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The Winner

Cards

By

Bonnie M. Wells



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An Ex-Marine

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My brother was an ex-Marine who had always been in excellent shape. He worked out at the local fitness club and played racket ball, tennis, soft ball and other sports.

In fact, Mike was actually the only one in the family that ever cared anything about sports. He'd played football in high school and was on the Warren wrestling team.

His high energy level was difficult to keep up with. Then again, I'd heard that said of many Aquarians. They all seemed to be going in a dozen directions at once, and worse yet, they seemed to be the only ones who could see where they were going. Even more astonishing was the fact that they actually got where they were going ..... everywhere they were going!

Mike didn't change much after high school and the Marines. He married and had three children and then divorced and moved back home with mom and dad.

He didn't need much in the way of a home because he loved to eat out, so even when he was home he'd often take mom and dad out to dinner instead of mom cooking. But he wasn't home much. He was a railroader like his father and grandfather before him. "Railroading" seemed to run in the family, as we had three uncles and a cousin who were also railroaders.

Mike worked the "extra board," and was often away from home for several days at a time. He was also the Local Chairman for The United Transportation Workers Union, and even when he wasn't working he was frequently away from home on union business.

He made good money, $65,000.00 per year .... and back in 1986 that was very good money for a little country boy with a high school education. But what Mike lacked in education (if in fact, there was anything!) he made up in courage and determination.

How Mom and Dad ever survived raising the two of us, I will never know. We were both Aquarians .... the only ones in the immediate family, and normally got along pretty well, but Lord have mercy on everyone around us when we were at odds with one another. It could get down right dangerous to even be in the same room with us! We knew where we were going with our screaming match and no one else was permitted to know......until we got there! Then we'd come in arm in arm and inform them all where we were going!

And then he was gone .....

And nothing has ever been the same.

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November 24th, 1986

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I'd been intending to go visit my parents for several days but had been so busy that there just wasn't time.

"I'm going to visit mom and dad today," I told my husband Mike (yeah, I like duplications!)

"I should be back by two o'clock .... if something doesn't happen .... you just never know..... it may be dark by the time I get back." I said as I started out the door.

Mike looked at me somewhat perplexed. I didn't know what I meant .... how should I know why I say the things I say? He shook his head as if the clear whatever thoughts were roaming through, and suppressed any other questions he might have had, and off I went to see my parents.

My brother Mike was home that day. I was surprised. I hadn't seen him in weeks .... well, I guess I'd seen him a couple times after he got out of the hospital.

He'd gone to the hospital on 9-27 with severe chest pains and had thought he was having a heart attack.

He and cousin Floyd had started out that morning to go get Floyd's car which had stalled on him the evening before. Mike agreed to take him to the car and help get it running. But they had only gone about three blocks when Mike pulled over to the curb and told Floyd he was having chest pains and Floyd would have to drive.

Floyd did drive, but not to his car. They had only gone another block or so when Mike asked Floyd to take him home. Floyd turned the car around and headed back to the house, but before they could get there Mike changed his mind again and asked Floyd to take him to the nearest hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack.

He'd been unconscious by the time they reached the hospital and the doctors had to revive him in the emergency room before admitting him for observation and tests.

The diagnosis that day had been "coronary artery disease," and he'd spent six days in the hospital. Each day a new EKG was ran on him and each day it was different. Each showed signs of something abnormal taking place within his chest.

His cardiologist's name was Michael also. I was about "Miked" out! Everywhere I looked stood a Mike ..... well, except in one direction ..... that Mike was lying flat on his back in a hospital bed and his sister was worried sick about him.

But it seemed my concerns were unfounded because five days later, he was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. They had determined it was a muscle spasm and had nothing to do with his heart.

"But Mike .... isn't the heart a muscle?" I asked when he told me what the doctors had said.

"Yes, but they said it was not my heart and had nothing to do with the heart. They said if I had any more trouble with it to come back to the emergency room." He explained.

