My rewind showed there were no problems with either of them – as far as I could see. I was eager to find out what was happening in their lives now, but the time difference between England and America was causing me some problems. In the past I had concentrated on Kathleen and Sean. As a consequence I was, more or less, tuned into English time. I realised if I wanted to see Kevin at work, I would have to wait until his daylight hours came along, and that would take a few days. Still it gave me time to look in on Jess and, as far as I could tell, she was doing fine; getting on with her studies, her boyfriend and her Mum. The more I looked at Jess the more relaxed I became. She was in good company and in an area where she was well known. I wasn’t being complacent, but I thought maybe I had grasped the wrong end of the stick. Maybe Joseph had only asked me about my other children to make conversation. Nevertheless I tried with both Jess and Kevin to look the one hour ahead, but there wasn’t anything which caused me concern. By now the time difference was in Kevin’s favour and I decided to stick with him for the present. I realised from the start that he reminded me so much of his mother and I wondered whether that was one of the reasons I stayed away from him. The memory of abandoning her, and him, still didn’t rest comfortably with me.
Kevin’s job absolutely baffled me. I had no idea whether he was making money or losing it, and the numbers he used were equally beyond me. He seemed to spend a large amount of the time on the phone, sometimes talking, sometimes shouting, and in front of him was a computer screen where numbers flickered in various colours. What I did realise very early on, was it was exhausting, and stressful, work, and after each day, he and his friends crashed out at a cocktail bar before going off to eat. He didn’t seem to do much home cooking, except with a microwave, but he had embraced the American way of life and was thoroughly enjoying himself. He had all the mod cons in his apartment but it was his phones, both fixed and mobile, which ruled his life. He was forever making and receiving calls, sending and getting texts, and at home had picked up the habit of balancing his phone between his shoulder and neck whilst carrying on a conversation, and doing whatever else was needed. His suits had a special pocket for his mobile phone and often he would wear a wireless earpiece so he wouldn’t actually need to remove it. All in all, a hard working man who was enjoying life, and living it to the full.
Whereas, with Kathleen and Sean, I was forever talking to them and touching them, with Kevin I spent most of the time in silence. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to him, it was more the fact I had no idea what to say; until that is one evening when he left his friends at their usual restaurant and headed for the subway and home. His apartment was part of an old refurbished building – I think they are called Brownstones, possibly because of the colour of the brick used – and it was in a reasonable part of the city. He left the subway station and it was less than a 10 minute walk to the apartment - as usual he was having a conversation with someone on his mobile. As the conversation finished neither he, nor I, had any reason to think today’s journey would be any different. To be honest, I wasn’t really paying that much attention until, that was, as he passed an alleyway he was dragged in by two youths wearing hoods, and one of them had a gun. It all happened so quickly it took a moment to register what was going on. One of the youths had him pinned against the wall, the other, with the gun, stood to one side.
‘Give us your wallet motherfucker or you’re dead meat.’
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The yob with the gun was laughing as his friend ripped out the earpiece from Kevin’s ear. I started to shout, ‘Leave him alone, leave my boy alone’, but no-one heard or reacted.
‘OK guys, take it easy, you can have my wallet,’ Kevin was shaking as he spoke, ‘just calm down a bit OK, I won’t give you any trouble.’
The one who had taken the earpiece smacked Kevin across the face.
‘I didn’t say talk arsehole, I said give me the fucking wallet.’
‘Yeah, give him the wallet man or I’m gonna blow your fucking brains out.’ I could tell the one with the gun was spaced out on drugs, he was laughing and waving the gun around, and, as Kevin reached to hand over his wallet, the gun went off.
Everything then seemed to happen in slow motion. I saw the bullet leave the barrel of the gun, which was still pointed at Kevin. I watched it progress and my scream followed its trajectory. Just before it hit Kevin I came out of what seemed like a trance and I flicked up his jacket where his mobile phone normally was, hoping he hadn’t moved it. The bullet struck the phone, went through it and hit him somewhere above his waist.
