“I”m going to be late tonight,” she said, hoping Darcey wouldn’t mind watching her brother for a little while. “We have an emergency in, and it looks messy.”
“We’ll be okay, Mama,” Darcey replied. “‘Nae and I are doing homework, and Devin is needing some help with his, so after we’re done, I’ll help him.”
“If you need me, you have my phone number. Or call Tracy, and see if she can come by.” Charlotte hadn’t left her kids alone together before, even though the girls were almost 11 years old, she felt funny about leaving them in charge.
“Mama, we’ll be okay. I promise.” Darcey smiled at Devin, who was playing with his special toy that Uncle Chris bought for him.
“I should be home no later than six. I think Daddy will be home first. I love you!” she said.
“We love you too, Mama. Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Darcey said confidently. They hung up the phone.
Charlotte’s emergency was a car accident, a bad one, similar to her own that took the life of another person. The victim in front of her was the one who had hit the other car broadside, and he was pretty beaten up. It wasn’t until that moment that Charlotte realized how badly she could have been hurt, and how blessed she truly was.
“I need blood, 3 units,” she ordered. “He is bleeding, and I don’t know where from. Is there a next of kin available?” she asked.
“Not nearby, no. His mother is en route,” the nurse assistant stated.
“This can’t wait. I have to take him into surgery now, or he might bleed out.” It was a call she didn’t like to make, but she couldn’t have him die on her, either, when she had the means to help him. “Prep him, please.”
Charlotte went to wash up. This was the unglamorous part of being a trauma doctor. And making a decision like this, she knew, had the chance to come back and bite her. But it was a risk she was willing to take.
Surgery took 5 hours from start to finish, and she was tired when she was done. It was much later than the time she told Darcey she would be home, and she hoped that Travis didn’t get tied up at work late, too. She managed to stop the bleeding, and repaired much of the damage that the accident had caused. The next couple of hours would be the most crucial, and she hoped that the young man’s mother was amenable when she went to speak with her.
“I’m Dr. Jones, and I operated on your son. He’s in bad shape, but I was able to repair most of what the accident damaged…”
“Who gave you permission to cut him open?” the angry woman demanded.
“That was my call, ma’am,” she replied. “I was the surgeon on duty, and he was my responsibility. I am sorry if treatment was not what you wanted for him, but I couldn’t let him die.”
“That wasn’t your call to make, Doctor.”
“Actually, ma’am, it was my call. We had no way to contact you, and I made a decision based on the information we had at the time.” Charlotte stood firm, knowing she made the correct decision.
“Is he going to live?” she asked, a little calmer.
“We aren’t sure yet. He is pretty banged up, but he had no head injury other than a slight concussion. The next few hours should be the most crucial.”
“What happened?” The young man’s mother was off the offensive and seemed suddenly emotional.
“The official report said that he collided with another vehicle on the strip.” Charlotte shuddered at the memory of her own accident. “He was not found at fault, I don’t believe, but you would need to check with the police on the specifics.”
“When can I see him?”
“He’ll be out of recovery in about an hour, and once he’s in a room, you’re welcome to see him.” Charlotte was going to tell her of her own accident, but thought the better of it. “Are you okay?” she asked instead.
“I will be when I see him. He’s my only son. Thank you, doctor, for saving his life.”
“Well, don’t thank me yet,” Charlotte replied, then bit her tongue. “He isn’t entirely out of the woods, but I have a good feeling about it.”
She went into her office and slumped into her chair. I don’t think this is over with that woman, she thought. Exhausted, physically and emotionally, she dialed the house phone.
“Hello?” Travis answered.
“Hey baby,” she said. “I’ll be leaving here shortly. Did Darcey do okay this afternoon?”
“Yeah, she is a good little nurturer.” He laughed. “She had him fed, changed for bed and read to by the time I got home. She has a good teacher.”
Charlotte smiled. “Thank you, honeybear,” she said. “I am certainly trying to be one.”