Mom and I had shot one another concerned glances that day. We weren't doctors, but there was something about all this that just didn't sit right with us.

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A Nagging Feeling Of Unease.

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"Is Mike home?" I asked Mom as I entered the living room.

"Yes, he's here today but he's still in bed. He got in about four this morning from work and hasn't gotten up yet." She replied.

Within a few minutes my sister Patty and her three small children came to visit also. "Wow, this is like a family reunion," I smiled as they came into the living room.

We all got together so seldom. Our brother Bob was working in Florida so we hadn't seen him for awhile, and even though brother Charley lived in Coolville, we didn't see much of him either. When he wasn't working at his job, he was working on his farm. That's one thing I could say about our family. We were a family of workers.

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Going To Visit Christina

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Not long after Patty arrived, Mike came downstairs. He took a seat on the foot stool at Mom's feet and we talked a few minutes about my daughter Christina who was married and living in Kansas at the time. He told me that he planned on going to visit Christina when he took his next vacation. I knew she'd love that idea. She and her "Uncle Mike" were great buddy's and had been from the day she was born.

I noticed Mike rubbing his chest and his left shoulder. "How have you been feeling Mike?" I asked.

"Okay, except I think I'm taking pneumonia right now," he replied as he got up and walked into the dinning room. I assumed he was heading for the kitchen to get something to drink or perhaps take some medication for his cold.

Dad didn't say anything, but within a few seconds after Mike left the room he put the foot rest down on his recliner and got up. I'd watched that old man all my life ..... he didn't need to say anything. He was going to check on Mike and I knew it.

"My God boy, don't you think you should go to the hospital?" Dad said as he entered the dinning room.

Patty and I both jumped to our feet at the same time and rushed into the room. From where we'd been sitting in the living room, we could not see the couch that was situated in the corner area of the dinning room. Mike was on that couch, up on his knees and elbows, rocking back and forth.....

"Chest pains," was all he said... I reached under him and rolled him over on his back and told him not to move because we were calling an ambulance for him.

He didn't argue .... had no smart assed reply ..... and I was scared to death. My hands shook .... my entire body shook as I dialed 911 and gave directions to the house. By this time Patty was on the floor holding Mike on her lap and begging him to breathe.

I carried the IV bottle and walked beside the paramedics as they took my brother to the ambulance.

I didn't want Dad to drive so I told him to get into my car and I drove behind the squad to the hospital ....

"Which hospital do you want him transported to?" the paramedic had asked. Neither of my parents spoke .... but I did.

"Take him to _________ the same damned hospital that just released him and told him he had nothing wrong with his heart. Take him there, so they can see what a muscle spasm can do for a person!"

Yeah, I was ticked even then, and when the doctor came into the room and informed Dad and me that he was sorry but "Mr. Martin didn't make it," I was furious.

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From The Old School

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We buried my 34 year old brother on November 28th, 1986. It was something that none of our family would ever completely recover from. Looking back, I now realize how vulnerable it made all of us.

For the first time in my life I think I understood post stress disorder, or "aftershock" or whatever term the world wanted to use.

My parents were obviously from the old school .... where a "titled person" could do no wrong .... must have been the same one a certain, so called friend was from because within weeks of Mike's death this (former) friend told me ....."The man is dead....bury him and forget it!" That was little Libra's first mistake. He made a few more.

Patty and I went as a team to confront our parents. We'd both done our homework and we wanted to file a wrongful death law suit against the doctor who had told Mike he had nothing wrong with his heart. Dad was adamantly opposed. Mom remained in shock over Mike's death and really didn't have an opinion. But her daughter's did.

It was one of the very few times in my life that I ever opposed that old man. Usually I followed his advice and instructions even if I thought they were wrong ..... but not this time. This time, either he hired an attorney or Patty and I would.

