“Patrick” a short story by John House, author of Trail of Deceit


a short story by John House, author of Trail of Deceit


An electronic beep pierced the silence in ICU room four. A woman, her face marred by stress lines, looked up nervously at the heart monitor mounted above the bed. She studied the rhythm for a moment before shifting her gaze to the person lying in the bed; his once handsome face hidden by bandages. Six weeks ago a tragic car accident took the life of her six-year-old son, Andrew, and left her husband, Christopher in a coma.

Katherine Adams raised a photo to eye level, a ritual repeated often throughout the long days. Her husband and son smiled back at her from the glossy print. In the picture and previously in life, Andrew resembled his father except for the odd variant of one green eye and one blue eye; nature’s way of sharing the genes from his parents.

Waiting for a ‘miracle’ extracted a toll on her body. When in his room, she slept most of the time, fighting guilt each time she awakened. She was startled awake when Christopher suddenly began crying out. His eyes were closed, his limbs flaccid by his side, but his voice was strong.

“I hear you, Patrick. I hear you,” he said.

A nurse entered the room, her eyes wide in alarm. “Is everything okay? The monitor in the nursing station revealed an extremely rapid heart rate.”

Katherine wiped a soft cloth over Christopher’s face, mopping up the sweat on his brow. “He didn’t move a muscle but called out the name ‘Patrick.’ I don’t know anyone named Patrick.”

“It doesn’t matter,” the nurse replied. “He spoke. The brain is functional. I’ll call his neurologist.”

Doctor William Randolph reviewed the printout of an electroencephalogram that recorded Christopher’s brain function in a series of waves. “Many spikes are present, usually an indicator of an active brain. Physically, he still appears to be in a deep coma.”

Katherine held her husband’s hand. “How can that be?”

“I don’t know,” Randolph replied. “Maybe a dream stage. Activity like this can occur in a normal brain during sleep studies, especially when the subject is in a deep sleep.”


Forty-eight hours passed with the EEG revealing only normal brain activity, no additional fluctuating levels of excitement.

Katherine picked up a newspaper provided each day by the hospital. She had overheard the nurses discussing the kidnapping of a young boy. She found the story on the second page, pushed from the front page by the recent antics of Gadhafi. The name of the victim was Patrick Murphy. What a coincidence? She glanced at her husband before she continued reading out loud. “Patrick Murphy, a six-year-old boy, was snatched from the sidewalk in front of his home over a week ago by unknown person or persons. No contact came from the kidnappers until late yesterday when a ransom note arrived in the mail, demanding a million dollars; half in cash, half in negotiable bonds. This newspaper, at the request of the FBI, have printed no additional details.”

Katherine heard a voice, someone speaking in a low conversational tone, and she turned toward the door. It remained closed. When words came again, she jumped to her feet, stumbling to the bed. Though Christopher’s eyes were open he didn’t appear aware of her presence. His lips moved as he continued to speak to someone invisible…until he repeated the name.

“I’m here, Patrick. You are not alone.”

Katherine leaned over Christopher’s face. When he made eye contact with her she broke down in sobs, burying her face into his chest. She jerked upright when a bevy of nurses rushed into the room “He’s awake,” she cried, tears streaming down her face.


It took an hour for the medical personnel to finish their probing and endless questions. Finally the last of them closed the door, leaving Katherine alone with her husband. “Darling, it’s good to have you back. I thought I had lost you and—” She stopped, afraid to go on.

Christopher looked into his wife’s green eyes, recognizing the pain she had experienced without him. “I’ve been here Katherine. I could hear all of you talking and I know about Andrew. Maybe God prevented me from waking up as He knew I couldn’t handle it.” Christopher stared at her, wondering if she would think him insane. “There’s a reason I’m awake now. God is using me to help someone. I’m mentally in touch with a young boy in serious trouble. I don’t know how but I can clearly hear his voice and understand his plight.”

“You called out a name. Patrick. Is that the boy’s name?”


“A boy named Patrick Murphy was recently kidnapped. We should notify the police.”


Two agents from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team came to the hospital, but after a brief visit they thanked Christopher and left, assured the man’s brain injury had left him insane.

Their attitude did not deter Katherine. She contacted the boy’s parents, certain they would show more interest. She was right. They arrived at the hospital within thirty minutes.

