Chapter 12 - Bad News
BJ was awakened from a sound sleep by the phone ringing. He looked at the clock to see that it was only four in the morning. Someone had better have a damned good reason for waking him this early on a Saturday morning!
"Hello," he said drowsily.
"Hunnicutt? Charles Winchester here..."
"Charles? What in the world..."
"Hunnicutt..." there was a long pause at the other end.
"Charles? What's wrong?"
Charles coughed and continued, "BJ...Beej...I'm terribly sorry...this has been a very long night. It's Hawkeye and Margaret...they were involved in a serious automobile accident last night. I've been in surgery most of the night..."
BJ sat bolt upright, "Are they...?"
"No, they're not dead but both of them are in very serious condition."
Charles gave BJ the details of the accident and the extent of their friends' injuries.
"BJ, could you pass this information along to the Potters. I know that Sherman will want to know. I'm going to try to get some rest...I am very sorry to have disturbed yours," sighed Charles.
"It's okay, Charles. I would have been upset if you hadn't called. Thank you."
BJ got up and began to write all that Charles had told him on a piece of paper so he'd have the details to pass along.
Still in a haze and trying to grasp what he'd just heard, BJ walked into the kitchen, got a bottle from the refrigerator and poured some milk into a glass. Without warning anger welled up inside of him like a volcano. He picked up the bottle and threw it against the wall. The glass shattered, covering the kitchen with milk and broken glass.
BJ turned in time to see a frightened Peg standing at the kitchen door.
"BJ, what happened? I heard you on the phone...who was it?"
"I'm sorry, Peg. I'll clean up this mess."
"You want to tell me why you threw the milk in the first place? What was that call about?"
BJ sighed and said, "It was Charles. Hawkeye and Margaret were in a serious car wreck last night. Margaret had to have an emergency hysterectomy...she was three months pregnant." He stopped, overcome with emotion.
Peg gasped, "That's awful! Poor Margaret! What about Hawkeye?"
"He had to have his spleen removed...it was ruptured...a lot of internal bleeding and he suffered a fractured skull...he's in a coma. Charles said they're not sure whether he's going to make it or not."
Peg put her arms around her husband. "Let me clean up the mess in here. You call the airlines and see how soon you can get a flight to Boston. I'll help you pack."
"Thanks for calling, BJ. Call me as soon as you know something more."
Sherman hung up the phone, "Hells bells!" he muttered. He rejoined Mildred at the kitchen table where they were having their morning cup of coffee.
"Sherman, what is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"That was BJ Hunnicutt on the phone. Charles called him from Boston with the worst kind of news. Hawkeye and Margaret were in an auto accident last night. It seems they were smashed into by a speeding drunken driver."
"Oh my...that's awful!"
"It gets worse. Margaret was pregnant. According to Daniel they were on their way to a have a cozy little dinner in Boston. She wanted to surprise him. She never got the chance. She lost the baby. Not only that, she lost the wherewithal to have another baby. Her pelvis and female organs were crushed.
"Hawkeye's in a coma...fractured skull...ruptured spleen. They're not altogether sure he's going to pull through. Dammit! Those two made it through three years in Korea! Some things I will never understand."
"Is there anything we can do, Sherman?" asked Mildred.
"BJ's headed for Boston as we speak. I don't think they need a crowd. We might just be in the way. Meanwhile I'm going to pass the news along to the O'Reilly's and Father Mulcahy. He doesn't leave for another week or two. I'm sure he'll want to send up a few prayers for them."
Trapper John took Hawkeye's pulse and listened to his chest. He sighed. No change.
"Come on Hawk, snap out of it," he whispered. "You and I have a lot of catching up to do. So you can't check out on me now."
Trapper had spent the night on the couch in his office. He was determined to be there when his former bunkmate came to. Hopefully he would come to. Trapper shut his eyes for a moment. He didn't want to consider the distinct possibility that his friend might never regain consciousness.
