Oh Holy Night - Chapters 8 and 9 of 20
I sat in my car for a moment thinking about everything Beth had said… the mystery gift… her opinion of Kelly… and that other comment she left hanging out there. Where did that come from?
I started my car, backed out from my spot, and headed for the hospital. Several minutes later I am in the elevator heading up to the maternity ward holding a small teddy bear, and a flower I had purchased in hospital’s gift shop. The elevator opened up to a nurse’s station, where a young nurse sat completing paperwork. Her hair had obviously been neatly gathered into a bun at one point, but now was slowly coming apart with a number of black strands escaping from their containment.
She looked up as I approached. “May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes. I am looking for the couple whose baby was delivered on Agassiz Road last night, and brought in last night after midnight. I delivered the baby,” I said, “and wanted to check on them.”
“I’m sorry Doctor, what were their names again?”
“Oh, I’m not a doctor. My name is Tom Shepherd. I’m a former paramedic who happened upon them on the side of the road last night. Their names were Jose and Maria, and they named the baby Edward Manuel.”
It was at that moment that I realized I didn’t know their last name. “I’m sorry, but they never mentioned their last name,” I said smiling sheepishly.
“I’m sorry Mr. Shepherd, but we do not have any new mothers named Maria, or babies named Edward Manuel.”
“But, they should have been escorted here by an Officer Starr. He arrived on the scene, shortly after the baby was born,” I explained.
“I’m sorry sir. We have no record of that here. Perhaps you could try the Emergency department. If the police brought them in, they may have examined the mother and child there. It’s odd that the baby was not brought up to us though.”
“Perhaps another nurse would know?” I asked.
“Mr. Shepherd, I’ve worked a double-shift. They are not in Maternity. I’m sorry.”
So with flowers and teddy bear in hand, I returned to the elevator for my trip to the Emergency department. As I stood there looking at my reflection off the shiny elevator doors, it looked as though the teddy bear now had a sad expression on its face.
Once again, I exited the elevator, this time finding my way to the Emergency department.
“Excuse me,” I asked the woman staffing what appeared to be the admitting desk. “I’m looking for a couple who delivered their baby on the side of the road last night, and brought in here by a police officer. The mother’s first name was Maria. Unfortunately, they never told me their last name.”
“I’m guessing you’re not a friend or family member then.” Her tone suggested it was not a question, but rather a statement.
“No, I’m not, but I helped deliver the baby last night. It was on Agassiz Road. I used to be a paramedic, so when I saw them on the side of the road, I stopped to help.”
“And you have no idea what their last name was?” she asked again.
I closed my eyes hoping to coax something from my subconscious. There was writing on the side of the truck’s door… what was it? Then it came to me. I remembered seeing Carpentiero & Son Remodeling.
“Sir?” She asked again, are you okay?
“Yes. I was just trying to remember if I heard their last name. Try Carpentiero - Jose and Maria Carpentiero. They told me the name of the baby was Edward Manuel. The last name of the police officer was Starr.”
The woman turned to her computer and attacked the keys of the keyboard. She looked back at me, and shook her head. “I’m sorry sir. No one was brought in to our Emergency department overnight, other than the people involved in the terrible accident on I-93.”
I turned, shaking my head in disbelief. “This is the only hospital in the area, correct?”
“Yes sir, that’s why it’s called a ‘regional’ hospital. Now if you excuse me…”
After being summarily dismissed by this woman, I went off in search of the police officer I noticed near the hospital’s entrance.
Luckily, he was still sitting in his cruiser, with its engine idling. Sensing that I was coming to speak with him, he lowered his window, and cocked his head to his left.
“Hi. I’m hoping you can help me. Is there an Officer Starr in your department?” I asked.
“What is this in reference to?” he replied with a question of his own.
“Last night, I helped deliver a baby on Agassiz Road. Shortly after the baby was born, an Officer Starr arrived, and escorted the new parents and their baby boy to this hospital, or so I thought.”
The officer, whose nameplate read ‘Bartlett,’ motioned for me to step back, as he stepped out of his car. He was easily six feet four in height, with broad shoulders. It was obvious he would be asking the questions, not me.
“What is your name, sir?”
“Tom Shepherd. I own a condo on Wheeler Mountain Road. Last night, I was detoured off 93 north, due to the accident.”
Officer Bartlett nodded at my statement, as he knew of the road closure.
I continued, “Half way up Agassiz Road, I came upon a pick-up truck on the side of the road. The driver, a young man named Jose, signaled for me to stop. He told me that he and his wife Maria were on their way here,” I said, pointing over my shoulder to the hospital behind me. “They were detoured as well, and unfortunately, the baby didn’t want to wait any longer. The mom was having her baby then and there. I used to be a paramedic, so I helped deliver the baby. Shortly thereafter, an Officer Starr happened by. He told me he would escort them to this hospital so the baby and its mother could be checked out. The staff here seems to know nothing about it. They tell me no one other than the accident victims were admitted overnight.”
