The Architect of Revenge: A September 11th Novel

BOOK: The Architect of Revenge: A September 11th Novel
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T
he
A
rchitect of
R
evenge

A September 11th Novel

T. W. Ainsworth

2014

Copyright © 2011, 2014 T. W. Ainsworth

All rights reserved.

 

ISBN: 1449930077

ISBN-13: 9781449930073

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013923840

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

North Charleston, South Carolina

D
isclaimer

T
his book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Any references to actual persons, organizations, or locales are used fictitiously, without any intent to describe either the actual conduct or character of such persons or organizations or any actual incidents that occurred at such locales.

P
reface

T
his story is dedicated to the victims of September 11, 2001; their spouses, lovers, children, families, and friends; and to those heroes who arose to sanctify that day and finally brought justice on May 2, 2011

For all of them…
ONE

New York City September 11, 2001

T
he inbound rush-hour traffic continued to thicken, forcing the taxi to lurch to another stop. The yellow lights lining the concrete walls of the Holland Tunnel were a poor substitute for the daylight up ahead that remained seemingly unreachable.

Wesley Morgan grimaced at his wristwatch. He had missed the breakfast. His fingers tensed. Slapping a thigh he looked at the other vehicles creeping along.

“Damn it.”

He still hoped to get there before Caroline received her award. It was going to be close.

The cab reached the exit ramp but paused again.

“Driver, do you know a faster way to get there?”

“Morning,” the man grunted through the Plexiglas divider. “See cars?”

Without pity the meter added another dollar.

Morgan now knew he was going to be late. He called Caroline on his cell phone.

“All circuits are busy. Please try again later.”

With a sigh he slid the phone into the pocket of his tropical wool suit coat. Through his shirt he felt the phone nudge the little box. His long fingers wrapped reassuringly around it. At least he had tried. When Cay got the ring today she would be surprised—and happy—but, as usual, his plans were thwarted. His little patients ruled his life, and yesterday their problems had cascaded, consuming every second he didn’t have. The department secretary was forced to rebook his flight out of Chicago three times.

The taxi ascended to street level. Under the blue sky, the yard-by-yard slog continued.

“Su-moke,” the cabbie said, thumping the glass with his knuckles.

Morgan heard the guttural blast of a horn followed by sirens. The cabbie pulled the wheel hard right and punched the gas to get out of the way. A fire truck barreled past, an ambulance riding its exhaust. The surgeon moved to the other side of the backseat to look.

“I’ll say…Lots of smoke,” Morgan said. Looking at the World Trade Center’s North Tower, his panic escalated.

With more emergency vehicles forcing their way, traffic completely froze. People got out of their cars and looked southward.

“What the hell?” Morgan spat out, tossing some folded bills for the fare in the tray. “Keep it! I’ll walk!”

Hearing the lock release, his free hand fumbled for his phone. He read the display—NO SIGNAL.

“Shit!”

Morgan sprinted two blocks. Unable to see above the wall of brick and masonry buildings, he watched as more emergency vehicles passed him screaming around the corner. He chased their echoing reports as sweat built up in his armpits and on his chest. Several blocks later he saw the smoke again. The billowing cloud was larger. The South Tower was consumed in fire too.

His phone vibrated. It was a voice message. He stopped to listen.


Wes…call me! Something hit the building!
” The alarm in Caroline’s voice chilled him.

He punched in her number and began running again, oblivious to the people getting out of his way.

She answered, terror reverberating in her voice. “Wes! There’s smoke everywhere!”

“Cay! I’m in New York! I’m coming!”

The connection went dead.

“Goddamn it!” he yelled.

He raced ahead until a police officer’s outstretched arms barricaded him to allow a fire truck to pass. Morgan charged around the officer, pressing ahead through the diesel fumes and reek of hot tires, a cascade of white paper tumbling into his face. He slammed into a man who recoiled away, but the wall of invisibly tethered people was becoming dense. His struggle south became slower, finally impossible.

Wesley Morgan halted. His eyes traced the steel seams upward. The beveled corners seemed close enough to touch. His brown eyes tightened as they met the bright sky.

He stared at the top of the North Tower.

“Oh my God…”

She was up there.

