When Lightning Strikes
Karen smiled at the man they were interviewing. "Alright. Tell your buddy we'll see him in a minute. I'll call you back if we have any more questions." The fellow left the room and shut the door behind him.
"Jim, if you think I'm heading down the wrong path I wish you'd just say so - not just pull out of the equation."
"Sorry, Karen," Jim quit biting at his lower lip and gave his partner a ressuring smile. "No, I don't think you're on the wrong track."
"Then what's going on? I feel like I'm on my own here." Karen was annoyed, Jim was so closed mouthed, she felt like he kept her at a distance, even after being partners for months now.
"I'm sorry. I… I'm getting … I don't know, flashes. Something." Jim was quiet for a moment. He resettled his glasses and sat up straight again. "Let's get the next guy."
Karen looked at him closely; behind his glasses Jim was blinking rapidly. Then he shook his head as if to dislodge something and pulled his head back sharply. He let out a breath as if in pain.
"No, not really, it's just …" Jim took a couple of quick half- breaths, he pushed back in his chair and put his hands on the table.
"Jim, what's going on?"
His breath was coming in spasms, the tension in his arms and hands seemed to travel up his shoulders until it pushed his head back.
"I don't know." He said through clenched teeth.
"Oh, shit." He removed his glasses and pressed his hands against his eyes for a moment. When he removed his hands she could see that his pupils were wide open, his eyes almost looked black.
Suddenly he pushed hard against the table edge. His knuckles showed white and she could see the tendons straining in his neck. His eyelids flickered repeatedly then opened up wide, then his pupils constricted and the pale iris moved rapidly as if he were reading very fast. A small sound escaped his mouth, along with a trickle of blood as he bit down too hard on his bottom lip.
Karen pressed the button on the side of the radio and had it up to her mouth to call for an ambulance. Her eyes were glued to his face and the battle ensuing there when all of a sudden his pupils dilated sleepily, the movement of his eyes slowed and stopped, his eyelids relaxed and fluttered briefly before coming to rest closed. Jim's shoulders relaxed and he let out several long quiet breaths. The hands on the desk melted and he brought them back up to his head, where they ran through his hair. Then he reached out and put his hand on the crackling radio. "I'm okay. I'm okay."
"Jim, please tell me what just happened."
"I don't know." He searched for an explanation. "It was like lightening in my head, in my eyes."
"In your eyes? Like you could see?"
He wrinkled his nose, half shook his head, "No, no image but, Karen I haven't perceived light at all for so long. This was like, you know when you've been asleep or in the dark and all of a sudden you get a light shining in your eyes? You can't see anything?"
She nodded. "Yes."
"It was like that."
Was that fear in his face? "What's it mean?" she asked.
Jim shrugged. "I have no idea," he said.
"You looked like it hurt - a lot."
Jim hesitated. "No, not really, it was just like too much, but too much of a good thing." He gave a half smile and chuffed.
Karen bit her cheek. She got the idea. "What do we do now?"
Jim took a deep breath, he settled his shoulders and slid his glasses back on. "We call in the next guy. And I'll call my doctor when we're done and on the way back." He turned away from her a little. "I'm sorry."
"No," Karen was passionate, "This isn't your fault. Mind you, it's kind of show stopping."
"I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't drive for a while. You know, in case it happens again." He grinned.
"Well, I'll let you off the hook for that. You sure you're ready to interview again?"
Jim nodded, "Get 'em in." As she rose he reached out to her arm. "Hang on. Remind me what we're looking for?"
When Jim relayed his experience to the ophthalmologist the man was quite unsurprised. "You haven't experienced this happen before?"
"No. What's it mean?"
"We're not sure really, but most people with acquired profound blindness go through this kind of thing on and off for several years. I had assumed that because you hadn't mentioned anything about it, either it wouldn't happen to you or you were just taking it in your stride."
"People live with this for years? How do they work?"
"I guess that's why so many choose to remain in less… precarious positions than you have chosen."
The man's obvious disapproval of Jim's employment choice was merely a distraction for Jim, he shoved aside his annoyance. "So, it means nothing?"
