stolen ID. I was at the airport going somewhere when I was met by one of these guys from London. That’s how I ended up here. Short story version. They sent me out on a job and later I met Forrest. I’m not on their regular payroll, paid from a secret account. Because of my history, or lack of, I’m useful to them. I think my usefulness has come to an end. If I died tomorrow, it wouldn’t cause a ripple. I need to pull a David Blaine and disappear.”
In spite of his feelings towards Shane, Blaine was feeling the stirrings of sympathy. “I can do nothing. You see me here on my back. I cannot even sit up right now.”
“Yeah, well, you know people, you know stuff that can help me get out.”
“I can tell you how to escape from this estate but nothing more. At the back of the garden is a gate overgrown with ivy. Last time I went through it, it was hard to open. You won’t be able to climb over it in your condition.”
“My condition is not important. I have to disappear.”
Blaine closed his eyes a moment. He knew Sir Brennan could get the man out of the country but doubted if he would. He’d more likely turn him in.
When Shane looked back at Blaine he was staring at him. “Well, that’s my story. Sorry, Blaine.”
“Grow a beard.”
“Grow a beard. How old are you?”
“Two years older than me. I have a passport with another name. In the picture I have a beard, not like this one but heavier. You may be able to pass. I last used it to fly from Ireland to Manchester. I would suggest you fly out of Manchester to Dublin and from there, anywhere you please.”
“You would do this for me? Where’s the passport?”
“At my uncle’s farm. I will get him to bring it to me. It will be tomorrow afternoon. Why did you trust me?”
“I can’t answer that…just a gut feeling I had.”
“I have never trusted you and I am not sure I do now but I am going to take a chance. If you let me down, if you double cross me, I will find you, Shane.”
“I believe you would. I’ll slip back over here tomorrow.”
“No, I will have Billy bring you the passport. I think it best we are not seen together. The rest is up to you.”
“Who’s name is on it?”
“Davey Reardon…he is untraceable too.”
“You’re out of your bleeding mind, Blaine! This bloke tried to kill you. You’re just giving him the chance to try it again.” Billy was outraged that Blaine wanted to help Shane.
“I do not think so, Billy. When Trevor gets here with the passport and papers, I want you to take them to him.”
“I’m not sure I…hell no, Blaine. I won’t do it. Let Sir Brennan take care of him. I’m sure he’s got plans for him.”
“He is a lost soul, Billy. I want to give him the chance to find himself again. He saved my life once. I hope to give him a second chance at life.”
When Trevor arrived he gave Christine a bag that Toomes had packed for her.
“Oh, thank you, Trevor.”
“She said she hoped she’d packed the right things for you.” Trevor moved over to Blaine’s bed. “And what, may I ask, did you want this for?” He tossed the envelope with the passport and driving permit on Blaine’s stomach.
“You won’t believe it,” Billy said and walked away to the other side of the room.
Trevor looked at Billy then back at Blaine. “I hope you’re not thinking about disappearing again.”
“It is not for me.”
“He’s going to give it to Shane,” Billy said and turned back to the window.
Blaine explained what he wanted to do. Trevor was more understanding. “A generous thing for you to do, Blaine. What if he’s caught?”
Blaine took a breath and let it out. “He is too smart for that. He will make it out. Help me. I cannot go to him.”
They were interrupted by medical staff coming to get Blaine out of bed. Trevor took the envelope and said he’d take care of it.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Blaine’s a stand up guy…well….” He realized what he’d said. He was genuinely sorry about Blaine’s back.
“He’s a pretty good fellow.” Trevor said and pulled up a chair to sit. Shane’s room was a hospital room, nothing like the suite Blaine had. Shane was sitting up in the bed. “How are you, physically?”
“Sore. I’ve got some stitches that have to come out in a few days. I can take care of that myself.”
“You can’t very well walk out in your pajamas. Going back to London?”
“Wasn’t planning on it. I don’t know where my clothes are.”
“Probably in the closet there. I understand you were bleeding pretty badly. They’re probably covered in blood.”
“I’ll make do, Mr. Blaine. You’re the uncle, huh? What exactly is Blaine?”
“A man,” Trevor replied. “A man who has been called to do things he’d rather not do. He’s a garden designer. I hope that’s what his future holds for him. What exactly are you, Shane?”
“I wish I knew. At one time in my life I had it all together. I made a bad decision and it cost me everything.”
“Will you go back to America?”
“No, I don’t think so. I could but then I’d be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.”
“Stay away from intelligence work,” Trevor said. “I wish you luck and I hope I never see you again.”
“You won’t. Thanks.”
Trevor left him. Shane opened the passport. It looked legit to him. “British, well, guess I’d better polish off an accent.” He turned the driving permit over and chuckled. “Irish…Ireland.”
Blaine sat in a wheelchair feeling shaky and weak. It was the first time he’d been out of bed. He stared at the woman remaking his bed with clean sheets but he wasn’t seeing her. He was seeing himself lifted, carried, and wheeled here and there. He would have help to dress, help to undress, someone to bathe him.
“Want to go for a ride?”
Blaine shook his head. “No, Billy.”
“Can I get you a drink?” Christine asked.
He closed his eyes. “The only thing I want…I am destined not to have.”
ON TO CHAPTER 9
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