“Well Mr. Shepherd, there are no officers named Starr in the Littleton PD. And, if you were where you said you were, that was in Bethlehem, NH. They have a small police department, and I happen to know everyone there. I’m sorry to say, there are no officers named Starr in the BPD either.”
“Are you sure?” I asked incredulously. “He wore a uniform and drove a marked police cruiser.”
“Unless this officer joined their department this week, I’m pretty sure,” he replied. The officer thought for moment, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone, tapped in a few digits, and waited.
“Sully? Bartlett. Hey did you have an officer named Starr on duty last night?” I have a gentleman here who says he spoke with one of your guys on Agassiz Road last night. Says the officer arrived on scene shortly after he helped a woman deliver a baby in her vehicle. He says the officer then escorted the parents and their newborn to the LRH ED just after midnight."
Hearing only one side of the conversation, I had to interpret Officer Bartlett’s body language and it didn’t look promising.
“Okay… thanks Sull. Oh, by the way, are you and Eileen coming over for New Year’s Eve? Great. See you then.”
Bartlett shook his head as he pocketed the cellphone saying, “I’m sorry Mr. Shepherd. Sergeant Sullivan confirmed the BPD does not have any officers by that name. Not even part-timers or civilians working for the department. He also found no such incident in the overnight logs.”
“I don’t understand it. I delivered a baby boy last night on the side of the road to a young couple named Jose and Maria Carpentiero. They named their baby Edward Manuel after her father.”
I could tell the officer was now looking at me differently.
“Mr. Shepherd. Perhaps it was a very vivid dream? Did you consume any alcohol last night?”
“I just had a beer with dinner, around 6 p.m.,” I replied.
“Look Mr. Shepherd. I think you should go home and relax for the rest of the day. Perhaps watch the Bruins or the Celtics. I think you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“Officer. These things happened. I’m not crazy.”
Bartlett looked at me and relaxed his shoulders. “Look, I don’t know if you made this up or not, but let me summarize your story back to you, and then you can tell me why it doesn’t sound,” he paused, looking for the appropriate word, “like something you’ve heard before,” he finally said.
“Alright… go ahead,” I said.
“Your name’s Shepherd. You come across a couple named Joseph and Mary – Carpenter - having a baby they name E. Manuel on the side of the road in Bethlehem around midnight on Christmas Eve. Not to mention Officer Starr of Bethlehem. Does this story sound at all familiar to you, Shepherd?”
Although I was certain everything had actually happened to me, after hearing Officer Bartlett’s summation, I could understand why both he and the hospital staff thought I was nuts. I figured I shouldn’t push the issue otherwise he might put me in protective custody for some sort of psychiatric observation.
“Yeah. I see what you mean, Officer. Maybe I do need some rest. Thank you for listening to me.”
“No problem. Comes with the job,” he said removing his hat, as he got behind the wheel once again.”
I just stood there as he drove off, watching him take a right onto St. Johnsbury Road. I was certain that I’d be a topic of conversation when he got back to the station, if not sooner.
As I reached into my coat pockets looking for my car keys, I pulled out something I’d forgotten about instead. The lottery scratcher Jose had given me before leaving with Officer Starr, or whoever he really was.
The nice thing about Disney World Beth thought, is that they are open every day of the year. ‘Operators are always on duty,’ and Christmas Day was no exception. Beth grabbed her phone and sat at the small computer desk in the corner of the den. She tapped in the number for customer service and after playing the ‘select the proper menu’ game, was quickly connected to a Disney Customer Service Representative who politely introduced herself as ‘Celine.’ Celine’s parents were no doubt fans of the French-Canadian diva, Celine Dion. In fact, the “Disney Celine” sounded as though she might be from Quebec herself.
“Ow may I ‘elp you?” Celine asked.
“Hi…This may be a strange question,” Beth began. “But I received a gift with a letter from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that says, ‘A friend has given you the magic of Disney World as a gift this Christmas. Enclosed you will find airline tickets for you and your family, three Park Hopper passes, and information about your prepaid room for 5-days at Disney’s All Star Sports Resort. May all your wishes come true! Your friends at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.”
“Dat is a very nice gift for Noel,” Celine said cheerfully.
“Yes it is,” Beth replied. “The problem is, I have no idea who gave it to me, and I’d like to thank them properly. This had to be really expensive. Is there any way you can tell me who paid for this?”