Jack and Sue Murphy, grasping at any hope to recover their only child, were not as cynical as the agents. Patrick was a godsend to them, born to Sue at age forty-eight; Jack older at fifty-five. Patrick represented their life, so to lose him was unthinkable. Though not super rich, Jack had wealthy friends. The million dollar ransom would be paid but only under the guidelines of the FBI, which they had agreed to follow…that is, until a package arrived that morning. The agents opened the box after receiving assurance it contained no electronic devices or explosives. A bomb would have been less painful. Tucked inside the box, wrapped in cotton gauze, was a bloody pinky finger. Sue identified the finger from a scar on the lateral aspect of the finger. Patrick had sustained the injury a year before while playing with a knife. Accompanying the severed digit was a note moving up the timetable. Unless the demands were met within twenty-four hours, the next package would contain Patrick’s head.

After hearing the story, Katherine took Sue by the hand, guiding her to the bedside. When she spoke, Christopher opened his eyes. “Honey, this is Jack and Sue Murphy, Patrick’s parents. They want to talk to you about your unusual ability to converse with their son.”

Christopher nodded his understanding. “Patrick communicates with me. I’m not sure why it’s possible. At the moment, he is okay. The kidnappers gave him medication to ease the pain from the severed finger.”

Jack spun around, making eye contact with SAC Cafferty, the Special Agent in Charge from the bureau. The information about the finger had not been released to anyone.

Sue leaned closer. “Are you able to talk to Patrick at any time?”

“No. Patrick contacts me. I attempted to visualize his surroundings but I was unsuccessful. Patrick told me he is tied to a chair in the basement of a house. The drive after he was taken was not long, so he is somewhere in the city.”

Sue’s pleading eyes matched the fear in her voice. “Please, try harder. We want to pay the ransom, but the FBI is stalling. They are sure the kidnappers will extend the deadline, make more demands and somehow give themselves away. Jack and I disagree. Patrick’s life means nothing to the kidnappers. If they don’t receive the money they will send his severed head to us. I know they will. The media will crucify the FBI, causing them to give in quicker next time, but it will be too late for us and especially for Patrick.”

Christopher squeezed Sue’s hand. “I will do everything I can. When Patrick makes contact with me again I will concentrate more and attempt to locate him. I don’t know if I can, but I will try my best.”

Jack took Sue by the arm and led her from the room. He paused at the door, glancing back at Christopher. “God be with you.”


Doctor Randolph opened the door and motioned for Katherine to join him outside the room. “Mrs. Adams, the EEGs show a significant increase in abnormal spikes. This may indicate the possibility of an upcoming seizure. Not only is the fact your husband is communicating by telepathy unusual, his ability to converse with us so clearly after six weeks in a coma is mindboggling. It may be putting too much stress on his brain.”

“Thank you, Doctor Randolph, for the information, but I don’t know how I can tell Christopher to stop his activity. He feels he is responsible for the boy’s life.

Randolph took her hands in his, acknowledging her difficult position. “Call me anytime, day or night, if you sense a change that worries you”


Two hours later, an agent awakened Katherine. “He’s talking; the monitor shows a significant increase in his heart rate.”

Katherine hurried to Christopher’s side, placing her hands on his face. “Is it Patrick?”

Her husband looked at her, his eyes reddened by multiple small subconjunctival hemorrhages. “Yes. They replaced the hood over his head. He’s terrified, whimpering a little, but not crying out loud. He’s such a brave boy.”

“Were you able to get more information from him?”

“No. Because of the hood, he wasn’t able to see anything until they removed the hood in the basement. He thinks they plan to take him somewhere else since they replaced the hood. I told him to keep concentrating on me, but not to speak. I will try to use the contact to picture more of his surroundings.”

Katherine watched Christopher’s eyes close. Deep furrows lined his forehead and his eyelids narrowed to horizontal slits. His chest heaved, followed by a shrill sound from the monitor; the heart rate exceeded the programmed maximum rate. The automatic blood pressure cuff suddenly inflated. Katherine covered her mouth, stifling a cry when she saw the digital readout. The nurses evidently saw the same on their remote monitor as they burst into the room. Katherine raised her hands to stop them. “Please don’t interrupt him. He’s in contact with the boy.”

Christopher moved his head from side-to-side, his agony apparent to anyone in the room. Soft moans escaped his lips. The bevy of monitors revealed continued spikes in his blood pressure and pulse rate.

