The levity and good feeling lasted through the next morning as the U.S. party loaded themselves into a limo motorcade that was joined by President Mendoza’s own motorcade. Mark later was hard pressed to remember where the group was headed. All he remembered was that as he got out of the limo and bent to help Sharon out, he was flattened and shoved back in by body guards. He never even heard the gun shots.
An American Secret Service agent, unnamed, was later credited with spotting Pablo Tomenco’s gun and calling it out in time for one of the Columbian agents to knock the gun askew and send the bullets skyward. Somehow, no one was hit in the attempt on both the Columbian and American presidents.
In the U.S. presidential limo, Mark realized that Sharon was underneath him and as he slowly got up, he saw that she was unconscious.
“Are you all right, sir?” asked the ever-present Riff Butler, an imposing African American man with a buzz cut and a perfect Secret Service demeanor.
“I’m fine,” Mark snapped. “Sharon’s out.”
Mark glanced around. Calvin Whitecross was in the facing seat next to Matt. Sharon groaned and tried to pull herself up. Riff reached around the tight space and helped her up as he let out a stream of Spanish, directing Tomas, the Columbian driver, to head to the nearest hospital. Sharon responded, her Spanish far too fast for Mark to follow in spite of her grogginess, but Riff not only glared her down, he repeated the order.
At the hospital, the limo screeched into the emergency bay. Doctors, nurses and orderlies were ready with several gurneys.
“Sir, come with me,” Sharon ordered as she was lifted onto a gurney.
She started in Spanish again and the doctor motioned for Mark to join them as they rushed Sharon into the emergency room, with Riff on their heels. Matt swallowed and looked at Calvin.
“Now what?” Matt asked.
“Get out of the car?” Calvin asked.
Fortunately, an orderly who spoke English appeared in the doorway and took them to a waiting room.
“Your driver, he is parking the car someplace else,” the young Columbian said. He was short and slight, but had a firm demeanor.
Matt swallowed. “I heard shots. Did anyone else get hurt?”
“I don’t think so,” the orderly answered. “The radio for emergency, it does not say anyone is coming. I will come for you if it calls.”
“Thanks,” Matt replied.
“So I guess we wait,” Calvin said as the orderly left.
“Yeah.” Matt sighed. “Hope she’s okay.”
Calvin smiled softly. “In my experience, when they’re yelling like that, they’re okay.”
The waiting room could have been anywhere, with green and blue plastic chairs strung together in tight rows and gray walls with supposedly soothing framed pictures on them. Except that the voice coming from the TV mounted on a wall in the corner was speaking in rapid Spanish. Matt watched the images from the shooting site and tried to deduce what had happened.
Tomas, the short and fat limo driver, waddled into the waiting room. With a worried frown, he approached Matt and spoke rapidly in Spanish. All Matt caught was “La Senorita” over and over again and guessed that the driver was asking about Sharon’s condition. Matt’s mind went blank.
“No es muerto,” he finally said.
“Ay! Pero la senorita?” Tomas asked.
“No es muerto,” Matt said again, trying to remember how to say Sharon was mostly okay, especially since he knew that he knew that much Spanish.
It didn’t help. With a loud cry, Tomas went running off out of the hospital. About 20 minutes later, Matt noticed a head shot of Sharon on the TV screen with the caption “Muerta.” Dead.
An obscenity dropped from his lips. “Calvin, it’s saying Sharon Wheatly is dead.”
“What?” Calvin came over and looked at the screen. “You think?”
“Why wouldn’t they have told us?” Matt cried belligerently. “What the hell happened? Where’s that guy?”
He left the waiting room with Calvin on his heels, looking for someone to who could speak English and who knew how Sharon was doing. The two didn’t find help right away, but they found Mark and Riff waiting in an empty room.
“Oh, no!” Matt sobbed.
“Matt? What’s the matter?” Mark asked.
“Aunt Sharon… The TV said she’s dead,” Matt blinked back tears. “And she’s not here.”
“They’re doing an x-ray on her head,” Mark said. “She has a concussion, probably. They’re checking just to be sure there’s no skull fracture.”
“But the TV,” Matt gasped.
“Are you sure you understood what they were saying?” Mark asked.
“Pretty sure,” Matt said.
Mark glanced at Calvin, then glared briefly at Riff. He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and dialed out.
“Yesmenia -” he began, but was cut off. “What? No. She’s fine. I mean, she probably has a concussion, but she’s alive and cranking… Seriously? Crap…. Even the U.S. news?…. No, no. Get out the retraction. Now. I’ll call Wheatly’s folks…. Yes, I’ve got her phone…. Just get on it, okay?”
Mark swiped off, then rolled his eyes as he dug through the plastic bag holding Sharon’s belongings. He pulled Sharon’s Blackberry free and started scrolling through her contacts.
“Her mother is Madeleine Fauvrillet,” Calvin said. “Father Robert Wheatly.”
“Here it is.” Mark connected through as Matt elbowed Calvin.
“How’d you know that?” Matt hissed playfully at Calvin, who shrugged.
Mark waited as the phone rang in California.
“Allo?” asked a worn female voice.
“Madeleine Fauvrillet?” Mark asked, stumbling over the last name a little.
“Yes. This is she.” Her voice was firm, but she sounded upset.
“This is Mark Jerguessen. It sounds like you may have heard about your daughter on the news.”
“Yes. It is kind of you to call.”
“Ma’am, it’s a false report. I was just with your daughter, and it’s no more than a concussion, maybe a skull fracture at worst. But she is most definitely alive and likely to stay that way.”
“False? She is alive!” There was a sigh, then the sound of her crying and shouting at someone in French. “Oh, grace a Dieu! Merci. I mean, thank you so much. Thank you for calling. I must call the others. Merci. I mean, thank you!’
She hung up. Mark looked at the phone. A second later, orderlies wheeled Sharon into the room.
“Why do you have my phone?” she asked.
“It’s a long story,” Mark said.
Sharon frowned at Mark as he, Matt and Calvin exchanged guilty looks. Matt suddenly sniffed and soundly hugged Sharon.
“Easy!” she yelped, then hugged him back. “What was that for?”
“I’m sorry,” Matt gasped. “I know you’re hurt, but I’m just so glad you’re alive.”
“Of course-” Sharon suddenly stopped and listened. Rapid Spanish floated over from another television elsewhere in the emergency department. “You have got to be kidding me! Oh, my god, my parents!”
Mark showed her the phone. “I just called them. Sorry to use your phone, but it was the fastest way.”
Sharon eased herself back down onto the pillows. “How the hell did this happen?”
Mark just shrugged.