From gaping holes, angry flames wrestled with twisting arms of smoke.

He squinted.

A large cloth flapped back and forth like a flag.

“Are those people?” a woman cried.

Heads projected out mangled windows. Human forms clung to ledges. Morgan watched a pair of shadows tumble down the building’s skin. They were holding hands.

“Why are they jumping?” a man shouted.

Morgan’s phone rang.

Plugging his other ear, he heard Caroline wheezing. “Wes…” she whispered hoarsely.

Her anguish overcame him, but he had to reassure her.

“Cay! Darling! I’m here! Hang on! You’ll be okay!”

“Can’t breathe…smoke.”

“The firemen, they’re coming!”

“No…they…can’t.” She struggled for air with every word. “Fire…smoke…the stairwells…”

More people fell.

“Caroline!” he cried. “I love you. Oh baby…I love—”

“I love you…Wesley Morgan.” A powerful inhale followed. “From the moment…we met.” Then he heard her say softly, “Darling…I will…forever.”

The line went dead.

“No!” he yelled into the phone, his eyes riveted on the building.

He called her back, his whole being in agony.

She didn’t answer.

“Please call me,” he begged.

Another person dropped, then another and another.

“No…”

His lips trembled.

God…please no…
he prayed.

The fragile seconds became minutes—eternity first counted by each gritty tear, until he was forced to run from the gale of ash.

TWO

Chicago October 2000 Eleven months earlier

“R
oss, why are
you
scrubbing?” Baffled, Morgan glanced over his magnifying glasses to see drops of water fall from the elbows of the Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, while a sterile towel rubbed his hands dry. “I’m ready to close.”

Morgan was hovering over a sleeping baby the size of a football. Her little heart repaired and beating perfectly, she had been separated for several minutes from the bypass machine without a problem. He hadn’t asked for help and rarely needed it anyway, especially at this point in the operation.

“Here to save your day, brother,” Ross Merrimac answered with his usual cheer while eyeballing the wall of monitors displaying the baby’s vital signs. “And to get your butt to that noon walkthrough of the new hospital operating rooms.”

Morgan knew the man was grinning, even though his face was hidden behind a mask. The chief seemed forever grinning, at least when he was talking to Morgan. They were friends, and with that relationship came the occasional good-humored public taunt. Morgan’s entire operating team expected as much.

Passing off the faded blue towel to the nearest person, the former Penn State linebacker raised his arms forward, waiting for the chief scrub nurse to gown him.

“Thank you, Abby,” he said, again looking at Morgan. “You forgot, my man.” His gray sideburns wiggled with each word.

“You scrubbed in for
that
reason?” Morgan asked through his mask. He had seen the plans months before but couldn’t understand a blueprint if he tried. “I signed off on them, for crying out loud.”

“They want to show you
your
recommendations, friend,” Ross replied. “If my old brain remembers correctly, I hired you to put a transplant program together here at Potts Children’s Hospital…and
this
stuff was in the fine print—at least the contract I saw.” He laughed. “You know going back and fixing things later’s expensive. Those people managing the money don’t like that.” Another laugh erupted, this one more mirthful than his last.

“Come on! Let me operate!” Morgan’s gloved hand opened. “Suture,” he said.

By the middle of the word, Abby had slapped a sleek steel instrument gripping a microscopic crescent needle with long hair-like suture in his palm.

“Ross, you know I’ve got another case. I’ll be operating into the evening. Next kid needs a complex reconstruction, going to take five hours.” Morgan looked to Abby for support. “Please. Explain to Ross I can’t go. I need to keep working…” He winked. “Or I’ll have to cancel my plans for tonight.”

He knew the bespectacled grandmother was unlikely to offer sympathy. When he was a resident and they first worked together, being around the brash resident challenged her dignified civility. After years of sleepless nights and everlasting days as Morgan evolved into a confident surgeon, her respect for him grew—and so did their relationship. His ability to quickly identify a problem with a patient and decide on the correct treatment impressed her, but equally so did Morgan’s gentle assurance to every terrified parent. In his hands they trusted that their child would be okay.