The nurses moved forward, pushing Katherine aside. The shift supervisor entered the room with a syringe in her hand and, in spite of Katherine’s plea, the nurse injected the medication into the intravenous line in her patient’s left arm. The heart rate slowed, followed by less strenuous respiratory efforts and a rapid drop in his blood pressure. His arms fell limp at his side.


A clock wasn’t needed to know it was late in the day. The number of nurses increased dramatically in their work station as they went through the ritual of shift change, passing off patients to the new, better-rested crew. The few visitors present were forced to leave…all but one. The FBI had arranged for Katherine to remain in the ICU room.

Mumbling came from the direction of the bed. Katherine rushed to Christopher’s side, accompanied by SAC Cafferty.

“Mr. Adams. Can you understand me?” the SAC asked.

“Yes. You sound distant, but I can hear you.”

Cafferty leaned closer. “Time is running out. I don’t understand this unusual ability you possess, but you represent Patrick’s only hope. Did you learn anything else from the boy before the injection put you under?”

Christopher licked his dry lips, the gesture rousing Katherine to action. He sipped at the offered cup of water before he answered. “So, it was an injection. I recall the sensation of falling. Before I lost consciousness I saw a brick house with gray shutters. A mailbox was adjacent to a driveway. The street name was painted on the post; uh—Clairmont, but I don’t remember seeing a number.”

The agent standing behind the SAC whispered, “Jesus! Clairmont runs in a north/south direction halfway through the city. We can’t canvass the entire road in time to save the boy.”

The SAC turned on the agent, anger in his voice. “Start a search anyway. Contact the city police. Have them start a search from the northern most point of the road. Do the same for the sheriff’s department but have them begin at the southern terminal. The state troopers can start in the center with teams moving in opposite directions to meet up with the other units.”


Christopher remained silent for an hour. The intense look of concentration revealed to Katherine he was desperately trying to contact Patrick again. He raised his hand, curling a finger for Katherine to come closer. “Ask Dr. Randolph to come to the room.”

“What is it? Are you hurting?”

“Please. Just ask the doctor to come. I must talk to him.”

Katherine ran to the nurse’s station. “Please contact Dr. Randolph, immediately. My husband needs him.”


Randolph listened to his patient’s heart before he looped his stethoscope around his neck. “Mr. Adams. I don’t approve of your request. Administering amphetamines so soon after a head injury is not wise. You recently had a significant surge in your blood pressure; another spike could kill you.”

Christopher locked eyes with his neurologist. “I will sign anything to absolve you of any responsibility. We are talking about the life of a little boy. For reasons I don’t understand, I have the ability to communicate with him. I can’t do it with my brain in a fog from the sedatives. Please help me attempt to save the boy.”

Randolph shook his head in defeat. “I’ll instruct the nurses to prepare and give the injection. May God protect you.”


Katherine and the SAC sat at the bedside watching the contortions that crossed Christopher’s face. He mumbled in a low voice, but his words were not directed to them.

Cafferty’s face mirrored his anguish. Too many times in his career he had experienced the heartbreak of locating the bodies of children after all the efforts of dedicated men and women of the FBI had failed. This particular case seemed to extract a greater toll. A brain injured man, miraculously blessed with an unusual gift, was putting his life on the line to save a young boy. The imposed time limit was one hour away. The situation appeared hopeless.

Christopher suddenly shouted. “Patrick! Where have you been? Don’t leave me again. Keep your mind open to me no matter what happens. Men are coming to help you. Remember, keep communication open between us even if you cannot talk.” He turned his head, his eyes searching for Katherine. His face revealed his anxiety. “How much time is left?”

“Less than an hour. Are you in contact with Patrick?”

“Yes. Two men are in the basement with him. The hood is still in place so he can’t describe their appearance. Don’t let anyone interrupt me again, no matter what!”

Christopher’s head tilted forward onto his chest, his eyes squeezed closed so tightly it created furrows on his brow. The monitor registered his rapid heart beat. Sweat formed on his arms, pooling between his fingers. A small drop of blood appeared in his left nostril, hung there for a moment before following a zigzag course to his upper lip. The drop became a trickle and then a steady stream, rolling off his face and saturating the hospital gown pulled up under his chin.