‘What the fuck did you do that for?’ The first yob yelled. ‘You could’a killed me man. You gone crazy?’
The screech in his voice showed he was as shocked as anyone, but the other yob just kept on laughing. While the two of them were distracted I tried to grab Kevin and was shouting, ‘Run Kevin run, get away Kevin, get away.’ He groaned but didn’t move and I feared for his life. ‘Come on Kevin, please Kevin, you have to get away.’ But it was to no avail.
As the first yob kept up his tirade and demanded the gun from the laughing hyena, a passer-by, who must have heard the shot, shouted something. The two yobs looked over, then at Kevin and decided the best thing to do was beat it. They ran off down the alley. The man who had shouted saw Kevin leaning against the wall and ran towards him, asking him if he was alright. As he got to him Kevin groaned and started to fall. The man was unable to keep him upright, and he collapsed with Kevin on the floor. They were both covered in blood, a lot of blood, my son’s blood.
The man kept saying, ‘Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus,’ and looking all around. He called for help but no one came. After what seemed like an eternity, he got out his mobile phone and rang the emergency number. It took a while for the operator to calm him down, and all the time my son was bleeding to death. I watched his blood pooling on the floor and I was helpless, there was nothing I could do.
The medics came soon after, but not quick enough for me. All I kept saying was, ‘please don’t let him die. Please don’t let my boy die.’ But other than that, I was lost. They attended to Kevin – who was now unconscious - as he lay on the floor, and after a while he was put onto a stretcher. Having stopped the blood flow as best they could, and also hooked him up to some sort of drip, they loaded him into the ambulance. The siren started, and as it pulled away to the hospital I looked at the scene below. The police had arrived and they were busy taking a statement from the man who had saved Kevin. He, by this time, was not only covered in blood, but shaking violently. I thanked him for what he had done, and left them to it. I made a mental note to find out who he was and followed the ambulance to the emergency department.
The Trauma Team were magnificent. They must have had a fair amount of experience with gunshot wounds, as none of them were fazed by what they saw. I watched them work in unison to save my Son’s life, calm but quick, cool but efficient. From what I could hear, the bullet had been deflected and slowed down a little when it hit the phone, which was good. But, at the same time, it had blunted the nose slightly as it entered Kevin’s body, and that was bad. As it passed through, it had ruptured his spleen and exited, causing a large hole in his back. The team were rapidly getting blood into him as he was rushed to the operating theatre, and I watched as swab after swab was used to soak up his life’s blood. To me, there was more coming out than there was going in. Just then, my thoughts were interrupted, as I heard Joseph call time on the session.
I couldn’t believe it, and looked around to see where he was.
‘I’m here Paul. I know what you are going to say, but that is how it is, and that is how it will remain. Be patient, and at the same time look at it from the point of view, you have done all you can for the time being.’
I wanted to remonstrate with him, but knew he was right, and, though I wasn’t as composed as usual, I accepted the inevitable.
‘Thank you Joseph for what you did. If you hadn’t warned me about my other children I would not have been there, and he would surely have died. I just hope what I have done was enough.’ I said it in as calm a voice as possible, but there was still turmoil in my mind.
Joseph’s eyes twitched, as they sometimes did. ‘I don’t recall ever warning you Paul. I merely asked how they were.’ And with that he went off again, leaving me with my thoughts.
There was still some time to go before sleep. I stayed on my own, thinking over the events of the day. Joseph was right, I had done all I could do, but I couldn’t get the huge loss of blood out of my mind, nor the sight of Kevin as he lay unconscious. Can anyone survive such trauma? I knew the one thing I didn’t want to do was visit the Farewell Room. A rewarding experience it may be, but Kevin was too young to die, and I hoped and prayed he would survive. As I drifted off to sleep, my last thought was of my son, alone, in hospital - I dearly wanted to tell him I loved him.