She threw her soiled coat into the laundry as she left the hospital. “I’m off tomorrow, but I have my beeper if you need me. I highly suggest you don’t need me tonight,” she joked.
She pulled into the driveway and took her keys from the ignition. Every muscle in her body ached, and she needed a massage. She walked across the lawn, covered in ankle-deep snow, and shook off her boots before going inside. The house was absolutely peaceful. The children were tucked into bed, there was a fire in the hearth, and Travis had dinner ready for her.
“Welcome home, baby,” he said as he wrapped her into his arms. “I’m sorry you had a rough day, honey.”
“Thank you, honey bear,” she replied, smiling. “Are the kids still awake?”
“Darcey might be, but the other two are definitely not.” He kissed her tenderly. “They really tried to stay awake for you.”
“Let me go up and see, and I’ll tuck them in either way,” she said, as she made her way towards the steps. “I’ll be right back down.”
This job is getting to be too much, she thought, if it takes me away from my family. She had much to ponder over the next few days, especially the problems with the patient’s family if he didn’t survive the night. Legal red tape was not what she needed, and she could be criminally held liable if the family pressed charges.
She tiptoed into Devin’s room and saw him sleeping peacefully. She tucked him in gently and kissed his forehead, and went to the girls’ room. Darcey, as Travis had thought, was still awake.
“I hear you did a great job with your brother today, Darce,” Charlotte said, as she sat on Darcey’s bed. “I’m proud of you.”
Darcey smiled. “Thank you, Mama.” She reached up to hug Charlotte and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Get some sleep now, honey,” she said, tucking her in. “Snug as a bug in a rug!” she whispered.
“Night night, Mama,” Darcey said, her eyes heavy with sleep.
Travis was waiting downstairs for her when she was through, with dinner and some wine. “Here, baby,” he said, ushering her to the couch in the living room. “Let me rub your feet while you have dinner. We can watch the fire together.”
Not complaining, she picked up her wine glass and dinner plate, and allowed herself to be led to the sofa. She sat down, and Travis plopped her feet in his lap, rubbing the tension from them skillfully.
“What’s the occasion for all of this?” she asked, hoping there wasn’t a bad news bomb about to drop on her.
“I have good news!” he gushed. “I got a huge promotion and a raise today!”
“Oh honeybear!” she beamed. “I’m so proud of you!” She leaned forward to kiss him.
“It’s even better,” he said. “On the nights I don’t have a game, I’ll be home right after 6pm.”
“Oh wow, much better hours!” She was a little jealous. He brought home almost as much as she did for three hours of work compared to her almost ten-hour day. “Maybe I should be a sports star, too!” she joked.
“Nah, they could never handle that much sexy on one team,” he said, winking at her. She blushed.
“So, I might have a problem at the hospital…” she didn’t want to bring it up, but she knew she had to.
“What happened?” he asked, concerned.
“My emergency,” she began. “There was no one to give consent for his surgery, so I did it without. It was totally my call, and I’ll take responsibility for it, but his mother was not happy.”
“I don’t get it,” he shook his head. “You saved his life, and yet she is mad because you didn’t get her consent.”
“Well, it’s a big deal, especially here in this town.” She shook her head, not wanting to think the worst. “If that young man dies, and the family presses charges, I could be on the hook for that.” She took a sip of wine. “There is legal precedent for that in the Shores. I could see jail time.”
“Well, don’t get ahead of yourself, baby,” he tried to comfort her. “The young man was alive when you left, right?” She nodded, taking a bite of dinner. “Whatever happens, you know I have your back. We’ll hire the best lawyer if we need to, and we’ll fight it.”
“Hopefully, we won’t need to.” She finished the last bite of dinner, and Travis hopped up to take her plate. “Wow, I’m really getting the treatment tonight, aren’t I?” She smiled.
“You deserve it, baby,” he replied. “Look, don’t worry about work. It will all work itself out.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Charlotte’s pager rang at 4:30am. She rolled over and looked at the number, and she didn’t recognize it. “Travis, honey, wake up,” she gently nudged him. “Baby, I have a call at the hospital.” He stirred, and opened his eyes. “Travis, honey, I need to go.”