He didn't believe us .... so Patty set up the appointment with a local lawyer! Mike was not the only stubborn and determined one in the family and I knew if the shoe were on the other foot, Mike would have fought hell and high water to see that things were set straight. He had three children. He would have put each one of them through college or helped them build a business or whatever they chose. That had all been taken from his kids, and as far as I was concerned, that just wasn't right.

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The Lawyer

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Martin "Marty" Freeman was a "wrongful death case attorney" from Bethesda, Maryland. He had a good reputation, and we were thrilled when we learned that he had agreed to work co-council with the local attorney who was handling Mike's case.

Of course in spite of all our threats, Patty and I were unable to bring the case against the doctor or the hospital or anyone else. It had to be Mom and/or Dad that hired the attorney's and gave the go ahead. But we sure put on one hell of a bluff! And it took both of us, but we did finally manage to get Dad to talk to the attorney's and bring suit against those involved in Mike's untimely death.

We were not accusing the people of murdering our brother. Murder had nothing to do with it. What we said, and believed (and continue to believe) was that Mike had done everything required of him. He had seen the signs and symptoms and had gone for expert advice. Instead of taking his symptoms seriously, they took one look at the lean, well muscled, 34 year old man and said it couldn't possibly be his heart. My own cardiologist confirmed that there should have been a stress test performed, and even possibly heart catherization. Mike got nothing except some EKG's that all indicated there was something wrong, but which were as ignored as he had been. When the autopsy revealed that Mike had 85 percent blockage of his coronary arteries, Patty and I maintained our brother died from negligence. The experts had ignored every red flag, and there had been several that we wouldn't learn of until after he was dead and all the records had been gathered up and looked at closely.

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The Trial

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The trial opened on March 5th, 1990, and I was sitting in the court room. {Note: The date of March 5th, the name Fulton, and wrongful death would repeat itself in 1995. See The Duplication stories for details.}

None of the rest of the family could be in the court room except Dad, of course. Patty and her kids had to testify. Mike's kids had to testify. I sat silently and watched the jury selection, and marveled at Marty Freeman. What an attorney. He reminded me of someone .... my mind wasn't working properly .... I couldn't think who he looked like.

I was talking to the local attorney during break on the second day of trial when Marty came out of the court room and walked down the hallway toward us. It hit me like a bolt out of a clear blue sky.....

"My God, he looks like Marty Robbins .....the Country & Western singer that recently died of a heart attack ....... he looks like Marty Robbins!" I exclaimed to the other attorney.

He did a double take and ran to tell his wife and son who were there that day too. Everyone agreed. He looked like Marty Robbins. In a way, Mike had always reminded me of Marty Robbins.

Sitting in that court room day after day and listening to my dead brother devalued as a father, a working man, a human being was the most difficult thing I ever had to do, and I knew it was killing dad.

Papers had been falsified ..... other's lost. Lies piled on top of lies until it sounded like Mike's death was his own damned fault. His life wasn't worth much of anything anyway. The doctor in question testified that even if he'd had open heart surgery he probably wouldn't have lived through it, and even if he had lived he would have been confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life....

Tears ran down my face as I looked at the elderly gentleman sitting in the front row of the jury. He'd had open heart surgery some fifteen years earlier, and there he sat on Mike's jury, and he sure as hell had not rolled into the court room in a wheel chair!

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Threats From A Nurse

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Most of my friends were trying to keep a close eye on me during the trial. They knew how incredibly difficult the ordeal was for me and my family.

Almost every evening the phone would start ringing shortly after I came home and didn't stop until bed time.

But the third day of trial was the worst so far. I was really upset by the time I got home and was having my own chest pains. But I wasn't about to go near any of those doctors! My dear, nurse cousin had already informed me that my family had better stay away from the hospitals because if we came in alive, we'd leave dead. Yeah, she's a loving little bitch, and she's been getting by with threatening people's lives for years. Perhaps some one will stop her someday.

Special Note: She was stopped. They buried her in 2006.