“Per’aps you’re ‘usband or boyfriend is ‘aving fun with you?”
“Unfortunately Celine, I don’t have either one of those right now,” Beth replied with a slight edge in her voice.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Celine said, apologetically. “Of course I can ‘elp you. What is your name?
“And your address?”
“Three-two-five Pine Needle Lane… Mansfield, Mass.”
“An’dee Zip Code?”
“Zero - Two – Zero – Four - Eight.”
“Okay. T’ank you Ms. Kimball,” Celine replied, pausing a second, allowing her computer to display the information. “Unfortunately, I cannot find anyt’ing under dat name. Is d’ere some sort of an ID number on your letter? Per’aps at de bottom?”
“Yes. Yes, there is,” answered Beth. It says WDW12SMP584735.”
Beth could hear Celine’s keystrokes entering the alpha-numeric code she had just been given.
“Okay. T’ank you Ms. Kimball. We ‘ave better luck d’is time. Let me see w’at I can find. I need to put you on ‘old. Is dat okay?”
“Yes. That’s fine,” Beth replied, and instantly she was listening to the song “Be Our Guest “from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Beth was on her second chorus of the song when Celine came back on the line.
“Allo… Ms. Kimball?”
“Yes, I’m still here, Celine.”
“I donno if I weell be able to answer your question, Ms. Kimball,” Celine began. “According to our reservation system, your vacation package is complimentary. The reservation was approved by someone named, ‘G Angelo.’ I tried to find out who G. Angelo is, but we do not ‘ave anyone at Disney by dat name. I am so sorry. Is d’ere anyt’ing else I could ‘elp you wit?”
“No. That’s fine. Thank you for checking,” Beth answered.
“Well, enjoy your Disney vacation, Ms. Kimball.”
Beth hung up her phone mystified. Who the hell is G Angelo, and why is he/she giving me a free vacation?
At least she verified that her reservation was legit, and it was not a scam of some sort. The boys will certainly be excited. Perhaps they can go during a school vacation, or maybe this summer. But she would have to wait to find out more about her job situation, before planning a vacation.
* * * *
Leaving the hospital I drove straight to my condo, putting aside my original plans to find an open convenience store. The only thing on my mind now was the lottery scratcher in my pocket. Despite what Officer Bartlett thought, I knew what had happened last night, really happened, and I was holding something tangible – something Jose had given me, last night.
Sitting at my kitchen table, I stared at the gold colored card stock in my hand. In a large fancy script font written across the top read, “Change Your Life,” the name of this scratcher game. Below were three chances to win up to a million dollars a year for ten years - definitely a life changer. I remembered politely refusing Jose’s offer, telling him, “No, no. You keep it. It might be a winner, and you now have a family to provide for.”
“I insist”, Jose had replied with a determined look and a wink as he stuffed the card into my coat pocket.
There was something else though. Something about the words “Change your life.” It dawned on me as I looked toward the kitchen counter and saw the three tiny pieces of paper from the Asian Restaurant sitting there. The last fortune! ‘Someone will change your life today.’
I remember telling Angelo the bartender, that yesterday’s events had certainly left me with a good number of suspects for that fortune, and to that, he had replied, “And the day’s not over yet.” And like Jose, Angelo had winked too.
This was really getting surreal. I grabbed a quarter from a pile of coins I’d left on the table last night, and began to scratch at the silver squares of game 1. The object of the game was similar to Black Jack, but instead of picking cards totaling twenty-one to win, I had to scratch the four squares hoping to find coins that would add up to exactly one dollar.
My first square scratch revealed a nickel. Under the second square I found a dime, a quarter, and another nickel. I was up to forty-five cents with two squares left. Scratching the remaining squares added an additional two cents to my total.
Well that one was a bust, I thought, as I scratched the second game, finding three quarters and a dime. It looks like Jose wasted ten bucks. It’s the reason I rarely play these scratchers, or the Power Ball for that matter, because I never win.
I pause, looking at the final row of four silver squares. This is it! My life is about to change, I thought, laughing to myself, as I reach over to select a different coin as a scratching tool, hoping my luck will change.
Scratch… scratch… scratch. My effort revealed three images of a hand pulling a pocket inside out… an empty pocket… no change.
Somehow, feeling cheated by the fortune cookie manufacturer, I angrily scratched at the final square. A golden Sacajawea Dollar appeared. I won! I found exactly one dollar in change. I was now a millionaire.
One silvery square remained. The multiplier. Closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath, my eyes open to the coin already poised above the final square. I scratch finding a 10X hidden beneath the silver. I’m dumbfounded, or ‘Godsmacked’, as my British college roommate used to say. This can’t be happening. I just won a million dollars a year for 10 years!