This story is a follow-up to the award-winning best seller, The Jackrabbit Factor (available in its entirety as a free download at JackrabbitFactor.com). Its sequel begins:
Ten years earlier, and
30 miles northwest of Great Bend, Kansas
Morgan’s heart pounded in his head as he frantically placed his suffering boy in the back seat of his car and threw the .22 caliber rifle in the trunk. As he raced to the main highway, he knew he might still be forty minutes away from anyone who could help, and his mind flooded with echoes of his last conversation with Rita:
“Hunting Jackrabbits? Honey, he’s only six! Can’t you wait until I get back from Mother’s so I can keep him out of the line of fire? I know how focused you can get and I know how spontaneous he can be. I just can’t help think he might race ahead of you, and you might not notice.”
“Rita, don’t worry, I’ll be careful. Nothing will happen to him.”
“Morgan Stillwater, you promise me he’ll be safe. It was too hard to get pregnant, and carry him full term in the first place to have anything happen to him now.” There had been a long pause until she softly asked, “Are you going to let him shoot?”
“Been thinking about it. I was six when Dad let me try the rifle.”
“Please don’t do it, at least—will you just—wait until I get back? Mother’s doing better; I can be home by dinnertime Thursday. What if you save it for next weekend, and we can all go together?”
“Honey, let me have this time with him. Ever since the day you told me you were finally expecting, I’ve been dreaming of doing father-and-son things with him. No offense, but I just don’t think it would be the same with ‘Mom’ coming along to make sure we’re okay.”
Rita’s voice turned grave. “Promise me, Morgan. Promise me you’ll have your eyes on Isaac the whole time. I don’t care if you don’t come home with a single rabbit. All I care is that this family stays in tact. Got that?”
“Everything’s gonna be okay, Rita. It’s just a rabbit hunt.”
Morgan glanced in the rear view mirror. Isaac was breathing faintly and his lips were darker than the last time he checked. Cursing the day he had to drop out before getting into medical school because of his failing health and mounting bills, Morgan hit the steering wheel hard with both hands. “I could have helped him! I might have known what to do!”
He picked up his cell phone, hoping that somehow it might have magically charged itself, even though it had died more than an hour previously. No luck, and no charger.
Suddenly the anguish overcame him and he began to sob uncontrollably. A weak, but restless movement from the back seat and the pallor in his son’s face caused Morgan’s foot to press harder on the accelerator.
“Oh, Rita,” Morgan moaned through clenched teeth as his speed reached 95 miles an hour. The grasslands whooshed by in a blur under glowing clouds against an electric blue sky. “I was careful, I was so careful!”
Finally, the barren landscape gave way to an occasional silo and farmhouse. Do I stop and call for an ambulance, or do I just look for a hospital on my own? He didn’t know how serious Isaac’s condition was, or how much time he had to work with. He decided to press on.
After another five long minutes as he entered a small country town, Morgan heaved a sigh of relief to see a blue sign on the side of the road with the large capital “H” and an arrow, indicating there was, in fact, a hospital nearby.
Pulling in under the portico labeled “Emergency”, Morgan screeched to a halt and labored to carry his son through the automatic glass doors. The receptionist stood, responding to Morgan’s alarmed expression and she signaled a nurse from triage to come quickly.
Miraculously, there were no other patients waiting to be seen in this sleepy little town hospital he had stumbled upon. The nurse quickly provided a bed, called for a doctor, and began asking questions.
“Is this your son?”
“Yes, he is.” Morgan was in a daze.
The nurse checked Isaac’s vitals while asking, “What happened?”
“Uh—,” his voice cracked with a spontaneous whimper, but he quickly continued between anxious breaths, “we were hunting jackrabbits, and I spotted one, and I shot, and then I don’t know why, but Isaac collapsed, because he wasn’t even in my way, and I can’t find a wound anywhere. I don’t know what happened.”
“Has he been ill?”
“Uh, I don’t know, I mean, he’s been extra tired lately, but I just figured he’s been in a growth spurt, and today I thought it was because I woke him up so early.”
Just then the doctor arrived and Morgan watched intently as the two professionals quietly searched for an explanation. At length the doctor spoke. Addressing the nurse he instructed, “Darla, arrange transport. Mister, uh—”
“Stillwater. Morgan Stillwater.”
“Mister Stillwater, we’re a small facility; and we don’t specialize in pediatric cardiology. I’d like to have him transported to Wichita right away.”
“Cardiology?” Morgan fell back in his chair. Shaking his head he explained, “Doctor, I had a valve replaced five years ago. You think he might have the same condition?”
“These things can be hereditary. We’ll only know for sure after he’s seen in Wichita.”
Speaking to himself Morgan scoffed sadly, “So a bullet didn’t hit him.” Blindsided, he rubbed his face. Weakly, numbly he asked, “Could you contact Dr. Ray Golward at the Cypress Heart facility? He’s an old friend from high school who is also my cardiologist now. I’d trust his recommendations.”
“Certainly.” The doctor nodded and left the room.
With one horrific tumult put to rest, Morgan realized the real one had only just begun. “Oh, Rita. How am I going to tell you?”
(Reply below and let me know what you think about Chapter 1…)
Stay tuned for Chapter 2! If you want to be notified when the next chapter is released, follow these steps:
- “Like” the Portal to Genius Facebook Page (shown on the right)
- Navigate to the Facebook page by clicking on the image title, “Portal to Genius…”
- Hover over the “Liked” button
- When the drop down menu appears, select Get Notifications
- If you don’t use Facebook, click here