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The Psychic

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When my friend Pat realized how upset I was that evening she suggested I phone a psychic in southern West Virginia. I didn't need a psychic. I was psychic myself as was my mother and half the family. Still, she insisted so after arguing with her for a few minutes I finally agreed to call the woman.

I didn't tell the psychic much of anything about me or the situation. Within a few minutes she was telling me that she saw me surrounded by important people, papers, debate, a large room with many people in it, many "titled" people. She wanted to know if I worked in a court house! I told her no, I didn't work in a court house but that I had been in a court house every day for the past few days and that I was attending a trial.

"Oh, that explains it then," she said.

"There is a woman .... she has brown hair and freckles ..... do not trust this woman as she is involved in something against you and your brother. Your brother is there with you, right?" She continued.

I knew the woman she spoke of. I'd watched her huff out of the court room after she had been rejected as a potential juror. She worked in the records room of the hospital ..... the same records room where the falsified records were located. Someone had scratched out the original "Coronary Artery Disease" diagnosis, and scribbled in some insignificant statement. Worse yet, the woman's sister was the receptionist for the doctor who was being sued, and that office had managed to lose the appointment book that proved Mike had returned for his check-up before going back to work on the railroad! Thank God the railroad kept excellent records and required a written statement from the doctor before allowing anyone to return to work!

Yeah, I knew who she was talking about, and now I knew why some people wanted him dead, buried and forgotten!

"No, my brother was not in the court room with me. I was there because of my brother's death. It's a wrongful death suit filed by our father on Mike's behalf." I explained.

There was silence for a moment, and when she spoke it was barely a whisper....

"No, he is there with you."

"Okay." I was tired, mentally and emotionally drained and didn't feel like arguing with some stranger over whether my brother was dead or not. I'd buried the boy. I knew he was dead.

"Okay," I repeated, "he's there in spirit. I know that."

"No," she insisted...."he is there in spirit but he's there in some other way too .......some strange way that I cannot understand or explain, but that you will see. No one else will see it. It's up to you to show them."

I thanked the lady for her time and asked for her address so I could mail her the payment for the "over the phone reading," and hung up.

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Low Life's

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The trial lasted five days and ended in a hung jury. Years later a settlement would be reached and Mike's kids would eventually receive $25,000.00 each. All things considered, it wasn't much, but it would teach me some valuable lessons. And the entire situation would ultimately reveal some of the lowest life forms that I could have ever imagined, and reveal the true character of other's that hid behind titles.

Titles that had been paid for by the people of this area; titles that made their dead or murdered family member's worth millions of dollars, while the common working people's family members were worth nothing. It would leave a bitter taste in my mouth .... a taste that would be reinforced years later.

My Dad had to sign a paper agreeing to never discuss the case with anyone or to even tell how much the settlement was...... but I didn't sign any such paper and my parents are both dead now, so it's time the truth was told, and there's no one who can tell it any better than I can, because I will NEVER forget the name of even one individual who was involved.

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The Last Day

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I sat as quietly that last day of the trial as I'd sat the first day, and I knew what was coming before it ever got there. The lawyers questioned me in a private room and asked if I could "tune in to the jury." Yes, I'd always been able to tune in to people and feel what they felt. I knew it was going to be a split decision.

Years later, I would attend another trial .....a murder trial. I'd be there every day, except the last one ..... I wouldn't be there the day the jury handed down their guilty verdict, because I knew it was coming, and I believed it was a terrible mistake.

I thought back to the day of Mike's death, and how I'd told my husband I should be home by two o'clock unless something happened, and then it might be dark when I came home.

Mike had died right around two o'clock that day, and I'd noticed it was dark when I pulled the car into the garage when I got home that evening.

I'd calmly walked into the house where Mike awaited my news. Patty had called him and told him that we were taking Mike to the hospital, but after that things were so confusing that no one thought to call him back with the news of Mike's death.

"How's Mike?" He asked as I entered the house.

"He just lost his last battle." I replied.

"He died? Mike's dead?" He could hardly believe it.

Neither could I.

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