By Samuel C. Newsome
Jake awoke at the sound of the first ring of the phone. After forty years as a local medical examiner he was accustomed to answering the calls before they disturbed Marge, his long-suffering wife of as many years. This was Sue, the night nurse from the ER calling.
“Doc, I hate to bother you, but we’ve got a fresh one and that hot shot, Dr. Henry, has gone off the grid again.”
Dr. Henry was the bright new young medical examiner. The reason they regretted calling Jake was because he was sick, real sick. The name of the illness killing Jake’s kidneys was interstitial nephritis. Jake’s energy levels had plummeted and his piss was the color of chocolate milk. Yep, he was sick. Treatments had come and gone and now Jake’s last hope was a new kidney, a kidney that was not likely to come for a sixty-six year old with diabetes and an AB+ blood type. His name was so far down the donor registry that years were likely to pass before or if a kidney was available. Jake knew he didn’t have years. He likely didn’t have a year.
The scene at the ER was the usual chaos. Sue greeted Jake as the friend of forty years that she was. “Its Antonio Parma. You remember the Parmas, don’t you?”
Jake couldn’t forget the Parmas even if he tried. Antonio was a scrawny sixteen-year-old who had attended every day of his brother’s trial for murder. Antonio’s brother, Marco, was no saint. He had been drawn into the gang culture before his teens and had been accused of committing several felonies but had never been tried. Evidence was lacking. Jake remembered the strange case in which Jake had testified as a medical examiner giving evidence that would likely have exonerated Antonio’s brother. Jake had believed that Marco had been wrongly accused and wrongly arrested after uncovering physical evidence on the victim led to a different suspect. He also remembered the difficulties he had attending daily court sessions in his debilitated and ill state. He tried to hid his ailment, but rumors had circulated throughout the court and the prosecutor had tried to use Jake’s condition to diminish or reverse his testimony. Jake had held to his account of the evidence in spite of his physical problems. Jake knew that Marco would have been acquitted. Unfortunately, Marco was killed in a jailhouse incident before the case went to the jury.
Antonio’s limp and pale body was swathed in a clean sheet on the gurney. He was barely changed from the skinny teenager Jake hadn’t seen in a year. The only change was the ghostly pale complexion and the dimple slightly larger than a pinhole in the right temple. The continued hissing and beeping of the ventilator and other machinery still connected to the inanimate body puzzled Jake.
Sue continued her account. “He was found at a friend’s home. The nine-millimeter pistol was in his right hand and fits the wound. You can see the stippling present confirming contact. He still had a pulse when the medics found him and was pronounced a few minutes before I called. Dr. Henry finally came in and did the initial exam.
Jake was wondering why Sue hadn’t tried to reach him to cancel his ME duties when she interrupted him.
“Dr. Henry was looking through his effects when he found this.” She held out Antonio’s driver’s license.
Jake had recently been looking at certain aspects of these documents more closely. He noticed the organ donor box checked and the blood type was AB+. A moment of elation flooded Jake till he remembered the registry. “Sue, I appreciate the sentiment, but you know the registry rules and that Antonio’s organs will certainly go to someone higher on the list than me.”
“Wait, there’s more!” Sue handed over a faded scrape of paper that was torn and folded times four. It could have easily been a year old. “This was stuck down in the wallet. It says, and I quote, ‘In case of my death, I want Dr. Jake to have my kidneys.’”
“Antonio’s personal bequest trumps the registry. Jake, you’ll soon be pissing liquid gold.”