The doctor sighed, "Maybe it's the neurons in the visual cortex having a last go before they die. Maybe it's a stray electrical impulse that somehow makes it way through the scarred tissue into that portion of the brain? Really there has been little or no research into the phenomenon."
The doctor's clear disinterest fueled Jim's annoyance and he kept a lid on the now cold anger he felt for the man in front of him. "Would that be little or none, Doctor?"
"Oh, I think there was a paper about a couple of years back, but nothing came of it. No research money in blindness, you know."
Jim clenched his fist and tried for a calm tone. "Could you look up this paper for me? Or tell me where to find it?"
There was along pause. Jim was about to prompt the Doctor or ask him if he was still awake when he heard a book close.
"No, I can't find it. But ask my receptionist, amazing memory that man." Jim heard the doctor stand and slide open a file drawer several feet away. "Well, good day, Detective."
Jim stood. "These people who have complained of this, how long did it take to settle down?"
"Oh, a few years usually saw the end of it."
"But how can I continue to work?"
"Well, you'll have to find a way to ignore it, or you'll have to retire I guess. Must be a bit of a compromise anyhow, being a policeman and being blind, hey?" The man said in a condescending tone.
Jim took up Hank's harness and turned to the door, not bothering to reply or bid the man goodbye. In the corner of his mind he couldn't help but wonder if he would be in a different situation if another neurologist had been called in to consult when he arrived at the hospital.
At the desk the receptionist enquired if there was a need for a further appointment. "No, but the doctor said you might recall a paper I would like to read." Jim described his incident in abbreviated terms.
"Oh, yes, Detective. It was a fascinating article. You say you had one of these incidents?"
"Yes, just today." Jim was surprised; the receptionist was far more interested that the doctor had been.
"Well, I have a whole range of articles and information on it. Some of them are a bit… imaginative rather than good science… but I would be happy to share with you. I can photo copy them and send them to you. Oh," He hesitated. Jim raised his eyebrows. "I don't have access to a Braille copy. Can you scan them or do you have someone who would read them to you?"
"I have a scanner."
"Of course, stupid me, I'm sorry I didn't think. Please don't be offended. We have a lot of people through these doors who don't take advantage of technology and accessibility aids. Of course someone like you who is back on full duty wouldn't fit in that basket." He tittered in embarrassment.
Jim imagined his hands waving and a blush rising up his face and couldn't help but smile.
"I would be grateful if you sent them to me." He held out his hand, he heard the receptionist push back his chair to stand and take it. His grip was soft and cool, a little weak. "Tell, me, what's your interest in this area?"
The man's voice came in almost a whisper, next to Jim's ear. "My partner is blind. He started to have these symptoms and we thought it mean his vision was returning."
Jim nodded. "That'd be nice, hey?"
"Well, I've still got hope. We follow all the studies and research. One day, one day he'll get it back."
Jim smiled sadly. He'd like to believe that too. He took meticulous care of his eyes, never went out without his glasses, did whatever it took to ensure he didn't sit facing the sun and unknowingly burn his retinas, took quarterly visits to the ophthalmologists to make sure that if and when medicine caught up with his neurological problem he was ready to take full advantage of it. Unfortunately Dr. Gilroy, Dr. Sheafer and his wife all believed there was no hope, that Jim had seen his last sunrise. If they had cared to enquire as to why he was so meticulous in his care, they would surely patronize him about his secret wish.
"Good luck for your partner," Jim said in a quiet voice.
"Good luck for you both." The whispered answer came as the receptionist turned to answer the insistent beep on the intercom.
"You're not to go giving that man false hope, Reginald. I told you I would fire you if I caught you doing it again." The cold voice came through clearly as Jim and Hank left the rooms.
Jim didn't mention the incident to Christie. He told Karen he had seen the doctor and he had said he it was unlikely to happen again. But part of him wanted it to happen again. There may have been no image - but the feeling ... the feeling was like being plugged into the world again and it had brought hope. He was determined than when it happened again he would be ready and contain the feeling sufficiently that it didn't interrupt his work. He had to hope it would happen again.