Devil's Move - Leslie Wolfe
For my husband, who never stops believing in me.
...Thursday, May 21, 7:58PM Local Time (UTC+1:00 hours)
...Restaurant La Cordonnerie
The loud ringtone shattered the cozy atmosphere of the exclusive restaurant and caused a few diners to frown and throw disapproving glances.
Oblivious and rude, the phone’s owner took the call in a loud, raspy Russian. “Da?”
“Vitya? It’s Misha. We’re in play,” the caller said and then hung up.
The Russian continued his dinner. A spark of excitement in his eyes and a faint flicker of a smile in the corner of his mouth were the only visible effects of the call. He loved playing God.
...Thursday, December 3, 11:22AM EST (UTC-5:00 hours)
...MedStar Georgetown University Hospital - MedStar Heart Institute
Waiting. Waiting is the absolute worst part of having to deal with hospitals. Robert Wilton nodded to himself absently, letting his weary mind wander. He had waited for almost two hours, counting every minute right outside the conference room whose opaque doors read “Transplant Committee” in black, bold lettering. The impersonal label on the door and the way it stood out against the white, impenetrable glass held a menacing look. It felt surreal to know some complete strangers had such decision power over the destiny of a family.
Robert tried to picture their faces. Would they be favorable? Would they say yes? What does a transplant committee do, anyway? His mind wandered again, recalling the articles he had read in preparation for this day. They meet, they review the details of each patient, they decide if that patient makes it on the waiting list and with what priority. They decide who gets a heart and who doesn’t. They decide who lives and who dies. A shudder disrupted Robert’s thoughts, and he stifled a sob. She can’t die . . . she’s all I have. Please, God . . .
“Mr. Wilton?” A man’s hand gently touched his shoulder. The man had a sympathetic smile and sadness in his green eyes, brought forward by the pale teal of his scrubs.
Oh no . . . “Yes,” Robert managed to articulate.
“The transplant committee has finished its session, and I’m afraid the news is not so good. Your wife does not qualify for a transplant.”
“No! This can’t be. I’m sure this is a mistake . . . ” Robert’s voice was gaining momentum. “This must be a mistake, because you don’t know her. She’s wonderful . . . she’s all I’ve got! Please . . . ?” Robert grabbed the man’s sleeve, pleading with him, his breathing shattered by uncontrollable sobs.
“Sir, I understand this must be very hard for you to hear, and I can assure you this decision was not taken lightly by our committee. Your wife is almost at the age limit, which is sixty-five, and unfortunately, our rules are very clear on transplant candidates with a history of substance or alcohol abuse. I am very sorry.”
Hope flickered in Robert’s mind. “What are you talking about? She’s not an addict! You got it all wrong . . . there must be some mistake. Please tell the committee they can give her a heart, because she’s not an addict. You have all your facts wrong. Please.”
“Sir, I am afraid our information is accurate,” the man continued in the same professional, sympathetic, almost whispered tone of voice. “She might not be an addict, but she has a DUI on record in the past ten years, and that’s an instant disqualifier.” The man stopped for a minute, letting Robert process the information. Pallor took over Robert’s tired, tear-stained face as he grasped the finality of the transplant committee’s decision. “I wish there were more we could do. I am very sorry.” The man paused again for a few seconds. “Is there anyone we can call for you?”
Robert stood up with difficulty, barely aware his muscles were crying with pain from the tension he had been accumulating on that waiting room chair. I need air, he thought, heading with unsteady steps towards a door at the end of a very long corridor. His mind had registered the sunshine coming through that door whenever someone had walked through it. How do people walk these corridors? How do people leave here and tell their families it’s over? Robert’s mind was wandering again. If these walls could talk, they would scream.
He sat down on a bench right outside the building in the warm sunshine offered by a mild December. He didn’t feel able to walk any further. This isn’t happening . . . This