Katherine’s attempt to go to him was restrained by Agent Cafferty. She saw Christopher’s pupils dilate, heard the agonizing moan, but she abided by his wishes and let the agent keep her seated.

Christopher began to chant in a low volume, his head bobbing along with rapid blinking of his eyelids. The flow of blood from his nostrils increased until the entire lower portion of his face was covered. He spoke, his voice too low to be heard. He spoke louder, blood from his lips splattering all around him. This time the words were understandable. “Northeast Clairmont.”

Agent Cafferty leapt from the chair, shouting orders to someone in the hall. He returned to the room, resuming his position by Katherine. “The information will help the searchers. They can move all units to the northeast sector. It’s still a lot of territory to cover.”

The moans increased in intensity, as did the movements. Christopher slammed his head against the pillow each time he rocked backwards. His lips blanched from compression against his teeth and then parted, moving slowly. “One-one-one. No, just a one. Then an eight. Oh God, I can’t see the other numbers. God help me! Patrick, we are close. Three-I see a three. One-eight-three. There’s more.”

Cafferty grabbed Katherine around the waist and pulled her back into the chair. He understood her pain as she watched her husband fighting against what must be an unbearable pain. He saw her mouth gape open and he followed her line of sight to the blood shot eyes of her husband. The entire globes were blood red with the blue iris and the dilated pupils barely visible. The veins on either side of Christopher’s neck stood out like long fingers.

“I can see the other numbers. Four and seven. 18347. He stammered the numbers past his lips as if expectorating a heavy liquid. He collapsed back on the bed. His movements ceased.

Cafferty shot out the door, releasing Katherine who rushed to the bed. She grabbed a towel from inside the bedside cabinet and pressed it against the flow of blood from Christopher’s nose. Tears filled her eyes when she saw the pain was gone from her husband’s face. “Christopher, can you hear me? You did it. You gave Patrick a chance.”

There was no reply.


An agent quietly approached Katherine who was asleep in a recliner chair. “Mrs. Adams.” When he received no response he touched her shoulder, flinching when Katherine abruptly sat upright.

“What is it? Is Christopher awake?”

“Sorry, I don’t know about Mr. Adams. I’m here at the request of Agent Cafferty. He wanted you to know the boy is safe. A SWAT team entered the house and took down both suspects. One had a large knife in his hand. It looks like the team got there just in time, thanks to your husband.”

Katherine switched her gaze to the still figure on the bed. He had not moved or shown any signs of consciousness since he stammered out the numbers.


Days passed with no improvement. At times Christopher opened his eyes unaware of those present. The only change was a constant smile adorning his face day and night.

A knock at the door interrupted Katherine as she read aloud from the Bible. She chose to think Christopher could hear her words. She looked up when the door opened. Jack and Sue Murphy entered, accompanied by a small boy with reddish blond hair.

Sue walked quickly to Katherine, wrapping her arms around her. “We want you to meet Patrick. It was his idea to come here. He wants to visit with Mr. Adams.”

Katherine’s eyes filled with tears and she quickly blotted them away with the back of her hands. “I’m so very glad to meet you, Patrick. I thank God you are okay.” She took him by the hand, guiding him to the bedside. “I’m sorry Mr. Adams can’t really visit with you. Unfortunately, he has slipped into a deeper coma.”

At that moment Dr. Randolph entered the room. He explained to the Murphys that further damage had occurred in Christopher’s brain, He was no longer able to communicate.

Patrick looked at the doctor, a puzzled look on his face. “Mr. Adams is okay. He’s happy.”

Everyone stared at Patrick with expressions of disbelief.

Katherine was the first to speak. “How do you know he’s happy?”

“Because he’s with Andrew everyday.”

“My God!” Randolph exclaimed. “He’s crossed over to the other side, yet his physical body is still functioning.”

Sue put her arms around Patrick. “How do you know this?”

“I see them and hear them, just like Mr. Adams heard me when I called out for help.”

Obviously shaken, Randolph spoke up. “Patrick, do you hear other people talking to you?”

Patrick looked at Randolph, an impish grin on his face. “No one else talks to me.”

Katherine turned Patrick around to face her. “Do you see anything unusual about Andrew?”

Patrick smiled. “You must be talking about his eyes. His right eye is green and his left eye is blue.”

An unearthly silence filled the room.

The End