By the time Morgan took charge of the nascent transplant program, Abby held him in such esteem that she used her seniority and assigned herself to work with him. However, two subjects remained forbidden: profanity and any sordid details of his social life. He made each mistake early in his training and only once. While he may have been the surgeon, her tenure made it
her
operating room, and she made the rules.

“Dr. Morgan,” she replied quietly, “what Dr. Merrimac says is right.”

“Somehow I thought you’d say that, Miss Abby,” he sighed. The entire time, Morgan’s fingers never stopped suturing and tying knots.

“See, Morgan…maturity speaks,” continued Merrimac. His curled crow’s-feet suggested a prolonged smirk. “Seriously. You’ve done your magic for this kid. I’ll finish up.”

“Architects: hopeless dreamers.” Morgan knew he’d lost and stepped away from the operating table. “Fine. I’ll go approve the fountain for the lobby.”

Morgan broke scrub and headed to the locker room. Damp fingers reorganized his matted black hair mushed for hours under an impermeable surgical cap. His triangular face already had stubble on his sharp jaw and carved chin. Dressing quickly, he did a final check in the mirror, pausing to seal his neck behind the perfect dimple of the silk tie. He grabbed his white coat, buttoning it as he left.

A corridor guided him to a temporary wooden door framed in a wall adorned with warning signs about the danger beyond. As he listened to the construction sounds, his impatience grew. How he wished he would be paged to an emergency. Joined soon by two hospital administrators and the nursing director, it dawned on him they were wearing overcoats and he wasn’t.

He jumped to one side as the door bumped him. A woman stepped backward through the opening.

Morgan heard: “I’ll let y’all know by tomorrow. Got folks waiting for me.”

Her soft refined drawl carried oddly above the bedlam of riveting tools, air hammers, and cursing. He saw a rich mahogany-colored ponytail mashed under a hardhat. She turned around.

Wow!

“Hi, y’all!” she said with a wave. “I’m Caroline Pruitt…for those I haven’t met.” Dust from her jeans trailed delightfully behind as she stepped over the threshold toward him. “I’m guessing by the white coat”—she stooped to read the name—“that you’re…Dr. Morgan. Pleased to meet you, sir.”

Through the din, her caramel soprano voice serenaded his ears while their hands briefly joined. “Sorry…didn’t have time to wash up.” She flashed a smile.

“Um…that’s…okay.” He never stammered. “Please…call me
Wes
.”

He became lost in the translucent blueness of her eyes. He blinked hard, holding his gaze on her face; terrified his eyes would descend to survey her body. Shivering, he exhaled in the cold air that came through the open door.

“Chicago’s a bit chilly this time of year, I’ve learned,” she said, observing the foggy cloud that accompanied his introduction to the building under construction. “I’m from Virginia; took me the longest time to get Yankee blood.” She laughed.

Her voice was just musical.

“I’m kidding! Anyway”—she turned her attention to the group—“glad y’all wore coats. Even though our adventure takes us to the new operating rooms, there’s not much heat in there.” Waving her hardhat, her auburn highlights glimmered. “And everybody gets one of these bonnets. Bit of a dangerous place in there.”

She reached in a trunk and handed Morgan one of the helmets.

“I’m better in yellow,” he said, still mesmerized.

“Visitors wear red,” said Pruitt. Each word was irresistible. “Now…y’all please come along with me.”

Morgan struggled to conceal his unrelenting stare. Despite her work boots, she walked like a runway model, her bulky sweatshirt adding to the natural charm.

Pruitt continued talking. “I design large-building environmental systems in urban environments…so I’m at home in all of this.” They went deeper into the huge exoskeleton. “Let me orient you to my world.”

Facing the chaos, her polished fingernails floated up to various points of the frame. “Many of these conduits and pipes deliver things like water and oxygen.”

Try as he might, all Morgan saw were the empty spaces between the floors so his attention returned to her balletic fingers and focused specifically on the fourth finger of her left hand. There was no ring.

“True to form,” she said, “architects mold the specifics of the project with the desired aesthetics…be it a skyscraper or hospital.” She spoke about building design for more than five minutes. “So…if there are questions along the way, please ask. And…Dr. Morgan…
Please
stop me if you have comments or suggestions. I can provide as much detail as you’d like.”