“What’s wrong, baby?”
“Call at the hospital. I have a feeling it involves that accident victim.” She had a really uneasy feeling about it.
“Drive safe, and call me, baby.” He blew her a kiss. “I love you. I have your back.”
“I love you too, honeybear.”
Her nerves were shot by the time she got to the hospital, and her worst fears were confirmed. The young man had passed away and his mother was fighting mad. The hospital director was called in from his sleep to calm her, and he was not happy with Charlotte for putting him in the situation.
“Charlotte, what were you thinking?” he yelled, his face beet red.
“I did what I thought needed to be done, Guy.” She paced the floor, remembering the events of the afternoon. “He would have died without intervention.”
“He died with it, and now the hospital has a huge problem, Dr. Jones.”
“I’m not sorry I made the decision I made, Guy. I wouldn’t do it any differently.” She couldn’t understand the mother’s thinking. She would die for her own children.
“See, you can’t tell that to authorities, or you will have bigger issues than just what you’re facing now, Charlotte.” Guy Sander was trying to give his doctor the benefit of the doubt, but with her confessing to everything, she was going to make things harder for herself.
“Respectfully, it’s in my oath as a doctor. To put saving a life ahead of my own interest. We will fight this, Guy. I have legal rights.”
“That may be true, but not as many as that grieving mother does, I’m afraid.” His expression softened. “Charlotte, you can’t tell the police you would do it again. It’s almost as bad as confessing to a murder.”
Murder. The word rang in her ears and made her feel lightheaded. “Guy, I didn’t murder that boy. I tried to save his life, for goodness sake!” She started to tremble. “I need to go home.”
“You shouldn’t drive when you’re like this, Charlotte.”
“Well, I’m going to anyway,” she spat back. “I need Travis.”
She walked with security to her car, and he made sure she got in and locked her door safely. She was extra careful on the drive home and breathed a sigh of relief when she pulled through the gate into her driveway. By the time she got upstairs, she was crying.
Travis was waiting up for her. “Baby, what’s wrong?”
“He didn’t make it, Travis.” Her bottom lip quivered as she fell to the floor. “I’m in big trouble.”
“We will get through this, baby,” he promised. “I’ll make some phone calls in the morning. We’re going to lawyer up, and we’ll beat this.” He sounded much more confident than she felt, especially after her confrontation with her boss.
“I was hoping the hospital would back me up, but Guy was really ticked off, honeybear.” He reached to lift her from the floor and set her on the bed.
“Shhh, baby, it’s okay. I’m here, honey.” He held her tightly, not wanting to let her go, and afraid he might not get to hold her again for a long time.
The police were at the call box bright and early, looking for Charlotte to ask her some questions. Travis was up with the children getting them ready for school.
“Sir, we need to speak with a Charlotte Jones. Is she available?”
“Officer, if you please, my children are getting ready for school. Can this wait at all?”
“It really can’t. Are you her husband, sir?” The voice on the other end was adamant.
“I am, and I really need to get my kids ready for school.” He put his hand over the phone and stepped away from the earshot of the twins. “I’d really like to keep this from my kids. They’re going to be traumatized by this, and we haven’t had a chance to explain anything yet.”
“Mr. Jones, that isn’t our problem. Look, we just need to speak with her. No one is going anywhere unless you impede our investigation.”
“Let me buzz you in,” Travis relented. “Give me a moment to wake her.” He pressed the code for the gate and allowed the officers entry.
“Darcey, Danae, please take your brother to your room?” he asked the girls urgently.
“Please, girls, just do it for your daddy.” He was trying not to frighten them, but he was terrified himself. Darcey grabbed Devin’s hand and led them all upstairs, locking the bedroom door behind her.
Travis opened the front door for the police. “Let me get my wife,” he told the police, and offered them coffee, which they refused.
“Baby,” he shook Charlotte’s shoulder firmly. “Baby, the police are here, honey. They want to talk to you.”