"Thanks Trap," said Hawkeye, his eyes tearing up at losing his bunkmate and best friend.
"You made it bearable. I was lucky. You were honest and open. You let me lean on you."
"No charge...if I'm ever this way..."
"I'll keep a light burning for you in a bedpan."
Trapper took another look at his friend. He looked as bad as those kids they'd tried to put back together in Korea.
He told the nurse who sat by the bed, "Notify me the second there's any change."
"Mom? What are you doing here?"
"Do you think for a moment I would stay away?" asked Rose, stroking Margaret's hair.
Margaret had been moved out of ICU to a private room. Charles felt that she was a little farther out of the woods. She still didn't know about the baby or Hawkeye and was pretty well sedated.
Margaret looked around at her surroundings. She was quite confused as to how she came to be a patient. She looked down at the IV needle in her arm and the cast on her left wrist.
"How did I get here?"
"You had an accident," answered Rose. "Don't you remember, dear?"
"No...where's Hawkeye? Does he know?" Margaret started to fade back into unconsciousness; "I want to tell Hawkeye we're going to have a-a baby."
Rose couldn't control the tears and ran from the room. She didn't see Daniel standing by the door.
Daniel put his arms around her and let her cry.
When her tears subsided, she looked up at him gratefully. Then she said, "I haven't been in to see Hawkeye yet."
"I'll go with you," said Daniel. "We're in this together, Rose. We might as well lean on each other. We're family now."
They went up to ICU where Hawkeye was still in a coma.
"Once when Hawkeye was about eight," Daniel began to reminisce as they stood by Hawkeye's bed. "He brought home a puppy he'd found. It had been abandoned by the side of the road. The poor little thing was half-dead. He insisted that he would keep it and nurse it back to health. His mother and I didn't think it was a good idea. He was pretty young, but he was very stubborn. He read every book on dogs that he could get his hands on. I've never seen a child so gentle with an animal. We had that dog for 13 years.
"Hawkeye always wanted to be a doctor. When he was in high school he'd come and help me out in the clinic. I can't remember him ever wanting to be anything else."
"I think that says a lot about his father," Rose said softly. "I can see that he has a lot of love and respect for you, Daniel."
"He and I have been especially close since his mother passed away. He was only ten years old at the time. It was very hard on him. Cancer took her...she went pretty quickly. I guess Ben and I clung to each other for dear life..." He touched Hawkeye's shoulder gently. "I don't know what I'll do if...if..."
"Where did he get the name Hawkeye?" asked Rose.
Daniel answered, "Actually I gave him the nickname. The best book I ever read was The Last of the Mohicans. I called him Hawkeye after the character in the book and before I knew it everyone was calling him Hawkeye. It just stuck."
"Margaret never had a permanent home," said Rose. "We went wherever the army told us to. Al loved the army and he was strictly by the book. Actually he and I met in the army. I was an army nurse. It's no wonder that Margaret chose to make the army a career.
"That girl worked so hard for her father's approval. Al was proud as a peacock when Margaret made major but he had a hard time showing affection....to his daughter or his wife. They didn't call him "Howitzer Al" for nothing.
"It made for a very lonely marriage sometimes. The man's first love was the army and everything and everybody came second."
"Rose, you don't have to..."
"I left him for a time. I didn't think I'd ever go back to him until that party our kids talked us into at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan...remember that?"
"Ah yes, I remember that you two were quite the dancing couple."
"I can't believe it's been over a year since he's been gone...I never dreamed Margaret would ever resign her commission the way she did, either. I was pretty skeptical when she told me why she wanted to quit the army. She'd written often during the first year about Hawkeye...she didn't have nice things to say about him actually.
"Now it seems she's found not only a permanent home but also the father she never really had."
Rose turned and kissed Daniel's cheek.
"I have an idea," said Daniel. "When was the last time either of us ate? Why don't I treat you to breakfast in the coffee shop? We can continue our conversation there."