He gave a blank nod. That voice!
My god! Does she realize she sounds like music?

“Now we’re going up,” Pruitt said, pointing to a construction elevator.

“Up?” Morgan’s trance transformed instantly to nausea.

“Yes, Dr. Morgan. Your ORs are on the fourth floor.”

The cage overshot the floor by a foot. Opening the gate, Pruitt hopped down and held out her hand to each rider. Morgan remained in the center.

“Coming?” she asked.

“No,” he mumbled, her confidence making the normally unflappable surgeon feel awkward. “I don’t do well with heights.”

“Take my hand, Wes,” she said. “Trust me.”

Surrounded by medieval armor and weapons in the great hallway of Chicago’s famed Art Institute, Morgan felt trapped. Standing in the same place for countless minutes, there was little he could do but listen and answer. In an endless stream, patrons of the fundraiser kept coming to him asking about babies and heart transplants. Detailed descriptions were likely to ruin the appetite of the unaccustomed tourist in his world, so Morgan drew from his well-used stockpile of responses.

“Being a surgeon is my calling.”

“There aren’t enough hours in the day.”

“The transplant program will provide a great service to our community.”

Each listener would give an enlightened nod, shake his hand, and move away. The litany would immediately begin again as the next cluster of people crowded closer. Over the months, he learned to accept the duty and smile. Millions of dollars were needed to help Morgan fulfill his passion of performing heart transplants in children.

Finally he saw his chance to escape and headed to the washroom for a needed break. He could barely get his pants unzipped in time.

Ross, I did as you asked and came alone
, he thought, finishing his business. The only other man at the urinals had left, allowing Morgan a moment to reflect.

Merrimac had made it clear days earlier:
“This fundraiser is too important. Don’t bring one of your women with all that cleavage pointing everywhere. There’ll be photographers. You’re onstage, brother. Persuade those rich folks to open their wallets. You like fixing baby hearts, tell them why.”

Thirsty as hell, Morgan went back to the fray.

After stopping a waiter with champagne, he surveyed the room teeming with people. In the distance he recognized an older woman with abundant buttocks and vast blond hair whose voice poured words out of a bottomless pitcher.

Oh bother…Janie’s here.

His former interior decorator was chair of the hospital foundation board. The planning committee, with her at the helm, had organized the evening’s event.

Planning a party was never a problem for Janie. The issue was her guest list when it was
not
a public affair. Since befriending Morgan three years ago she’d had a misguided penchant for setting him up on blind dates, believing that his long hours in the OR made it impossible for him to meet women. Every time he attended one of her private parties of close friends (but mostly clients), he was introduced to at least one affluent woman aspiring to augment her prestige. The desirous face above persuasive slalom curves invariably enticed him into a one-or two-nighter at his townhouse. Janie had a good heart though, and for a while he really didn’t mind that she obviously had no idea what he was looking for in a woman, so he tolerated her efforts. That was, until the last woman Morgan brought back removed her skirt on his front steps. The indiscretion didn’t go unnoticed apparently. A week later returning from a jog, Morgan was stopped and berated by an elderly neighbor and her sheltie. After that, despite Janie’s good intentions, he told her no more blind dates and asked out only women of his own choosing. For the most part he remained alone and lonely, absorbing himself in his work.

That night Morgan knew he’d run into Janie and hoped to avoid her as long as he could. But when he saw her talking to a brunette in a sculpted evening dress, he realized it was Caroline Pruitt and immediately changed his mind. He went over to say hello.

“Janie Bonwitt…Hi!”

“Ooo! Wes Morgan! Look at you in your tuxedo! I hoped I’d see you!” she beamed. “Give me a kiss!”

He pecked a cheek. As he tasted her makeup, perfume engulfed him. Her usual fawning began instantly.

“How are you? You look wonderful! Staying so trim! I don’t know how he does it…” Bonwitt said to Pruitt without introducing her. “He works all the time, and still finds time to run.” Janie tugged Morgan’s jacket sleeve. “You did the Chicago marathon last month, if I remember. Ooo…tied up the streets…”

BOOK: The Architect of Revenge: A September 11th Novel
12.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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