“Oh no,” she said, turning sheet white. “We don’t have a lawyer yet!”
“You don’t have to say anything until you have a lawyer. But I think they just want to ask some questions.”
She started to cry. “I don’t know what to say that won’t get me into a heap of trouble.”
“Just tell them the truth, baby.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Hey, look at me,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re in this together, love.”
She wiped tears from her eyes and put some decent clothes on. And then her face went white again. “The kids!”
“Don’t worry, Darcey brought them up here. They’re in the girls’ room right next door.” He kissed her gently. “They’re safe, baby.”
Travis held his arm for her to take, and he helped her downstairs. “Baby, I’m gonna throw up,” she said as they hit the bottom step, and ran for the bathroom.
“She’ll be here in a moment, officers,” Travis explained, and went to check on her. “Honey, are you okay?”
“No, but I have to do this,” she said, trying to be brave. In truth, she felt like she wanted to run away.
He led her back to the dining room table, where the officers sat patiently waiting. When she approached the table, both of them stood and asked her to take a seat. Travis sat beside her, holding her hand.
“Dr. Jones, I just have a few questions, and we’ll be on our way,” the detective said. “Doctor, who gave you permission to perform surgery on the deceased?”
“I didn’t have consent from the boy’s mother, officer. She was not present. But he would have died without my intervention.”
“With all due respect, doctor, he died anyway, which is why we are here.” The detective was calculating and asked questions that tried to lead her into a confession.
“Did you check with the hospital to see if there was anything on file that would have prevented you from performing the surgery, Doctor?”
“I didn’t have that kind of time,” she said, hanging her head. “His life was hanging in the balance, and I had to make a decision.”
“So, you’re admitting that you broke hospital procedure, then?”
Travis shook his head and whispered to her. “I don’t want to answer any more questions until I speak to an attorney.”
The lead detective looked at the other and they nodded their heads. “Ma’am, please put your hands behind your head, you are under arrest for the death of Logan Riggins. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.”
“Baby,” she said, “I’m going to throw up again.” Her heart was pounding so loudly she could hear it in her ears. As the police were cuffing her, she vomited on the floor, crying. Darcey, who was coming down the stairs, saw them take her mother from the house in handcuffs, and she screamed.
“Darcey!” Travis yelled. “Call Tracy, and have her call you guys in sick from school today. I need to go with Mama.” The fear on her face broke his heart, and he hoped that Charlotte hadn’t seen her. “Please Punkin, call Tracy.” She nodded and ran back to the room, her sobs filling the loft.
They were putting Charlotte into the squad car, and the neighbors were out watching the scene, along with about four Paparazzi that usually hung around at the call box. Travis got into his car and followed Charlotte down to the station, where they treated her like a common criminal. Fingerprinted, mugshot taken and handcuffed to a bench while she waited for Travis to call a lawyer. Searching his phone, he found the name of a lawyer he hoped could help and dialed the number.
“Sarah Laken, attorney at law, how can I help you?” came the friendly greeting on the other end of the line.
“Sarah, my name is Travis Jones,” he began, trying to decide if he should name drop Bella and Jen. “My wife, Charlotte St John Jones, has been arrested and needs help desperately.”
“Are you the Travis Jones? The star of the Llamas here in the Shores?” she asked.
“Yes, I am,” he blushed. “My wife was Bella St John’s daughter. You might know her by her maiden name, Bella Atwood.”
Suddenly, it clicked, and Sarah knew exactly who he was. “Of course!” she said. “What can I do for you, Mr. Jones?”
“My wife is a trauma surgeon at the hospital, and she did an emergency surgery yesterday without the family’s consent. It was a matter of life and death at the time, and the boy’s mother was en route.” Travis paused to make sure he had the details correct. “The boy passed away early this morning, and I guess the mother is pressing charges against my wife.” He paused again to take a breath because he felt like he was hyperventilating. “The police just took my wife out of our home, in front of our children, in handcuffs.” His emotions got the best of him, and he started to choke back tears. “She is being processed right now. Please, Ms. Laken, we really could use some help.”
