At seven o'clock of a clear April morning, Doctor Ennis (Will) Wilkinson arrived at Appleton Farms. He lithely stepped from his truck without spilling the coffee from his ever-present travel mug, and began walking toward the dozen horses in the paddock. The tall young vet had been doctoring the Appleton stock for a couple of years, inoculating on a routine basis, and making sure they stayed in top notch condition.
He was in his element, enjoying the smells of fresh spring grass and horseflesh as well as hay, manure and horse liniment when he thought he heard a gurgling or a gasping sound. Will stepped into the dimness of the barn, Mary Anne Appleton was lying face up on the ground: her hue was tending toward blueberry. He immediately went to her, checked her airway, positioned her head and began CPR. He thumbed his blackberry and called for an ambulance.
Continuing to resuscitate Mrs. Appleton, Will hoped for someone to come inside the barn, or to notice something was amiss. He didn't know if her son was in residence now, or if he was traveling on business.
Leon Lewis was an answer to a prayer; he had happened by and looked in to see why things were eerily quiet.
"Check to see if there's any family at the house, okay?" called Will.
"Okay, anything else?"
Huffing slightly, he nodded. "Yeah, come back out and direct the ambulance here."
Leon pounded repeatedly on the door, looking back over his shoulder to see if help was on the way down the lane yet. He pounded once again, calling "Anybody home?"
The ranch hand was so nervous; he barely waited 30 seconds before going back to the barn and checking on Mrs. Appleton. Then, bouncing on the soles of his feet, he ran down the lane hoping to see the ambulance coming. It was at that moment that he heard the sirens approaching.
Jackson Appleton's flight from Kentucky was delayed the night before; he didn't get in bed until almost 3:30 a.m. and he was slow to emerge from his deep slumber.
The knocking had barely roused him but hearing the first keening wails of the ambulance, he was alarmed and immediately alert. He ran downstairs in his sleep pants and rumpled dark hair. He followed the EMT into the barn. Seeing Will giving CPR to his mother made Jack weak in the knees. He swayed against a bale of hay, but quickly gathered his composure.
The vet glanced up as he relinquished the patient to the EMT's. "You should probably get dressed so you can go with her." Jack's eyes finally cleared and he nodded. He ran toward the house.
Jack donned clean clothes, and his old boots, finger-combed his hair and descended the stairs two at a time. All the while his mind ran a loop "hold on mom, you gotta be okay; hold on mom, you gotta be okay."
While the EMT's stabilized Mary Anne for transport, they brought her son up to date. They declined to confirm that his mother had had a heart attack, but credited Dr. Will with saving her life.
Will was checking Jack's coloring; watching for symptoms of shock, but knew that it was out of his hands now. The EMT's had everything under control.
He walked back into the barn to claim items he'd dropped when he spotted the woman in distress.
His back was to the door, so he did not see Jackson return to find him. When he heard a step nearby, he looked up in surprise. A solemn faced man
clutched a handful of the doctor's shirt, pulling him close. "Thank God you were here for my mother." The next thing he did was completely unexpected.
He dipped his head and kissed Dr. Ennis Wilkinson directly on the lips. It was a quick thrust, planted in a business-like way. "I gotta go now." He then strode to the ambulance and climbed in.