“Wow, that’s quite the predicament you have there. I’m not a criminal attorney, but I do know of someone who could take your case.” She was searching in her Rolodex when Travis spoke up.
“With all due respect, my mother in law trusted you and you alone, and that counts for something. Please, I’m begging you, please help my wife.” His sobs shook him. “We have three kids that need their mama.”
“Okay, I can be there in twenty minutes. Tell her not to say anything more until I get there.”
Travis sniffled and nodded his head. “I’ll tell her. And thank you.”
Charlotte was formally booked into Starlight Shores county jail, and charged with first-degree manslaughter. Her arraignment was set for later that afternoon, but until then she was locked in a cell. Sarah arrived shortly after she was locked up, and was shown into the cell to speak with her.
“Hi Charlotte, my name is Sarah Laken, and I’m going to help you.” Charlotte started to cry.
“Sarah, you were my mom’s attorney, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was. I understand you have some trouble at work, honey. Don’t you worry, we’re going to take care of this for you.”
Travis was in the lobby, pacing back and forth feeling helpless when Charlotte’s phone rang. He answered it, and it was her boss.
“Dr. Jones?” the voice on the other end questioned.
“No, this is her husband, Travis. Who is this?”
“Hi Travis, I’m the executive director of the hospital, Guy Sander. Is she available?”
“No, she’s being booked into the county jail on manslaughter charges!” Travis yelled. “Why don’t you have her back on this? She did nothing wrong!” He was furious.
“Mr. Jones, we’re going to do everything we can to help Dr. Jones. Her father was an esteemed surgeon here for many years, and we don’t want to see her prosecuted.”
“Well, you’d better hurry with that help, because she is going to need it!” All he could think of was how scared she was, and the only thing he could see was the fear on Darcey’s face. He wished he could be two places at once.
“We will be sending the attorney for the hospital to the court for her arraignment, Travis.”
“Well, that’s great,” he sputtered. “You’re protecting your own interests. What about my wife?”
“I told you we would help her.” Guy was losing his patience with Travis and his attitude. “Please tell her to look out for our lawyer at the courthouse.”
Travis hung up the phone, spitting mad. He dialed one more number. “Coach, this is Travis. Yeah, I won’t be at practice today. Something has come up at home, and I need to be here with Charlotte. You know my number. Call me if there’s a problem.” He hung up after he left his message and sat down in a chair hard enough to hurt his tailbone. Feeling defeated, he buried his face into his hands and wept.
Ten minutes later, Sarah came from the jail cell and sat with Travis. “I think the mother has a shaky case at best against your wife, Travis. There was no written directive from any family member, so that might be her saving grace. Without that, the mother really has no legal footing. The most she could do is a civil wrongful death suit, but even that is iffy. I’m going to consult with my criminal defense friend and run this past him, see what he thinks. I’ll see you at her arraignment.”
“Sarah, I want to let you know the hospital will have their attorney there, but I suspect they’re only protecting their interests in this.” His shoulders heaved with grief.
“Thank you for letting me know, Travis. Those types are seldom for the little guy. I’ll make sure to counter them at every turn when I need to.” He shook his head and thanked her. He had one more phone call to make.
“Daddy?” Darcey answered her cell phone.
“Hi Punkin,” he said, trying not to cry. “Are you guys okay?”
“What is going on? Why were they taking Mama away?” She was so very obviously upset, but she hadn’t told her sister or brother anything yet.
“I’ll tell you all about it when I come home later on, sweetie pie.”
“What about Mama? Is she coming home?” Darcey was holding back tears and trying to be grown-up, but she wasn’t doing very well.
“I don’t know yet, munchkin. But I sure hope so.” He cleared his throat. “Thank you for being such a good girl, Darce. I love you and your sister and brother. I’ll be home soon.”
The arraignment was scheduled for 2pm. The day had already been so very long, and it wasn’t over yet.
Up Next: Chapter Nine, Generation Four